At Maxim Institute, we recognise the importance of:
Lawmakers should recognise that the state, while powerful, is not the ultimate authority in human affairs; governments have been wrong, laws have been unjust and peoples mistaken. This recognition is vital for upholding justice and sustaining freedom in a democracy. Without it, “might is right.”
All human life has inherent dignity worthy of protection in law. The value of human life does not depend on its usefulness to society, or whether it is wanted: the value is inherent in being human. The resulting dignity is the foundation of our rights and freedoms, which, by definition, are common to all people by virtue of their shared humanity. Rights and freedoms do not depend on a person’s race, religion, social background, wealth or identification with a particular social or political group. Humanity enjoys such freedoms so that it may move with realistic hope towards its proper end, oriented to the good. Thus a flourishing life for individuals, communities and the world itself is made possible.
Marriage & family
The family shapes human identity and character. It is the most intimate source of connection and belonging. At the heart of the family is the public and life-long commitment between a man and a woman, surrounded, supported and enriched by whanau. It is here that spouses are cared for and children are nurtured. Our family is the first school, the first hospital - the first society we encounter. It connects the generations and sustains social order. As such, the state has an interest in the welfare of the family.
The communities of civil society
Communities help people in ways that government never can. They arise from relationships and have a human face. A vibrant civil society connects individuals and families in community with others. It includes the public, non-political dimensions of social life such as sports clubs, charities, churches and youth groups, voluntary associations and trade unions. These communities are effective in helping the needy, because genuine compassion is shown by people, not institutions. To value civil society is to believe in people and what we can accomplish together.
Unity and due difference
Our world is rich in various cultures that readily now interact in the 21st century. We value such differences among people. We also seek to see all peoples as being embraced within a universal vision of humanity. Such a vision is one that fosters both a sense of cohesion and an appreciation for the distinctive contribution each brings. This enriches the whole and the constituent parts.
The government plays a vital role in any stable society and should act in the best interests of its citizens. The primary role of the state is to defend its borders and its people, maintain law and order and administer justice. We pay taxes to enable the government to do these things. Discerning the proper role of government is important however, as there are limits to the legitimacy of its power. When it oversteps these, it loses its authority. The government should endeavour to undertake its duties with humility and respect for life, rather than with a naive faith that government can or should attempt to create a “perfect” society.
People tend to steward their own resources more wisely than government officials. Therefore the government should focus on carrying out its core responsibilities well and set the legal environment in which families and communities can grow and flourish on their own terms.
The rule of law
The rule of law is a foundational principle of our democracy; no one is above the law and everyone is subject to it. Government can only exercise its authority in accordance with written law that is made known to the public; the government may not exercise its power in an arbitrary way. The law applies equally to everyone and recognises the dignity of each person. The law does not differentiate between people, whether young or old, rich or poor, male or female, elected MP or voter.
The separation of powers
History has shown that power, especially unbridled power, can easily corrupt even the most principled among us. While the rule of law recognises human dignity, the separation of powers recognises that humans are fallible. It seeks to prevent power from resting in the hands of only a few, by distributing it across the three branches of the state. The legislature (or Parliament) makes the law; the Judiciary interprets the law through the court system and the Executive (also known as the Government) administers the law.
Personal character & responsibility
A free and just society only becomes possible when people are responsible and communities are strong. Limited government relies on personal character and a strong common ethic. Governments cannot make people good, but they can set a climate in which it is easier or harder for people to do the right thing.
Work, ownership & trade
Work is valuable. It flows naturally from human nature and interaction. It is an expression of people’s humanity and dignity. The “marketplace” is where people come together to make, buy and sell; it predates both currency and the state. It is also where human beings are rewarded for their effort, creativity and innovation, and is how we best meet people’s material needs.
Ownership is vital to a prosperous and cohesive society. It gives people a stake in their community and enables trade to flourish. What we own, we tend to cherish and care for. Protecting the ownership of people’s property is not only just, it also tends to allocate resources and raise living standards better than central government planning.
The earth & its resources
Each generation is responsible for protecting and sustaining the earth’s natural resources, while cultivating them to enhance people’s lives and the lives of those to come.
The free exchange of ideas
When ideas are freely exchanged and debated, our knowledge of the world grows and we come closer to discovering the truth. Freedom in the “market place of ideas” means new ideas can be tested and “bad” ideas defeated. When people are not able to freely express their views, the ability of each person to participate in democracy and dissent is reduced, and political discourse is restricted. It is a hallmark of a free society that all opinions, even the unpopular, can be safely expressed.
History & memory
History and memory are reflected in custom and convention and they link one generation to another. A generation should preserve its inheritance, its institutions and social structures, and adapt these to a changing culture cautiously, and in a spirit of humility. Tradition, while imperfect, is a better framework on which to base change than ideology and social upheaval.