Jun 21 2013

Liberty versus Freedom

Freedom and liberty – these two words are etched into our political core, but we tend to take them for granted, without examining what they actually mean. Freedom is the absence of restriction and control, while liberty implies a state of freedom, but with an added framework of responsibility and accountability added to it. Liberty, strictly defined, is freedom to choose. The act of making a choice carries with it the responsibility for what comes as a result of that choice. Liberty includes both free will and the responsibility that follows actions. Liberty has at its core both the ability and the willingness to self govern. Liberty has also been defined as a lack of dependence on the will and choices of others.

When we have no freedom, we yearn for it and make obtaining it the focus of our attention and efforts. But once we have some degree of freedom and no longer feel we have to make a major effort to get it, we begin to understand that freedom is not the end point, just a stop along the way. We don’t want chaos and disruption with our freedom. We want tranquility and harmony to come with freedom. And that implies some form of order. Order is implied in liberty but not in freedom.

Freedom is essential to liberty and prerequisite to it. Liberty is the ethically correct exercising of freedom, which requires an analytic balancing of the right to freedom with the consequence and responsibility of choice. Liberty requires education but freedom does not. Freedom is focused into liberty by virtue. Knowledge, courage, self restraint and an independent self reliance are the virtues needed for self government. An enlightenment of these principles is the starting point.