Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom
// Fighting for Democracy and Freedom
Liberalism is under pressure everywhere. But this is nothing new. From your German-Swiss perspective, how optimistic are you about 2021 in light of developments?
The current pandemic poses a multitude of challenges that need liberal and rational solutions. Coronavirus vaccines were developed at a breath-taking pace, and that is a great example of what can be achieved through progress, coordinated efforts and reliable cooperation in a free world. Now we have to take a sensible and responsible approach to rebuilding and rene- wing our social and economic lives. People have probably realised that the State cannot take on responsibility for everything and that, whenever possible, it is up to us to assume responsibility for ourselves as individuals. In times of crisis people tend to show a renewed ‘spirit’ and take action rather than simply thinking about it. The free development of own strengths and opportunities becomes more evident, and it also becomes clearer how restrictive bans, bureaucracy and ideological barriers are. So my outlook for 2021 is optimistic.
Your grandmother was murdered at a concentration camp in Croatia and you’ve published a book about her tragic life. What lessons would you want to share with today’s youth?
49It’s important to be vigilant. Upholding human rights is not just something we listen to in Sunday sermons, it’s a gift of European education. The ruthless persecution of political, religious and social minorities is still taking place in authoritarian regimes around the world. Democracy and freedom are the strongest weapons against that persecution and it is our task and our duty to fight for them.
You come from an international and liberally minded family. Is there some kind of ideological heritage that you associate with your family?
Yes. The most important thing they have taught me is that ‘liberals’ have humanist and very people-focused way of living and attitude to life. The concept of a cold (neo-)liberalism, reduced to market-radical set of rules and, to some extent, a sub-category of economics, has been taught since the 1980s. Although it is widely accepted it is not something I associate myself with at all. I think this idea of liberalism, shaped by libertarian American schools – or embittered Europeans immigrants living there – is wrong and ignores history. Community spirit is one of the central values of a genuine libertarian. We are never immune to what is happening around us, and how the more socially deprived members of society are faring.
You were appointed as the new Chairman of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom Board of Trustees in the midst of the pandemic, in September 2020. What long-term developments do you envisage for this German liberal think tank that has been around for more than 60 years?
Liberalism is not a self-contained ideology, it is adaptive. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom think tank exists to provide new ideas for liberalism in the 21st century. We all hope that generations to come will be able to live in a peaceful and just world with intact natural resources where a healthy level of prosperity can be maintained. This will not be achieved through bans and restrictions, but through education, multidisciplinary ideas competition and a commitment to the obligations associated with ownership. We want the intelligent and creative individuals in our think tank to deliver liberal answers that focus on freedom for personal development and community spirit.