June 25th, the fourth UCERC Western Classics Session was held in Beijing. The topic of this session was the “Meaning of Liberty.” Dr. LIU Junning, Professor WANG Jianxun, and Professor Ningyue joined 20 other offline participants in this session.
In the discussion, the participants discussed whether democratic socialism was possible, the relation between economic freedom and political freedom, and the Singapore Model and the India Model. Brexit was also discussed heatedly in this session. Professor WANG Jianxun thought Britain was very different from other democracies in the world. In France and Spain, power was concentrated. In a sense, the US has never quite integrated into continental Europe. Now that the UK has opted out of the EU, there is a window of opportunity for the EU to rethink its overall policy. However, in the long term, Europe still tends to be a federation, otherwise, war is always a possibility. If the EU conducts successful reforms after Brexit, maybe the UK will join it once again in the future.
When it comes to the topic of this session, Dr. LIU Juning thought freedom is the status where everyone is free to do what one likes and carry the consequential responsibilities under certain order and frameworks of justice. The negative freedom is not enough. Freedom is the status where one is except from coercion, while liberty is the right to do certain things. Therefore, a distinction between freedom and liberty is necessary. From a conservative point of view, negative freedom refers to the status where one does what one likes, and positive freedom refers to one’s act of pursuit in the sense of rights. In the discussion, some participants raised the issue of the limit of the government action. Professor WANG Jianxun claimed that government should provide things that couldn’t be provided by individuals. Governments are not suitable to carry out economic actions. What the government was born to do is to safeguard the market, and to provide justice.