Economic liberty is an essential component of human freedom. Economic liberty does not mean 'the love of money' or 'valuing money over people's lives'. Economic liberty is part of the freedom that gives true meaning to human life and differentiates a human being from, say, a tree, that may well be alive and well, thriving in the garden, but has no concept of its own agency or self-worth. There it stands, rooted, safe and secure in a field, for hundreds of years, being watered by the rain and fed by the earth, but it has no sense of personal accomplishment. Human beings are not like plants - we strive always to balance freedom with security because we know that without freedom, security is meaningless.
Individual economic liberty is one of the fundamental freedoms of private life. It is a core component of personal autonomy, self-ownership and the right freely to interact with others of ones choice. It includes the freedom to work, choose ones own productive and creative activities, and choose (or agree to) the terms and conditions of work; freedom to buy and sell; freedom to save, invest or spend; freedom to organise your life and routines in the way that most enhances your productivity or creativity.
It is easy to say that rights and freedoms are not absolute, and at some point freedom must be balanced against other social values like 'economic equality'. That's why taxes are not voluntary even in free societies - everyone must contribute to wealth redistribution. But it's not easy to identify exactly where and how the balance must be struck, nor will there ever be agreement on this issue.
Some people think that restrictions on economic liberty are easily justified, because economic liberty, while quite nice, is not very important in the wider scheme of things. Others would argue that restrictions on economic liberty are only justifiable in the most limited of circumstances because economic liberty is as essential a component of our basic humanity as other basic freedoms: for example free speech, freedom of association or freedom of conscience. Fundamental human freedoms are intrinsically interlinked, and attempting to draw artificial boundaries between them diminishes our humanity: the right to life and liberty are inextricably linked to the freedom to enter into productive or creative activities and to associate with others of one's choice.
Many public policy debates depend on the degree of importance attached to economic liberty. If economic liberty is essential to our humanity then industriousness and productivity must understood as virtues worth upholding and defending. Economic outcomes that follow from the exercise of such virtues are therefore inherently moral, even if they're unequal. If economic liberty matters a great deal, then it's not 'unfair' for someone who works harder to have better career outcomes, or a higher wage, than someone who lazes about. Life is what it is, and luckily, human beings are not stuck in their material conditions but have the agency and power to learn and grow, if they choose to. There is beauty in nature, and in the natural unfolding of life, even when things appear to be 'unequal'. In the nature of things, industriousness and productivity lead to social and economic prosperity, and that is a very good thing which makes people feel very happy.
But if economic liberties are not very important then it's perfectly fine to delink individual virtues from economic outcomes and simply equalise everything by force to make it more 'fair'. In this worldview, unequal outcomes are deemed to be inherently 'unfair' and differences in industriousness and productivity are considered to be irrelevant. The reason individual virtues are irrelevant to economic outcomes is a logical result of viewing economic liberties as not very important - certainly not as important as making sure that everything is equal. After all, if someone lazes about maybe it's not his fault: maybe he grew up in a home where laziness was encouraged? Thus it's 'unfair' for someone else to gain a material advantage just from the sheer luck of having grown up in a home where hard work was encouraged. It is not very important how wealth is produced: more important is the fact that wealth exists, and therefore it should be equally distributed. In this worldview, the only people who care how wealth is produced in the first place are those suffering from greed and a most unhealthy love of money.
This perspective on the unfairness of life means that inheriting material wealth is unfair, and inheriting 'social capital' by being in a well-connected family is also unfair. Being more talented than other people is also unfair, especially if you earn money from your talents, because nobody chose the untalented genes they were born with. In this worldview, any personal or natural attributes that are enjoyed by some people but not others are inherently unfair.
As life is by definition unfair, the role of governments is to fix life and make it more fair by equalizing outcomes. We should be suspicious of nature, because the natural unfolding of life never produces equal outcomes. The good thing about having governments fix everything, replacing natural law with a fairer legislative scheme, is that nobody has to take individual responsibility for their life outcomes.
At heart, the importance attached to economic liberty therefore depends on the degree to which people value the freedom to make their own choices, and how they evaluate whether they are free in the first place. How do you know whether you are free to make your own way in the world? Do you know that you are free because nobody is placing restrictions on you (freedom rooted in your own free will) or do you test whether you are free by comparing your lot in life to others (freedom rooted in equal outcomes)? On the whole, those who prefer having the government make all their daily decisions for them are people who do not consider themselves to be free: it is because they do not think they have free will to decide their own fate that they feel insecure and would like the government to protect them from life and its many unavoidable risks. Life is very risky, and just by being alive you run a daily risk of death.
Thus what appears superficially to be a debate about whether some people value 'money' more than 'lives' is really a debate about how we understand our humanity, whether we value self-ownership, and the importance we attach to self-responsibility.
Scholar, Writer, Friend