Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Of Liberty And Freedom

We use the words Liberty and Freedom interchangeably.  That is a bit of a shame, because in point of fact they colloquially imply different things.

Both of them (thanks, Merriam-Webster.com) imply the quality or state of being free.  But one (liberty) implies the power to do something while the other (freedom) implies an absence of necessity or coercion.

An example:  In the U.S. we refer to civil liberties (for example, the power to assemble, speak as we will, right to bear arms, due process, etc).  These are items or powers which are not granted to us by any government or person but exist as rights derived from our Creator - from our simple existence.  By contrast I have certain freedoms which exist as a result of a lack of government control - for example, the freedom to travel almost anywhere within the US or the freedom to buy most anything I want to.

Liberty and freedoms are both states, to be sure.  I can be in a state of liberty and I can be in a state of freedom.  But liberty implies (at least to me) the greater state in that I (should) not be infringed upon by my government in the exercise of this liberty.  And within this liberty, I am free to do certain things.

Yes, I know.  You may be thinking to yourself "TB Old Man, you are finally wandering in the woods".  But this is why I think it is important.

A good many people these days argue for freedoms:  "I should be free to do this or that."  And perhaps they should.  But in addressing the question this way, they are essentially begging permission of the powers that be - most often the governmental body of their choice - to allow them to do something.  They are presuming that government has the right and ability to restrict them prima facia.

Liberty, on the other hand, is a very different assumption.  It assumes that I have the ability to act without accessing the government for the permission to do or act.  It also assumes that I have a greater ability to run my own affairs and make my own decision than the government (or any authoritarian body) has.

People should be arguing for more liberty, not necessarily for more freedom.


2 comments:

LindaG said...

Freedom from government regulation; which has been over reaching for some time.

Great post.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Thank you Linda.

Yes, it seems like more and more government is granting us insignificant freedoms while slowly removing the important ones.