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News Link • Philosophy of Liberty

How to Know When You Have Liberty

• Strike the Root/Paul Bonneau
I am here following the distinction that some use, between freedom and liberty: freedom is being free in your own mind--even a prisoner in a gulag can be free. Liberty is the external condition of being able to do what you want, within the usual constraints of nature--a prisoner in a gulag does not have liberty.
Now, it is possible to have liberty, no matter what political worldview you subscribe to. A communist can have liberty, if he lives in a place that allows him to be a communist, just as he wants to be. This is so for any other political persuasion; liberals can have liberty, and conservatives can too. Some people may not realize this. Anyone can have liberty; whether they are free is another question altogether, that I won’t address here.
Let’s start this investigation with an analogy. Imagine you live in a large city. Every morning you get up, get in your car, and travel along your favorite road, Liberal Way. You travel on Liberal Way because you are a liberal (just assume this for the moment). This road has all the things you need. There are other roads, like Conservative Boulevard, and Progressive Avenue, and even a gravel road called Communist Lane, but you are not interested in going there, although you may have tried it once when you were younger.
Now, you do have to drive through some ugly, blighted areas, but you are sure they are that way because of what happens over on Conservative Boulevard. Likewise, conservatives think the blight they drive through on Conservative Boulevard is because of what happens in Liberal Way. You both wish the rest of the city was more like your own preferred road, so the blight would go away and you could be proud of your entire city. And, you try to make that happen through political means.
One day you get the notion to drive outside the city. You start going but are soon stopped by a fence with a sign, “NO EXIT PERMITTED.” You sadly turn around and go home. You then go back to your old routine, but this event keeps gnawing away at the back of your mind. For some reason you can’t quite fathom, the city loses its friendly feeling. The familiar sights along Liberal Way start to seem a bit “off"; nothing is quite as it appears. You start to feel as if you are in a prison.

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Dave Dawson
Entered on:

Great column, Paul. I would love to think we could one day eliminate the general acceptance of "the initiation of force, deadly if necessary, to get what you want" (the distinguishing attribute of political government), but I suspect the best we can ever do is damage control. It can be funny though, because of some who claim to love God then actually assert that the whole thing is God's idea. ;-) Go figger.

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