Lester B Pearson - On Liberalism

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What, then, are the principles that have inspired and guided the Liberal Party in its service to the Canadian people The fundamental principle of Liberalism, the foundation of its faith, is belief in the dignity and worth of the individual. The state is the creation of man, to protect and serve him; and not the reverse.

Liberalism, therefore, believes in man; and that it is the first purpose of government to legislate for the liberation and development of the human personality. This includes the negative requirement of removing anything that stands in the way of individual and collective progress.

The negative requirement is important. It involves removal and reform: clearing away and opening up, so that man can move forward and societies expand. The removal of restrictions that block the access to achievement; this is the very essence of Liberalism.

The Liberal Party, however, must also promote the positive purpose of ensuring that all citizens, without any discrimination, will be in a position to take advantage of the opportunities opened up; of the freedoms that have been won.

Progress consists in more than the building of an unobstructed and well-paved highway for man's progress. It also provides for the movement of people on that highway, steady movement in the right direction which will avoid the pitfalls of extremism on the right or the left side of the road. Liberalism is the political principle that gives purpose and reality to this kind of progress.

Liberalism stands for the middle way: the way of progress. It stands for moderation, tolerance, and the rejection of extreme courses, whether they express themselves in demands that the state should do everything for the individual, even if it means weakening and destroying him in the process, or in demands that the state should do nothing except hold the ring so that the fittest survive under the law of the jungle.

In other words, Liberalism accepts social security but rejects socialism; it accepts free enterprise but rejects economic anarchy; it accepts humanitarianism but rejects paternalism.

The Liberal Party is opposed to the shackling limitations of rigid political dogma, or authoritarianism of any kind, which is so often the prelude to oppression and exploitation. It fights against the abuse of power either by the state or by persons or groups within the state. It recognizes the special danger of such abuse in an age of massive concentration of wealth and economic power and of "bigness" of all kinds. Liberalism must protect the right of every man to live his own life, in creative freedom, in the midst of all this "bigness" and the pressures that follow from it.

That is why government, while accepting new obligations to assist and protect the individual, must do so in a way that also respects the individual's right to manage his own affairs; and to hold his own convictions, speak his own mind, and advance his own ideas, even against the policies of a government whose purpose it is to serve him....

Liberalism, also, while insisting on equality of opportunity, rejects any imposed equality which would discourage and destroy a man's initiative and enterprise. It sees no value in the equality, or conformity, which comes from lopping off the tallest ears of corn. It maintains, therefore, that originality and initiative should be encouraged, and that reward should be the result of effort.

For instance, Liberalism can exist only with freedom. But how can freedom, guaranteed politically and legally, be made meaningful in the face of today's industrial and economic pressures? Government must keep pace with the changing needs of the times and accept greater responsibilities than would have been acceptable to a Liberal a hundred years ago. That is why the Liberal Party favours social and economic planning which will stimulate and encourage private enterprise to operate more effectively for the benefit of all.

Liberalism must always remember that responsibility is the other side of freedom. If the individual uses his democratic power and freedom to make irresponsible demands on those he has chosen to govern him, progress may turn into retreat; freedom may be lost in insistence on unwise measures to make it secure.

In short, freedom and welfare must be kept in a healthy balance or there will be trouble. This essential' balance can be achieved by applying, to every proposal for further intervention by the state, the question: will it truly benefit the individual; will it enlarge or restrict his opportunity for self-expression and development?

The Liberal purpose remains the creation of opportunity for men and women to become self-directing, responsible citizens. This means, as we have seen, the simultaneous pursuit of freedom and welfare or, if you prefer, of welfare as an element of freedom. It is because welfare has come to be dissociated from freedom, or even set in opposition to it, that freedom has lost so much of its appeal in certain societies and that statist and authoritarian parties have gained in power and prestige. A dynamic, modern, responsible Liberalism need not fear this challenge to its position any more than it need fear the challenge of reaction from the right.

The principles of Liberalism are concerned, however, not only with the individual and his freedom and welfare. They are concerned also with the development of the Canadian people as a nation in the world.

In Canada this has meant growth from a dependent colony to a free state, respected in the world not only for the way it has pushed back the frontiers and built up a strong and stable nation at home, but for the manner in which it has discharged its international responsibilities, in peace and in war. The Liberal Party can take satisfaction out of the contribution it has made through Liberal governments to both national development and international co-operation.

For the progress Canada has made, and will make, national unity has been essential. The necessity for doing everything possible to maintain and strengthen this unity has been the cornerstone of Liberal policy from the very beginning of its history. Moreover, Liberalism has understood that national unity must be based on two races, cultures, traditions, and languages; on a full and equal partnership of English- and French-speaking Canadians. Liberals have rejected any other kind of unity, which would have been artificial and unenduring.

This view is consistent with the Liberal doctrine of service to all the people; with policies which must be beneficial to all classes, all sections, all groups. If others appeal in different ways to different parts and peoples of Canada, Liberals must say the same things at the same time to all Canadians.

National unity, however, based on the principles above, must be reconciled with the fact that Canada is a federal state in which the constitutional and historic rights of the provinces must be preserved. It is important also that the provinces must not be separated by economic inequality which would make national unity difficult, if not impossible. The Liberal Party, therefore, considers it a duty of the federal government to help equalize the distribution of income and wealth and development among the provinces, but in such a way that there will be no interference with the constitutional rights and privileges of the provinces.

The Liberal Party has recognized, not only the interdependence of provinces within Canada, but also the interdependence of nations in a shrinking nuclear world. It has shown this recognition by pursuing when in office an active policy of international cooperation and the acceptance of international responsibilities, at the United Nations, in the Commonwealth, and in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Under Liberal governments, after the Second World War, Canada achieved a position of respect and influence in the councils of the world, and in the effort to ensure peace against forces, such as communist imperialism, which threatened it.

The Liberal Party must continue staunchly to support international co-operation and the peaceful negotiation of international problems. It accepts the fact that nuclear war means global destruction; that now the only defence is peace. Nevertheless, it also recognizes that power is necessary on the side of freedom, if freedom and peace are to be preserved. For this reason, nations must band together and unite their strength for deterrence and defence in organizations like NATO, until the day comes when the United Nations will be able to ensure peace under law on a global basis.

The Liberal Party, then, seeks to promote security and welfare, not only for individual Canadians, but also for the Canadian nation and for all men.

It knows, however, that material progress towards these objectives is not enough for a nation. It cherishes for Canada the maintenance and strengthening of those values without which no people can be great, or truly free. Liberalism must strive to foster all those forces in a nation which will make for true development in other than material ways: the willingness to work and serve and sacrifice to achieve ends that are outside of self; appreciation of the beautiful and the good in life; understanding that bread and circuses are not the ultimate objective of existence, either national or personal; recognition that a society is only as strong as its adherence to moral values. It is in these fundamental things that Liberal principles must be rooted. If they are, and if those roots are deep, Liberal policies will be strong enough to withstand opposing forces. Those policies must always look forward. For the very essence of Liberalism is to work for the future. The Liberal Party has served Canada honourably and well in the past. It is now putting forward new programs for the problems of Canada today, in the conviction that it will have the responsibility of making these effective for Canada tomorrow.

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