Friday, August 14, 2009

What is Freedom?

Different people have different ideas of what freedom is. What's your opinion?


  1. Interesting question.
    In my studies becoming a political scientist I was exposed to the political philosophy writings of Thomas Hobbes. It is interesting to remember that as humans we have given up much of our original natural freedoms as mankind moved from nature into civil society. This is discussed by Hobbes in his book “On the Citizen”, which means to do the duty. The process of how a civil society is created is discussed by Hobbes in a scientific way that leads to the creation of a civil society through the transfer of Rights and the Nature of Agreements. The manner and way that man gives up his natural rights and to whom, is a key step in the evolution to creating a commonwealth and the modern liberal democracies most of us live in today. But depending on which country you are reading this blog posting from, some states offer less freedom than others.
    Due to the nature of man and his ability to kill each other regardless of the size or strength, man unlike other beasts in nature, are equal with one another. Remember that classic scene in Space 2001 where the ape rises up and beats another ape to death with a stick? Man is controlled by a natural law and has no control over it. In this law, like nature, the strong will survive and those who are born fit will succeed. This natural law is not promulgated and no one dictates the law. Humans are obliged to seek it.
    As mankind has progressed over the centuries and into the 21st century, the connotation of what freedom is viewed differently by people around the world and be measured in different ways. Do you want to measure freedom by economic, free speech, or the type of government and civil rights a citizen possesses in that country. While most of the audience of your blog is American, it is interesting to note that the only category that America is number one is the level of defense spending. America does not even rank as the leading country in a World Bank report on doing business as number one. Singapore and New Zealand have America beat in that ranking. From there the rankings only get worse for Americans who like to be told by their politicians that America is a freedom loving country. Most of the time when an American politician talks about freedom, they are usually talking about quantitive rather than a qualitative measure of freedom. The aspect of quantitive freedom usually includes the anti-democracy elements of self interest and fragmentation. Although the freedom agenda of the Bush administration has made a conspicuous attempt to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq and Afghanistan, both of those countries are ranked as the least democratic, most corrupt, and are merely dependant client states of the US. The efforts of Bush and company to bring freedom to Iraq and Afghanistan has also led to the lowering of Americans own freedoms with long standing civil liberties being taken away.
    As American ranks the 20th most democratic country in the world, the rankings for freedom only get worse from there. Press freedom in America is considered to be the 41st best in the world. Countries like Taiwan, South Africa, and Ghana have better press freedoms in the world.
    Bet hey, America I believe has the best fredom in the world to own a personal firearm furhter making it easier for man to exercise his natural freedom.

  2. Freedom is what small children quickly learn is limited in social situations. 'No' teaches the child the 'rightness' of societal living.

    Testing the limits is a common characteristic of 2-year-olds, teens, and right-wing nuts.

    The latter, as we have come to realize, believe that freedom ought to exist in society, a lesson that they clearly missed in early childhood development.

    The lessons of history are clear: as societies grow, develop and mature, individual freedoms become more and more limited.

    Thus the revolutionay's gun, the pioneer's rifle, the six-shooter of the Wild West belongs in the history museum, not on the streets of a modern city.

  3. In measuring freedom, less is actually more.

    I think the model il principle presented is pretty accurate. The less involvement with society you have the more freedom you enjoy.

    Every time you have to interact, seek permission from or consider society before any action, the less freedom you have.

    Where I live in Appalachia, I have more freedoms than most living in more urban areas. I can do what I want with my property. I can buy and shoot all the guns I wish. I can plant and grow food. There are no zoning laws or silly noise ordinances. I even built an entire house without one permit or inspection. Those living within my own State cannot do that just several miles away.

    I am actually probably more free than most in the civilized world yet my freedoms are a shadow of what they were when I was born. More and more laws are passed every year.

    Society abhors freedom. Freedom doesn't need society. That is why socialism and communism are all about totalitarianism. How can society impose its will if individuals exercise free will?

  4. I think John Stuart Mill had the right idea:

    That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right... The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

    Along with that comes not telling people what they can and can't do just because someone else finds it objectionable, without any basis in there being harm to others.

  5. Freedom is a balance between the needs of a civilization to interact in a controlled fashion and the desires of an individual. In America we cherish the depth and breadth of our freedom, sometimes at the expense of the civilization. i.e. how much safer we would all be without the 4th amendment and police could search anyone they wanted, or if government agents could limit the content of rap songs or white power songs to avoid formenting hate, or maybe outlaw religions found objectionable by the majority.

    MudRake's theory that freedom is about learning "no" and accepting more limits from society is just plain scary and unamerican. I think that the 2nd amendment is still an important mix of the freedoms we cherish in America, but not the only one or even necessarily the most important one.

    Oh well ... while Mudrake tries to teach people "NO" (unless it's on the subject of abortion or protesting republican presidents) I guess I'll have to keep advocating for his freedoms as well ...

  6. I keep thinking about Mudrake defining freedom as citizens learning to accept "no." I think perhaps the opposite is true, that freedom is when the government must learn to accept "no" from the people.

    No, you can't search my house with out a warrant.

    No, you can't tell me I can't write hateful words about Bush, Cheney, Rove, or even *gasp* Obama.

    No, you can't take away my means of defending my family and, as history as taught us, my freedoms.

    Because what society can be more free, more unafraid of a strong government, than a society where every member is empowered to speak their mind, associate with whom they wish, and own and practice with a military quality firearm should a group try to seize power and eliminate elections and freedoms -- as happened in Weimar Germany with Hitler, and is underway in Venezuela with Hugo Chavez?

  7. Thanks for the great comments. I think Mud_Rake has a good point, for the simple reason that not everyone is fortunate enough to live in a place like FatWhiteMan. In normal society there has to be rules.

    Here's an example. In Italy, there is practically no enforcement of the speed limit and other driving rules. The result is, at times, total chaos. Daily I see stunt driving, especially incredibly dangerous passing, that puts people at risk. But, this additional freedom also allows me to do the occasional illegal u-turn, and whatever else I want and not worry about the police stopping me.

    In this, the attitude of less government interference equals more freedom is bad news for Italy.

    The same thing might be allied to guns. As Sebastian pointed out, if it harms people, then and only then can the government interfere. Proponents of gun control feel this applies to our position.

  8. Proponents of gun control feel this applies to our position.

    Well you're right about that. You "feel" because you cannot offer substantive proof.