Often, in those parts of the world where liberty, as the highest of all achievements, has paved the way towards peace, security, affluence and democracy, it is no longer seen as precious; rather, it is taken for granted. At the same time, liberty seems again and again to suffer from the effects of varying degrees of change on the regional, national and international levels. Permanently low economic growth, a deep-seated demographic shift, the globalisation of markets, and a clearly discernible alienation between business, politics and society are leading to insecurity, a blame culture, and a considerable loss of confidence in government and corporate decision-makers whose behaviour and attitude have, in some cases, actually served to deepen distrust. In the absence of suitable ideas, a call for action is emerging that, although often vague, is nevertheless a direct demand for stricter regulation. As a result, personal liberty, although not fundamentally compromised, is in effect being placed more and more at the mercy of hard-line agendas.
Whether entrepreneurial freedom that includes the option to exploit opportunities and also take risks, or social freedom within the structure of a democratic state, or the freedom of individuals to choose their own life styles, liberty always finds its justification in a willingness to take responsibility, and also in being able to trust those in a position of responsibility. Business decisions that generate a feeling of powerlessness, mistrust and general insecurity amongst its stakeholders, and also the infringement of recognised values by commercial interests, will ultimately jeopardise the freedoms enjoyed by a company. Confidence in political decision-makers is linked to the powers and responsibilities vested in them as part of the democratic process. As a precondition for individuals to be able to exert maximum control over their own lives, it is essential that they also accept responsibility for their personal circumstances.
It is precisely in developed welfare states that the drive for liberty and openness seems, in part, to have given way to a fear of self-responsibility. How can liberty and social justice be brought into unison so that a way out of this welfare-state dilemma can be found? How can the loss of confidence in the economy be overcome in the long term in order to protect and strengthen entrepreneurial freedom? How can our society grasp the opportunities of the unforeseeable, and at the same time heed legitimate needs for protection and security?