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Free Will and Moral Responsibility

Vous Avez Dit Liberté? 19 Textes D’anthologie Pour Découvrir Le Libéralisme


In 2018, Students For Liberty France published an anthology of writings by prominent classical liberal thinkers, each introduced by an academic among our contemporaries, to discover this doctrine still too poorly known in France. After 1,000 copies distributed at various events, the second edition was just released. Now divided up into 19 themes (17 for the first edition), those texts provide guidelines for liberal reflection in today’s political issues.

Five years ago, I discovered liberalism, and I am now the national coordinator in France for Students for Liberty. Engaged in this movement for four years, I wanted to lead the project of the anthology for curious people about liberal ideas. A simple but quality introduction, offering a grid of political reading rarely challenged in the public debate.

Five years ago, I came across a column in a national newspaper that challenged anti-smoking policy. That was not denying the danger, but was offering another logic: let everyone choose freely and take responsibility.

Freedom and responsibility would become my motto, whereas I have voted socialist for yearsn with the hope that my commitment was acting for the emancipation of each. Freedom and responsibility are the result of a long apprenticeship. In denying this faculty, even with good intentions, the State does not promote our emancipation, but infantilize us. The modern State, that extend its power on every aspect of our existence, deny us the possibility of learning from experience, and the State’s elites have too often claimed the monopoly of wisdom.

More the State reduces freedoms, more it disempowers the individuals, and it becomes ever more necessary to our existence. Today, the welfare State makes us dependent much more than it protects us. The political control of socio-economic relations goes along with moral commandism, without reaching their declared objective of economic equality. Attached to the moral freedom and rejecting paternalism, I became aware that we had to fight for freedom in all aspects of our life, either for our moral choices or economic choices.

Liberalism does not promise an ideal model of society, rid of all suffering, without misery, but a world which leaves to each one the choice of his own way. In that, I believe this world is better than the controlled and administered world we know. It guarantees an infinity of individual paths. Do the ruling elites can really pretend to know the multitude of social relations to which their centralized policy applies? The extent and complexity of the law protect less and less the weaker. Aiming to protect the weak, the government often protects the elites, more able to understand and manage all those regulations.

So it is the Liberty that we defend: a critical thought for this hell paved with good intentions.

This book proposes neither a system nor a program, but a matrix to question the functioning of our institutions and to examine with hindsight and lucidity the society we are building. We tackle 19 themes that seemed essential to us, without claiming exhaustion. This book is an invitation to travel, an open door to a rich and rich intellectual world. You will meet thinkers from different eras and from different countries, despite their different points of view, placing freedom at the heart of their vision of justice. We decided to choose French or French-speaking authors, liberalism is never an “Anglo-Saxon ideology”. French intellectual history is rich in a long tradition of liberal thinkers, who have also inspired Anglo-Saxon intellectuals and their vision of liberalism. It is this wealth that we wanted to share, presented for each of these historical texts by some rare liberal intellectuals of our time. The prefaces of these will not fail to provoke new debates, just as liberal thought is protean and controversial.

We hope, with this work, that you join this beautiful fight, the fight of Liberty. Let’s commit to a freer world. A world of spontaneous human relationships, not dictated by political or administrative authority. A world respectful of our free will.

by Sacha Benhamou, National Coordinator SFL France

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