Freedom starts with justice

Years ago, at a meeting of the VVD, a liberal tried to explain the connection between freedom and wealth. She did this by showing two images of the world.

The first picture showed us the distribution of freedom, with very free countries, less free countries and unfree countries. The second picture showed us the distribution of wealth, with rich countries, less rich countries and poor countries. According to the liberal, there was a clear connection. Countries with a lot of freedom were usually richer and countries with little freedom were often poorer. The conclusion was now well advised: freedom would be a prerequisite for wealth.

I appreciate the demonstration of people with a different political color, especially when they are so clearly presented. But I did not find this story very satisfying. Because imagine that this liberal was mistaken in the pictures and was to show us first the picture with the distribution of wealth in the world and only then the picture with the distribution of freedom. Then the conclusion would have been very different. Then she should have established at that symposium of the VVD that wealth is a condition for freedom. Which picture we choose first is no coincidence, it says something about our idea of justice.

The King was quite right in his Christmas speech when he said that the Netherlands is one of the best countries to live in. We are a rich country and we are a free country. But in the more than fifteen years that I have been walking around at the Binnenhof I have also seen how that wealth was divided more and more unfairly. I also saw how during these years the opportunities for young people have become less. When I was young myself, I got enough scholarship to be able to study. Living in an affordable house was normal and getting a permanent job was the norm. At the time, we also had to worry less about whether we could afford the healthcare or whether we would ever receive a pension.

Someone told me recently that he voted for the VVD. I asked him how he could afford it anyway. Earlier he had told that he had been annoyed this year by the unjust politics. If you start studying, your life starts with a debt, renting an affordable house, let alone buying a house is not laid out for people like him and a permanent job seems to be a luxury for his generation. The costs for care are no longer payable and the young man does not expect that he will ever receive a good pension. He also agreed with me that the generation of today no longer has fewer opportunities, while in the meantime our country has become much richer.

The liberal promise that more free market and more personal responsibility leads to more prosperity for everyone has turned out to be a fairytale. This conception of 'freedom' has only led to more inequality in our country and to more social insecurity for many Dutch people. It is naïve to think that a free market leads to a free society. This only happens if we share the wealth more fairly. True freedom starts with justice. I would also like to see images of countries with a lot of social security and countries where people call themselves happy, I think there is a connection there.

Ronald van Raak is spokesman Kingdom Relations for the Second Chamber fraction of the Socialist Party

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