What is liberty?
There’s a lot of talk going around these days about freedom and liberty and everyone assumes that they know what the writer is talking about. Do they though? What exactly are freedom and liberty? Are they the same thing? Is one required for the other or are they independent? Let’s take a look.
Do the definitions help us out at all? Freedom is defined as the capacity to exercise choice; free will. Liberty has it's meaning as the right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one's own choosing. Looks to be pretty much the same thing, right? Wrong. Freedom is just the capability to make a choice. Every person in the world has that. Since we all know there are billions of people out there considered to be oppressed or not free how is this possible?
Let’s use North Korea as an example. The people in DPRK have the ability to make choices(we’ll discuss consequences later so put your hands down) every day. What they don’t have is liberty. Liberty is a right and rights are something due a person thru law or tradition. DPRK doesn’t have laws or traditions granting it’s citizens the right to make choices so it’s population has freedom, but lacks liberty. DPRK goes a step…okay a whole lot more than one step further and has tried to suppress it’s citizens exercising their freedom by use of draconian punishments for anything deemed anti-social or basically against that short funny looking guy who runs the place. The consequences don’t take away their ability to choose so their freedom is intact. So, oppression isn’t the taking of freedom. It’s the denial of liberty.
Since liberty is a right and not simply an ability it can be taken away. The most obvious example is criminality. Liberty is a right afforded under law. If you violate those laws, your liberty can be forfeit. This is not oppression or cruel. Some believe it hypocritical to claim to be a land of liberty but then to take away liberty by means of incarceration. What they fail to understand is that anything granted by law can only be valid as long as that law is followed. If someone breaks the law they have put themselves contrary to that which granted them liberty in the first place.
So what about unjust laws and laws the restrict liberty for no good reason other than political gain? There are really only two recourses in a situation like that. Work within the system to correct the mistake, or open revolt. One requires patience and a belief in the system. In order to revolt you usually have to have lost all faith in the system and not care about the consequences if you fail. For many reasons working within the system is the better option. However, there are instances where revolt is the only option left. Our own nations founding was the result of one such instance.
Okay, how about responsibilities and consequences? Any choice you make will have consequences either good or bad. As this is the case, freedom and liberty are meaningless if there is no personal responsibility to accept the costs of those choices. Regardless of what circumstances lead someone to make a choice, in they end, they did choose and need to acknowledge the obligation put on them by making that choice be it positive or negative. And contrary to what many would say, even not making a choice is simply a decision by default.
Feel free to comment to your hearts delight. I chose to post this and I have no problems dealing with whatever consequences are the result.