Association for Liberal Thinking held an introductory level seminar of Liberty Academy in Trabzon city on “Foundations of Free Society” in cooperation with Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty on 5 December. Trabzon city is in the northern part of Turkey and there are two universities with different faculties. Most of the students were undergraduate, however there were some graduate students as well. This seminar accommodated 30 students from departments varying from economics, politics, engineering, sociology and divinity faculties. Students actively followed the seminars and participated the discussions on freedom, liberal democracy, free market economy and civil society lead by ALT Faculty members.
The seminar started with the presentation of Assoc. Prof. Dr.. Hasan Yucel Basdemir on the concepts of freedom, freedom of religion and conscience and freedom of expression. Basdemir emphasized that peace is the foundation of living of our choices. When there are no established exclusive mechanisms within the political legal and economic system creating disadvantages then individual conscience and common sense would be promoted in the society. Furthermore, Basdemir elaborated on that private property is the foundation of freedom of expression which is the foundation of freedom of religion and conscience. Basdemir stated that legitimate political principles should function like the traffic rules letting individuals follow their own choices.
In the next session Prof. Tanel Demirel of Cankaya University made a speech differentiating the concepts of liberal democracy and deliberative democracy in the modern representative system, as classical liberals prefer free markets for resource allocation the latter claims redistribution via deliberations. Demirel stated that the quality of democracy increases as human rights violations decrease and transparency expands. On the other hand, Prof. Demirel emphasized that democracy is not the solution itself, instead an instrument to find solutions; and that democracy does not guarantees the best while it beats off the worst. Demirel argued that the principles of democracy are universal. Regarding Turkey’s situation Demirel pointed out that making civil and military bureaucratic elites step back is crucial, since it is far beyond easier to tackle with the fallacies of the politicians than of the bureaucrats.
After lunch, Dr. Bugra Kalkan of Katip Celebi University offered that economics knowledge is essential to understand social knowledge system and develop policy. Kalkan addressed rules in free markets whereas there are commands in a socialist system as he challenged the students asking whether they would prefer being tried in Switzerland, UK or Northern Korea, Egypt. Kalkan discussed that markets create wealth through private property, contract law, division of labour, specialization and free exchange. Kalkan introduced the price mechanism as a spontaneous order functioning to inform the consumers and producers in the condition that millions of actors cannot operate or get organized directly. Emphasizing the importance of rules in free markets Kalkan argued that, contrary to the claim of Marxism, market economy is not based on the capital but rules. Accordingly Kalkan concluded that a rule based system opens up space for free markets as constitutionalism restricts and controls the state activities.
The final session was on civil society delivered by Ozlem Caglar Yilmaz, the general coordinator of ALT. Yilmaz introduced the concept as a space of voluntary organizations, as an ability to independently get organized free from centralized interventions and a state of these organizations influencing the central authority and determining public policy. Yilmaz argued civil society as a theory of classical liberalism and a model of traditional institutions of limited government, freedom of expression, market economy based on private property, voluntary organizations where pluralism can flourish and a state mechanism is prevented to be based on one idea. Yilmaz discussed that in an open society, individuals can develop individual responsibility and autonomy as well as modes of conduct and morality. Yilmaz continued discussions with the students on the civil culture, and problems of civil society in Turkey.
Students actively participated with questions and remarks after every presentations and the program was concluded with an evaluation session.
At the end of the program, students were delivered a participation certificate with a pack of books, for a Free Society of Nigel Ashford, Bastiat of Detmar Doering; Economic Freedom and Prosperity of Wolfgang Casper, Freedom, Prosperity and the Struggle for Democracy of Stefan Melnik.
Participants have shown a great interest in the program and demanded follow up activities as they expressed that this is the first time they hear these ideas in a consistent framework. Moreover students have expressed that they appreciated the freedom of expression that they could make pro and counter arguments and the richness of the debates in the seminars.
This program has also stimulated young and local academics to take initiatives to mobilize and assist their students towards their interests on ideas of free society.