Are you a Liberal?

It would be presumptuous for a few people sitting on the Freedom Team to claims to be the custodian of freedom or liberalism. Thus, there is no ‘perfect’ liberalism just as there is no perfectly liberal society. However, it is hoped that members of FTI will take a particular view of freedom that is best classified, in the political philosophy sense, as ‘classical liberalism’. It is a classical view of liberty because it does not support various social democratic (welfare state) variations on the liberal theme formed in 20th century America and Europe.


Please answer the following questions. By answering ‘Yes’ on each of these there is greater likelihood (not certainty!) that you are a liberal, and that you aspire for the same kinds of policies that other members of the Freedom Team aspire for. Such alignment of underlying philosophical beliefs is vital to the growth of FTI as a united team of leaders who will spread a similar message of freedom and good governance across India.



Assumptions and beliefs


Human nature

Do you believe that human nature, while good in parts, is also significantly flawed?

The liberal believes that human beings have a (weak) moral sense but are also opportunistic. We have many other flaws. Thus we are ignorant in many ways, emotional, potentially arrogant, and in a rush to judgement. The liberal believes that governments comprise people just like him – flawed to the core. That is why the liberal believes in checks and balances so no single human is given over-riding power over others. The fact that we are flawed motivates the need to create systems of justice and accountability.


Do you believe that everyone in a free society should be allowed to do whatever they wish so long as they are accountable?

To a liberal, the ability to choose freely is paramount. Everyone must be free to do whatever they wish to do, for without such freedom of choice there can be no moral society. The only proviso is that everyone must be ready to be held to account for his actions.

Equal opportunity and social minimum

Do you believe that equal freedom leads us to demand equal opportunity including absence of discrimination and a (frugal) social minimum for everyone in society?

The liberal believes that equal opportunity includes political equality – things like equal citizenship, universal franchise, the uniform application of laws, and absence of discriminatory obstacles to achieving higher (public) office. It also includes a social minimum which assures everybody of some minimum of food, shelter and clothing, sufficient to preserve health and capacity for work. The social minimum is the payout of a social insurance scheme, where people have paid for this either in the past or will pay in the future through in some way. With the development of the free society, this would taper off (though not completely become redundant).

A nuanced but strong nationalism

Are you a nationalist, without being a xenophobe?

The liberal believes that the state is one of the most basic institutions of human society, designed primarily to protect our life and liberty. Since the state impacts us in so many ways, the liberal is deeply committed to the success of his state. He is a nationalist, which represents a deliberate choice. However he is not xenophobic. He does not hate others merely because he loves his nation.

Do you believe that the nation exists for us, not we for the nation?

The liberal refuses to make a religion out of nationalism and become xenophobic. To a liberal a nation is something we create to meet our needs. It is definitely not the end of our existence. The goal of a nation is to protect our life and liberty.



Citizen leadership

Do you believe in taking citizen responsibility very seriously?


The liberal takes his (joint) responsibility for his nation very seriously. He sees clearly that ‘we get the government we deserve’. He also sees clearly that ‘eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’. He knows that everything that happens in society ultimately boils down to how well the citizens of that nation have participated in the affairs of their society. This includes but is not limited to active participation in democracy through voting, contesting elections; if necessary, civil disobedience, and even violent revolution. The liberal does not advocate any reduction in individual responsibility.

Scientific temper

Are you open to constant change and improvement based on evidence?

Being open to theoretical and empirical inquiry and questioning existing assumptions is a core principle of the liberal. He is always open to new information arising from the advancement of science.

Policy perspectives


Individual sovereignty

Do you believe that the government must avoid paternalism, and not lecture us on what to do?

The liberal believes the government should not interfere when we are not harming others (or ourselves grievously). This includes not lecturing us on whether we can or cannot consume alcohol or eat the food we want.

Strong property rights

Do you believe that the government must defend our property as our life itself?

To a liberal, the defence of our life and liberties cannot possibly be done without a strong defence of our property.

False claims of collectivism

Do you believe there is no concept called social justice?

The liberal believes this is a nonsensical idea, without any meaning. Justice can only be individual; it has no meaning outside individual action.

Family and religious freedom

Do you believe that a government has no role in the creation, design, or operation of our family and religious life?

The liberal believes that the nation is merely there to protect us and enforce accountability. It has no business in our private family and spiritual affairs. This includes not telling us how many children we can have.

Economic freedom

Do you believe in free and unfettered exchange of goods and services by private individuals (the free market), subject to strong regulation for purposes of accountability and effective enforcement?

The liberal believes that we the citizens should be allowed to trade freely unless we are directly harming someone. This includes free trade, internationally. The liberal believes that a government can monitor the market for accountability, including preventing injury at work, deceptive conduct, unfair trade practice, negative externalities, etc. However, the liberal always asks that regulation should be very carefully designed not to stifle the freedom to do good and to innovate. The liberal also believes the government has absolutely no business doing business – the government should not manage or operate any business.

Micro-economic incentives

Do you believe that good micro-economic policy analysis is valuable in determining incentives in society?

This is a technical question. If you don’t know what micro-economics means, please ignore it. The intent here is to emphasise that the discipline of micro-economics has been largely founded on the principles of liberalism and its analysis can throw very valuable light on good policy design.


The society which meets requirements of the type outlined above is known as a capitalist society.


Examples of liberal policy perspectives

If you have found that you are, broadly speaking, a liberal, then you may also agree with the illustrative views, below.

Policy question

The (likely) liberal view

Is a large population in India an opportunity or a curse?

This could have two answers:

a) No. First, a population can never be a curse, for that would amount to displaying hatred towards others simply because they exist. Also, the size of a population has no relationship with a country’s quality of life and wealth. And so, if a large population is well educated and properly fed, then there can be absolutely no problem with a large population.

b) Yes. But yes, a large population can be a problem if it is deprived even of basic education and nutrition, as it has through India’s socialist policies.

Do you believe that an uneducated person is not fit to vote?

No. The liberal believes that even an uneducated citizen (who is otherwise treated as a responsible adult when it comes to legal matters including crime and punishment) is fit to vote and form a judgement regarding policy and people. Indeed, India's democracy has largely been sustained by uneducated voters, even as the middle classes have backed out and often refused even to vote. Responsible citizenship is not the preserve of the educated; and may, in some cases (as in India today) work the other way around.

Do you believe that we get what we pay for? In particular, do you believe that good people do not enter politics primarily because the costs and benefits of entering politics don’t add up?

Yes. The liberal believes in good systems which create appropriate incentives for good and competent people to enter the institutions of governance. Unfortunately, Indian current laws merely incentivise the corrupt to enter politics. The liberal believes it is crucially important to pay our representatives well, if we want good people to enter the field of governance.

Do you believe that the Emergency was good for India?

No! If trains run in time but our freedom of expression and our liberty is lost, all is lost. The liberal cares for freedom first and foremost. Well above efficiency.

Do you believe that our industry (including our small industry) should be sheltered from competition both internally and externally (infant industry argument or subsidies)?

No. The liberal does not believe in sheltering anyone from the exercise of full freedom and choice. Freedom must bring its own risks and rewards. Let us all be free to make our mistakes and learn – that is the motto of the liberal. No subsidies for anyone at any point in time. Even the social minimum is not a subsidy but a precise social insurance scheme.


Further reading material

Here is some reading material for you to consider (you may be explicitly asked to confirm that you’ve read some of this when you apply to join FTI):


a) FTI core beliefs

b) Required reading prior to joining FTI:

c) Samuel Freeman, ‘Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Spring, 2001), pp. 105-151



Please go back to the preparatory page for potential FTI applications which will take you through the next steps.



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2 thoughts on “Are you a Liberal?

  1. I am genuinely surprised at the characteristics of liberals as you described here. I believe anyone who believes in most if not all of these principles and policies would be called a Conservative but not a liberal. I am curious as to why you call yourself a liberal. Free trade, less government intervention, and minimal social safety net: these are great conservative principles. Why label them as Liberal. A liberal would vehemently argue for a greater government role in every aspect of a citizen's life.

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