FREEDOM – WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© January 2020, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc.
Freedom is a word that is commonly used, but its meaning is not always clear.
Definition of freedom or liberty within society. This means having control over one’s own life. However, this control is always shared with all other citizens, and is valid only to the extent that it does not impinge or destroy the freedom or liberty of others.
The opposite. The opposites of this freedom are slavery or license.
Slavery means a person is not in control of his life. Instead, someone else controls the purse strings, or controls the land, or controls the health care system.
License. This is permission to do exactly as one pleases, even if it harms or kills others.
Thus the political concept of freedom or liberty is a middle ground between slavery and license.
TYPES OF FREEDOM IN AMERICA AND ELSEWHERE
Political freedom. In the political sphere, freedom is associated with limited government power and the right of the citizens to serve in the government and choose their leaders. It also means control over one’s major life decisions.
Religious freedom. This is the freedom to worship as one pleases, without interference from the government. It is also the freedom to live according to one’s religious values without government interference.
Economic freedom. This is the freedom to engage in an occupation of one’s choice, to contract with others to obtain the goods and services one desires, to set the prices for one’s services and goods, to control one’s earnings or income, and freedom from unjust or excessive taxation – which is confiscation of wealth by governments – and the ability to dispose or of use one’s own wealth, property or money as one sees fit.
Words that describe these economic conditions are a free market economy, the free enterprise system and capitalism.
This is the finest economic system in the world. It is not perfect, but it is much better at creating happiness and prosperity than the alternatives. These are called a command and control economy, socialism or communism.
Unfortunately, not enough people understand these concepts. As a result, governments today trample on the people’s rights under all sorts of pretexts. For example, having a piece of land is not too helpful if environmental laws prevent one from developing one’s property or business.
In fact, strong private property rights are very good for the environment because no one wants to ruin their own property. If they pollute someone else’s property, the harmed person needs to have full rights to sue for damages. Socialist and communist nations, in general, are far more polluted than true capitalist nations.
Governments today also trample people’s rights when spend too much money and in many other ways. A separate article entitled Inflation, The Hidden Tax discusses the important problem of inflation.
Social freedom. This is the freedom to live where one wishes and associate with whomever one wishes.
The American Bill of Rights also guarantees freedom to bear arms, freedom of speech and of the press, freedom to petition the government for grievances, freedom from spying (the fourth Amendment guarantees the safety of one’s papers), and much more. All of this is very important.
In fact, however, freedom means more than these simple rights. Let us explore freedom in more depth.
II. LIBERTY IS AN ABSOLUTE VALUE
We assert that liberty or freedom is an absolute value. This means that, at a basic level, trading one’s freedom for this or that government benefit is always a losing proposition. This is a very important concept that the founders of America realized, but not enough people realize it today.
The reason for this assertion is that freedom or liberty always brings with it certain other excellent qualities or values. Here are some examples.
FREEDOM EQUATES WITH GOODNESS
Freedom is the ability to do as you please. This is not simply a selfish concept, as many believe. It is also the ability to do good to others, even though others do not necessarily deserve it or ask for it. This may seem trite, but it is an important quality of freedom that separates Americans from other people around the globe in many instances.
This quality goes by other names, such as compassion, openness, friendliness, charitableness and others. It is an important quality, in fact, as it is a mark of an advanced civilization and advanced intellects. Free people are usually better at realizing what others really need, even if the others do not ask and don’t even know what they need or how to ask for it.
This occurs because people who are in control of their lives often have a much better understanding of what is important in life, and what is required to obtain it. Slaves, by contrast, do not have this understanding nearly as well.
FREEDOM IS BRAVE
Bravery is another quality only found in free people. This is because bravery is the willingness to give up one’s money, one’s reputation, and even one’s life, at times, for a good cause. Bravery cannot be forced on people, in other words. Slaves may fight hard and long, but they cannot be said to be brave. They are simply strong and able.
Bravery is only possible when one can do as one chooses. So whether the bravery is championing a new idea, opening a new business venture that may not succeed, starting a new relationship that may not succeed, or something else, bravery is mainly found in people who have a measure of freedom. To the extent that freedom is extinguished by too much structure and too much control by government, bravery tends to disappear proportionately.
FREEDOM IS MORE COMPASSIONATE THAN SLAVERY
This is related to the paragraph above about goodness. However, it is more than this. Free people tend to be more aware of another’s plight. I say this because those who are controlled are usually more concerned with their own situation and how to advantage themselves. Only those who are truly free inside are not controlled, and therefore can be more concerned about others.
This is not to say that all those who live in slavery are less compassionate. However, overall, freer people are more compassionate than slaves who must always be fighting among themselves for crumbs, or the small handouts that government benefits provide.
FREEDOM IS BRIGHTER THAN SLAVERY
The word bright, as used here, means that free people tend to be smarter, more capable, more astute and more aware. Some tend to be more brilliant, which is a similar idea. This is because freer people are given many more opportunities to use their brains and even their muscles.
Slaves, by contrast, are mainly told what to do and how to act. This does not build creativity, intelligence, ingenuity and other qualities nearly as well as making more of one’s own decisions.
FREEDOM TENDS TO FAVOR EXCELLENT MORALITY COMPARED TO SLAVERY
This is a very important distinction. Those who advocate government control of property, businesses, the environment, medical care, education and other aspects of society believe they are doing the moral thing. This may seem better in some ways, but it does not produce moral people.
To develop morals, one must have choices. As a rule, the more choices one has, the more chance one has to learn moral values and moral principles of behavior, thought and action.
In contrast, when one is controlled by others, one is more like a slave or caged animal who may behave well, but not due to moral development, but rather just out of fear of punishment by the authorities. This is a very important argument for a free society, rather than a “liberal society”, “open society”, “social democracy” and “social justice”. The terms in quotes are all buzzwords or code words for socialism and actually communism, as well.
In totalitarian and socialist nations such as some in Europe and Russia, today, people do not uphold as high moral standards, in general, as they do in America. It is as though if the government is more oppressive and controlling, the people follow this example and oppress each other more.
FREE PEOPLE TEND TO BE MORE WHOLESOME THAN SLAVES
Free people must control their own lives and make wise decisions at all times to survive and prosper. For this reason, they learn and they teach their children how to live well, and often how to live wholesomely in order to keep their mental faculties sharp and functioning well.
Slaves, on the other hand, and people living in controlled societies, have no such motive to act wholesomely. As a result, in most of Europe and even Asia, sexual mores are much worse, as are lying, stealing, drug use and cheating. As a result, their health and well-being are negatively affected.
FREE PEOPLE TEND TO BE MORE RELIGIOUS, OR CONNECTED TO SPIRIT, THAN SLAVES
The explanation for this is similar to the explanation in the paragraph above. Free people tend more to rely on their intuition and spiritual guidance, because they must make personal, business and other types of decisions for themselves on a moment-to-moment and daily basis.
In contrast, slaves rely on the government to make many decisions. As a result, they have less need to train the intuitive and spiritual side of themselves to help make decisions.
STRUCTURE VERSUS FREEDOM
The current struggle between the forces of freedom, capitalism and self-control versus more government control can be viewed psychologically. It is a struggle that goes on inside each person, as well as in the outer society.
Those who favor freedom are those who are confident they can handle it. They believe they can find their way through the maze of decisions they must make on their own, regarding the use of their resources, in order to live a happy and healthful life.
Those who favor more outer structures such as a bigger, more powerful government rules and regulations, are those who do not believe they can handle their own life. This is the basic psychological struggle that each person must think about.