Liberal Declaration of Oxford 1967

2 September 1967

We, Liberals of twenty countries assembled in Oxford on the Twentieth Anniversary year of the Liberal Manifesto and the foundation of the Liberal International :

– reaffirm our faith in the principles of Liberalism as defined in the Liberal Manifesto;

– welcome the endorsement of these principles in declarations of the United Nations and their incorporation in the constitutions of many newly sovereign States;

– declare in the light of these principles our considered opinion on the developments of the last twenty years.

The Liberal Task in the Present Revolution in Human Affairs

1. The revolution which has been changing the course of human affairs in the last few centuries has gained and continues to gain increasing strength and momentum.

2. The increasing tempo of scientific and technological change, cybernetics and automation; nuclear power for peace or war; mass media of communication; the population explosion; the revolution in the expectations of welfare and public services; the worldwide development of an industrial order replacing a mainly rural static society; the achievement of independence by many people – all these open vast new possibilities of human progress. At the same time, and in a world with a widening gap between affluent countries and countries plagued by hunger and poverty, and where suppression of freedom, discrimination and aggressive nationalism are rampant, they also create impulses towards concentration of power, oppression and destruction on a scale the world has never before known or imagined.

3. The fundamental task of our time is to master these new forces and to turn them to the service of mankind. The means of guiding them are not material, but lie in the progressive development everywhere of free societies of enlightened and responsible citizens, adequately safeguarded by their common efforts against fear and want and against internal or external oppression. Such free societies can only be created and maintained through unremitting devotion to the principles of liberalism.

Decentralisation and Freedom

4. Cooperation and solidarity between free men are a growing necessity in the modern world. However, the drive towards unhealthy centralisation has encouraged the downgrading of parliamentary institutions, the excessive dependence of the individual on the State and the growth of new forms of absolutism and of irresponsible centres of power through uncontrolled bureaucratic growth, the formation of public and private monopolies and the restrictiveness of some combinations of employers, of workers, or of both together.

5. We believe that these tendencies can only be fought by devoted concentration on the overriding need for freedom in all its aspects, and in particular by :

a) the greatest possible devolution and spread of power in the economic, social and governmental fields, especially by determined action against monopolies;

b) maintenance of the widest multiplicity of expression and initiative in all matters of education and culture, including mass media of communication;

c) making all necessary information available to enable each citizen to form objective judgements on all matters of public interest;

d) protection of the rights of minorities to enjoy the essential liberties as set out in the Liberal Manifesto;

e) elimination of racial and all other forms of oppressive discrimination;

f) protection of the individual and group from all forms of unwarranted invasion of personal private life, such as mechanised spying.

Economic Policy and Planning

6. We believe that planning by governments of their own economic activities is a necessity, provided however it is not used to stifle the autonomy of the private sector of the economy and the price mechanism of the free market which also requires the maintenance of free competition. These are fundamental to ensure economic development, to maximise both production and consumption and therefore to provide the goods and services needed for social progress, in all countries of the world.

7. We believe that the community has a special responsibility to protect natural resources, cultural treasures and the beauty of cities and countryside from indiscriminate development, either by public or private interests.

8. A growing population demanding a disproportionate increase in consumption will provoke inflation, and endanger social and economic achievement and progress by promoting monetary instability. In a free democracy this can only be avoided by a system of voluntary, balanced restraint on the part of the state and all social groups. The efforts towards such a policy should enjoy a high priority in all countries.

International Economic Cooperation

9. We believe in the need for the free movement of people, goods, capital and services; for the international division of labour and for international cooperation on the widest possible scale in monetary, social and technological matters.

10. We advocate regional economic groupings provided they do not become instruments for regional protectionism or for economic exploitation by one country of other countries and do not degenerate into bureaucratic-technocracies operating outside a system of democratic controls.

Equality and Welfare

11. We believe that a substantial part of the increased wealth available should be used to promote equality of opportunity, both for individuals and for nations all over the world.

12. For the individual, this involves security from the hazards of sickness, unemployment, disability and old age, and the provision of adequate housing.

13. It also requires the provision of the best possible educational facilities, physical as well as intellectual, humanist as well as technical, for everyone, irrespective of birth or means. To this end we favour the widest variety and choice of educational systems, subject to adequate academic standards and to the capability of the school to produce free responsible citizens.

14. It also involves the need to fight against the feeling of alienation in employees by giving them the right to participate responsibly in the running, stability and development of the enterprises in which they work and enabling them to acquire a financial interest therein.

15. Family planning must be facilitated with full respect for the responsibility and freedom of choice of individual couples.

16. Internationally, it involves, on the part of the highly industrialised nations, a liberal trade policy taking adequate account of the special needs of the poorer parts of the world and the provision of financial and technical assistance to support them in establishing educational and social security systems, in creating the infrastructure necessary for economic expansion and in furthering agricultural and industrial development.

17. We believe that aid to poorer areas should not be given for selfish political or economic motives, and we stress the need for cooperation by the authorities and inhabitants of the areas and for the development of their sense of freedom, initiative and responsibility. With the same aims in view, we believe that close coordination between governmental agencies, private enterprises and voluntary organisations is necessary.

Peace and Freedom

18. We believe that the United Nations, based on liberal democratic principles and on the development of a common international ethos, notwithstanding its present short-comings, deserves the support of the people in all countries in order to make it into an effective world authority, with clearly defined functions and real power, capable of enforcing the rule of law in international relations.

19. We believe that the interests of all peoples, including those of the states now taking their place in the technological civilisation of today, will best be served by their governing themselves according to the principles of liberal democracy.

20. We reiterate our frequently expressed belief that lasting peace can only be ensured through freedom, and that liberal foreign policies must aim primarily at the enlargement of the total area of freedom throughout the world.

21. We believe in the need to pursue the immensely difficult end of a balanced, controlled and effective reduction of all armaments. Until this has been achieved, we believe that the free nations must cooperate to provide firm protection against nuclear or conventional aggression.

22. We welcome all regional groupings in all continents, based on the mutual cooperation of free societies, leading to the merging of national sovereignties. In this respect the achievement of European unity, open to all democratic European nations, is an imperative duty for the Europeans themselves in order better to be able to contribute effectively to the peace, freedom and welfare of the entire world.

Finally, we wish to underline once more our reasoned belief that the task of directing the world revolution for the benefit of man is a liberal task. It requires tolerance and cooperation in freedom. It requires a liberal awareness of the growing human needs whose satisfaction is imperative, liberal ideas, liberal initiatives. It requires liberal parties capable of influencing the policies of their countries in a significant way.

We welcome, therefore, the self-searching and the stresses that are visible in non-liberal countries and movements, as an indication that the need for freedom is asserting itself even under most difficult circumstances. It is our duty and our will to do all we can to assist in this development.