The mission of FOR (Civil Development Forum) is to increase active support of the society for a wide range of individual freedoms (especially economic freedom), and - what goes with it - for strengthening the rule of law in the country. The aim is also to reduce support and reinforce community resistance to solutions going in the opposite direction.
A wide range of freedoms and high level of the rule of law are necessary, among others, to ensure that Poland could still pursue its historic goal: to reach the living standards of the West.
The essential extension of individual freedoms and of the rule of law took place in Poland in 1989, with the fall of socialism - the most repressive of modern regimes - and ensuing reforms which became possible. The reverse side of this process was a radical reconstruction of the scope and structure of the country. However much remains to be done. And furthermore - even in democracy - freedoms, especially economic freedom and the rule of law, require keen and constant vigilance.
Individual freedoms include political freedom, understood nowadays as free elections, freedom of speech and of media, freedom of travel, freedom of association and broadly understood economic freedom, the core of which is free - and thus private - entrepreneurship (ownership) and a wide range of freedom of contract which together form the free market. These freedoms are basic, classic, material human rights.
The level of the rule of law is expressed in lawmaking and law enforcement. The level of the rule of law is the higher the:
less legislation which contradicts the material human rights and the proper lawmaking process. In practice, this legislative level of the rule of law can be measured by the degree of conflict between proposed and - even worse - adopted legislation, and the relevant parts of the constitution.
fewer decisions by the apparatus of interpretation and enforcement of the law (police, prosecutors, courts, tax authorities) that are contrary to the law or in disagreement with the proper procedure. The fundamental, classic human rights include the right to due process which means that actions of state authorities do not harass innocent people, and the accused are provided with appropriate procedural guarantees. The high level of the rule of law requires also quick settlements of cases by bodies involved in the interpretation and enforcement. If the wheels of justice turn too slow, it is not real justice.
A wide range of individual freedoms exists only when the state is strongly and permanently constrained, and in a twofold way:
1) It has a highly limited scope of action within the following areas:
- legislative and regulatory,
- fiscal (budget expenses and - as a result - taxes and public debt)
- ownership (state ownership is a legislated control of politicians and public administration over presidents of state-owned companies).
2) Strict adherence to the rule of law restricts methods at the disposal of the state..
A wide range of individual freedoms also requires the state to well protect citizens against clearly defined forms of aggression on the part of others: both from the outside (national defense) as well as from the inside (to counteract the common crime). This function is even the very reason for the existence of the state. In some situations, there may be a conflict between the requirements of the rule of law and the protective function of the state. For example, a very strict criteria for admissibility of evidence in a criminal trial can contribute to acquittal of criminals, but at the same time it protects innocent people against judicial penalties. In most countries, and certainly in Poland, both the rule of law and the protective function of the state could and should be improved.
If the state is heavily restricted, and at the same time effective in the implementation of this function, two powerful social mechanisms may operate to resolve problems of the people:
The free market, or in other words: free-market capitalism;
Civil society: a variety of associations, foundations, etc., as well as groups and organizations, whose members associate to pursue common interests or to provide mutual assistance and help (churches, other organizations of mutual assistance, charities).
The triad: a highly restricted state - the free market - a vibrant civil society is, in our belief that is derived from research and experience, the best political system for free and responsible people. There is no immanent conflict between the state and the free market. The free market needs a state, but a specific type of state: a highly restricted and effective in the implementation of its protective function. Such a state also enables the development of civil society. Its opposite was the socialist state, which deprived people of all fundamental freedoms, and that was one of the reasons why it was characterized by a low level of the rule of law. (Enforcement of extensive prohibitions required an extended apparatus of surveillance and repression, led by political police). Within such a state there was no place for a free market nor for a legitimate civil society. There are other countries which strongly subdue the free market and / or the civil society. They represent various combinations of such features as extensive interventionism (a large range of operation), the low level of the rule of law, poor or simply bad discharge of the protective function of a heavily restricted state. In general, the greater is the deviation of the political system from these standards of a highly constrained state, the worse are conditions for living and working it creates.
A broad range and an equal level of individual freedoms has an intrinsic value: it respects the dignity of the individual. In addition, a wide range of freedom, especially economic one, which is possible only within highly restricted state that performs well its protective function, creates the best conditions for rapid long-term economic development, an issue which is of great importance for an underdeveloped country such as Poland:
- only this provides means to meet the material needs of people
- only this creates more productive workplaces (there is no good life without work);
- only this, reducing the gap in living standards relative to rich countries and creating more jobs, is able to gradually reduce the incentive to emigrate;
- only this creates a strong foundation for strengthening the country's position in the world;
- finally, only a fast, long-term economic growth provides means to invest in national defense.
As you can see, one cannot overstate the social importance of the rapid, long-term economic development in a country which is economically underdeveloped. In the years 1989 - 2013 the gross domestic product of Poland more than doubled, which was the best result in our region. This was made possible by the reforms leading towards the heavily constrained state and - in effect - towards the free market. However, much remains to be done in such areas as law-making, justice, tax system and apparatus, welfare state. Moreover - in part as a result of negligence - we face the prospect of a strong and lasting slowdown of the Polish economy, because its main driving forces: the dynamics of employment, the share of investment in GDP and - consequential to some extent - improvement of efficiency, have been weakening or keep remaining weak in the recent years. This scenario, harmful for Poland, can be replaced by a better one only by implementation of certain reforms, which requires greater than ever mobilization on their behalf.
Such mobilization is necessary, because economic freedom is under permanent attack in all – even democratic - societies. In every society there are groups of different interests and different views on the role of the state in society, in particular - in the economy. This is natural. In each country, among these groups they are statists - those that defend excessively expanded state and / or push for even further extension of those laws and budget spending that are favorable to them. Such groups exist both inside and outside the party system and are overlapping, to a greater or lesser extent, with certain political parties. Inefficient solutions are often defended by some of the state employees. Statist and / or anti--reform pressures arise from self-interest (financial gains or status quo improvements), or from particular political views: there are many people, including some with higher education, for whom - in spite of research and experience – a powerful state is the source of solutions and the free market - the source of problems.
The long-term dominance of statist and / or anti-reform groups ends with the collapse of the economy, owing to - among others - the weight of public debt (like in Greece) or with its stagnation due to systematic deterioration of conditions for private enterprise (like in Italy and France). Such scenarios are particularly dangerous for countries that only get themselves established, like Poland.
What shows clearly against this background is a great importance of strong civic counterbalance to statist and anti-reform groups. It is the only chance for reforms that would replace those dangerous scenarios mentioned above. This libertarian and reformist force can and should be created both inside the party system and outside it - in civil society, so as to exert a strong libertarian, reformist pressure on the political parties (and other public institutions), and thus resist statist and anti-reformist pressures. The mission of FOR is to strengthen the free-market reformist trend within civil society.
Ways to achieve the goals
FOR seeks to achieve its objectives through three types of action:
- Analytical research,
- Activities in the fields of social communication and education,
Analytical research provides diagnoses, opinions, warnings and recommendations on matters consistent with the objectives of FOR. These analytical products are essential basis for other activities of FOR.
Activities in the field of social communication aim at maximum transmission of this content to the selected social groups and at reception of feedback responses, important for the analysis and for the communication itself. Communication activities, expressing opinions, warnings and recommendations on concrete proposals in order to increase or reduce their support in the society, refer to a deeper and broader understanding regarding the desired role of the state in society in general and in the economy in particular. Therefore they achieve educational effects at the same time. FOR strives to ensure that - during discussions on specific proposals, or events that focus attention of the media and the public - these effects are maximized, showing deeper aspects of discussed projects and events. In addition, FOR leads educational campaigns in selected communities.
Analytical research of FOR aims to promote good and to block bad solutions, and focus on two, partly overlapping areas:
Determinants of stability and development of the economy, with particular emphasis on the reforms needed to ensure that Poland can continue to catch up with the West in terms of living standards.
Signs and reasons of the low level of the rule of law in Poland and changes needed for its marked improvement.
Diagnosis and proposals of FOR are based on a careful comparative analysis: we strive to find out international standards of solving specific problems, and to describe negative experiences, which should be avoided.
FOR is committed to the earliest possible identification and assessment of proposals that appear in the political system and concern the development of the economy and / or the rule of law (the so-called "watchdogs") so that - through actions in the field of social communication, through organization and mobilization of forces, to increase chances of the introduction of good practices - and reduce the probability of accepting bad ones. A critical evaluation of the bad solutions is continued if they are adopted, so as to counteract misinformation of the society by politicians and increase the chances of replacing bad solutions with better ones.
As the potential of FOR grows, the thematic scope of its analysis will be expanded. In the first place we are interested how to strengthen the protective function of the state - while raising the level of the rule of law in Poland at the same time. The issue at stake here concerns a widely understood judicial system.
The analytical research of FOR is judged solely by merits, that is by the rules of logical and empirical correctness, and not by any other. In this sense, they are unbiased. We evaluate a variety of events and ideas according to the same substantive criteria, regardless of who are their authors.