Tuesday, June 28, 2005

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.

12 Comments:

At 12:33 AM, Blogger Mover Mike said...

Thank you, this was a topic I was working on and you beat me to it. I got to wondering why there was a Statue of Liberty, not the Statue of Freedom. I got to wondering if Bush was emphasizing Freedom over Liberty. I actually found a speech recently that used both for a total of 48 times. He must get good poll numbers for using thoses words and It seems that he uses them interchangeably.
MOver Mike

 
At 12:51 PM, Blogger T. F. Stern said...

Does that mean I should quit feeling badly that the Gitmo complex has halted the liberties of those individuals intent on murder, mayhem and destruction?

Thanks for a very well stated post.

 
At 1:23 PM, Blogger Mindwyrm said...

Most people, I know I didn't in the past anyway, stop and think about what words like freedom and liberty actually mean. One day I just started with the dictionary and it moved from there. Sorry for stealin your thunder Mike. It's not like I've got a huge readership or anything so I'd say you're safe to go ahead and post yours as well. :)

TF: feeling badly about the removal of liberty is understandable and, IMHO, required if you truly believe in liberty as more than just an abstract. The reason that Gitmo doesn't bother me is the same reason prisons don't bother me. Crimes need to be punished. Are all the people in Gitmo terrorists? I seriously doubt it but until we know we can't afford to allow them free reign. It sounds almost too "needs of the many" for me, but in this case I don't see another way to approach it.

 
At 3:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Careful there mindwyrm. Your argument "Are all the people in Gitmo terrorists? I seriously doubt it but until we know we can't afford to allow them free reign. " could easily be twisted.

Do you REALLY think that putting someone in jail is justified just because you 'think' they may have commited a crime or because you think that they might someday in the future? I doubt that's what your meant to imply.

Now, don't get me wrong. I've got no problems with Gitmo. I think there's enough evidence (public or not) for each of the detainees to be held. Just because they arn't going through a civil court system doesn't mean that their cases aren't being reviewed and that some form of due process isn't being performed.

The general public does NOT have the right to know every single iota of information gained from a detainee, military or civil. Unfortunately, I think the people who are crying the loudest about the problems at Gitmo don't agree with this. They think that to justify holding these people, that we the public 'deserve' to know every speck of info, even if it puts innocent people's lives at risk!

Worse, they think that without releasing the information, the only justifiable course of action is to release the detainee. Absurd!

 
At 3:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Careful there mindwyrm. Your argument "Are all the people in Gitmo terrorists? I seriously doubt it but until we know we can't afford to allow them free reign. " could easily be twisted.

Do you REALLY think that putting someone in jail is justified just because you 'think' they may have commited a crime or because you think that they might someday in the future? I doubt that's what your meant to imply.

Now, don't get me wrong. I've got no problems with Gitmo. I think there's enough evidence (public or not) for each of the detainees to be held. Just because they arn't going through a civil court system doesn't mean that their cases aren't being reviewed and that some form of due process isn't being performed.

The general public does NOT have the right to know every single iota of information gained from a detainee, military or civil. Unfortunately, I think the people who are crying the loudest about the problems at Gitmo don't agree with this. They think that to justify holding these people, that we the public 'deserve' to know every speck of info, even if it puts innocent people's lives at risk!

Worse, they think that without releasing the information, the only justifiable course of action is to release the detainee. Absurd!

 
At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry about the double post!

 
At 4:19 PM, Blogger Mindwyrm said...

People are put in jail every day under suspicion of committing a crime. In most cases, citizens can only be held 72 hours(I think that's the right number) without being charged. Since the vast majority aren't citizens I have no problem with them being held at Gitmo until they're cleared.

Those that are American citizens though are being denied their rights under law(until the Patriot Act) and that irks me. The Patriot Act itself is wrong and should be done away with. Until they do though, the detentions are legal.

 
At 8:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks soooo much!! My teacher gave us an assignment overnight entitled "What is Liberty" and I had no idea. This helped me so much. If it is possible get a website helping with algebra and trigonomety.

 
At 1:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I the only one that thinks Gitmo (Guantanamo Bay) is wrong? If I said to you that you're going to jail and you weren't going to have a trail what would you think?

IT IS TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY UNFAIR!

And who cares if their citizens would you like this to happen overseas to you either?
I THINK NOT!

 
At 1:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

*trial
not trail

Oops

 
At 10:21 PM, Anonymous sdbrit68 said...

well, how about an opinion from someone living in America that is not a citizen. The question of liberty and freedom I believe was very well phrased......absolutely incredible.

Now the question of gitmo, and is it right to hold someone. As a non american that enjoys the liberties of America, and yes, I earned them in the United states Army, I believe that different rules should apply for non citizens.

I have no issue with if I am pulled over, having to go through extra checks.

why ?

because I am not a citizen, and I feel that this country has a right to protect itself, and if I need to be onconveinced some, then so be it, I have choices, mainly to become a citizen of this country, which I am working on, or live with it.

Unfortunately, America has no idea who is here,and that is dangerous

 
At 3:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks 4 the lesson, i was a bit confused myself. i guess there is no other way to make it clearer than that..........."freedom and liberty". Hope u post more in the future to forbid us from using words unpropriately.

 

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