The Ancient Desire for Freedom

Source: American Institute for Economic Research.

This brief essay shatters the untested assumption that liberty is a modern concept or merely a superficial product of the Enlightenment. The main difference between now and the ancient past is that today we can show empirically that liberty produces the greatest good for the greatest number.

By liberty I mean something specific: a political arrangement consciously made under which the freedoms and natural rights of individuals are preserved and respected.

23 thoughts on “The Ancient Desire for Freedom

  1. “By liberty I mean something specific: a political arrangement consciously made under which the freedoms and natural rights of individuals are preserved and respected.”

    Like in Denmark?

    I find it a hallmark of “conservatives” – who are the inheritors of a culture where “liberty” was something only for straight white men – that they are constantly scratching around for such platitudinal stuff to spread while doing everything in their power to restrict the advance of actual liberty for people who are different in some way from them.

    Progressives – inheritors of the Enlightenment – do not feel any need to defend constantly the ideal of liberty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. RE: “Progressives – inheritors of the Enlightenment – do not feel any need to defend constantly the ideal of liberty.”

      Of course not. One doesn’t defend what one actively destroys.

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      1. “One doesn’t defend what one actively destroys.”

        Uh, predictably nonsensical response.

        And, since you seem not to understand what I meant, let me be more clear. Progressives understand that liberty is the natural condition of mankind and therefore do not need to proclaim it. Or dig up evidence to show how beneficial it is. The importance and value of liberty is a given for progressives.

        History is clear – progressives have been the agents of expanding liberty while conservatives have tried to block that progress at every turn. The fight against slavery, the fight for women’s rights, the fight for worker’s rights, the fight for civil rights, the fight for gay rights, the fight for YOUR rights have been lead by progressives again and again with conservatives doing their level best to obstruct.

        But let me play along – what liberty have you lost to progressive policies? What do you fear losing?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. RE: “Progressives understand that liberty is the natural condition of mankind…”

          In that case, the progressive understanding is wrong. The article I posted explains how.

          RE: “But let me play along – what liberty have you lost to progressive policies? What do you fear losing?”

          In light of the definition of liberty which I cited, I can give any number of lost liberties simply by comparing the conditions of my life today with the conditions of a comparable life 100 or 200 years ago:

          • Restricted 2A rights
          • Totalitarian Covid-19 restrictions
          • Traffic laws
          • Electoral system corruption
          • etc.

          Maybe the problem you are having derives from confusing liberty with freedom.

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          1. Your examples, first three, are actually expansions of your freedoms.

            Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the insane could very well reduce your chances of losing your freedom through injury or death.

            Same with traffic laws. You can drive with some assurance that others on the road are both competent and compliant to drive legally and safely.

            I’ve made my stand on masks and other pandemic restrictions as the better option to COVID, mild or not.

            Funny about electoral system corruption. We had one the most honest and transparent election in history, yet Republicans want to restrict our freedoms to cast ballots. So you could have a point on that subject, but not for the reasons you might have thought.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. “Maybe the problem you are having . . .”

            Uh, I do not have a problem. You obviously do.

            Your examples of the liberty that you have supposedly lost is simply ridiculous. The fact that it is the best you can come up with is all the evidence one needs to know you are just blowing hot air.

            And before we start a round of silly word games, “liberty” and “freedom” are synonyms. From Merriam-Webster . . .

            “freedom : the quality or state of being free”

            “liberty : the quality or state of being free”

            Liked by 1 person

          3. RE: “Your examples of the liberty that you have supposedly lost is simply ridiculous.”

            As stated, they are consistent with the definition of liberty I cited. That definition is not synonymous with freedom; it is, however, consistent with the philosophical concept of liberty as it applies in the article I posted. But I gdt it. Ad hominem, as usual, is all you got.

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          4. RE: “Your examples, first three, are actually expansions of your freedoms.”

            Only in the Orwellian sense: Slavery = Freedom.

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          5. Uh, your definition of “liberty” is complete nonsense. Words have meanings. You don’t get to make up your own. Liberty is NOT a “political arrangement” it is the ” the quality or state of being free.”

            But even by your screwy definition the examples you cite are not losses of liberty – the political arrangement” is not altered by people living under that “arrangement” fighting a virus or regulating new technology for the greater safety of all.

            Liked by 1 person

          6. RE: “Liberty is NOT a ‘political arrangement’ it is the ‘the quality or state of being free.'”

            Free from what?

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          7. Free from what?

            Really, you do not know what “free” means?

            Okay . . .

            “Free : not under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes.”

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Sadly, too many people give lip service to the concept of freedom, but don’t really want it if it comes at the price of self-reliance and responsibility.

    You can’t really have freedom and dependency too.

    Like

    1. “You can’t really have freedom and dependency too.”

      So truthy! And so empty of actual meaning.

      If you live in an organized society you are dependent on others in countless ways and have far greater liberty than you would without those dependencies.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. So, in your concept of freedom, you cannot be truly free unless you can seize the earnings of responsible people and redistribute them to those who declined to make the sacrifices responsibility requires.

        That’s pretty much the same concept of freedom common to pirates.

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          1. You can flatter yourself and your stable genius until you turn blue.

            But your starting point that any taxation that you do not approve of is “theft” or the behavior of “pirates” is childish nonsense not worthy of serious discussion. In your simple mind only “responsible” people earn money and only irresponsible people cannot meet all of their needs without help. Again, so childish, as to be laughable. Reality is far more complex and nuanced than you seem able to discuss.

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  3. Freedom, or liberty for that matter, can be a function of a very interdependent society.

    Most animals spend an extraordinary amount of time in pursuit of food, water, shelter, mating and raising progeny. Add in combat for territory and dominance and there really never was much freedom.

    Until humans organized and divided tasks, there was hardly time for much else in our relatively short lifespans.

    Obama was maligned and misquoted out of context when he spoke of being able to produce because of the contributions and accomplishments that preceded us, including, of course, common things such as water supplies, sanitation, infrastructure, medical advances, but also all the R&D, public and private.

    Our freedoms today are very much dependent upon so many institutions, inventions and norms that we take for granted. And each one that helps us live freer with more time, better health, more education and less combat will, exact a price commensurate with its value.

    In other words, liberty or freedom are meaningless if you live in the forest alone. You are the slave of survival. But in a complex and crowded community, every activity will encroach on another’s freedom.

    The whole politicization of mask wearing is our latest dust up over freedom. Live alone in the woods you can skip the mask, spit on your food and pee in the pond. In a community, you cannot do those things.

    Yet, the community will provide a lot more freedom than going it alone.

    Our current partisan divide is only a function of trying to label 1/2 of us “the enemy”, and we therefore give up 1/2 the communities’ efforts to defend our freedoms.

    One side cherishes guns as the only true guarantee of freedom. Yet we are constantly mopping up after killings, creating barriers to travel, heightening security and adding a level of stress. And that erodes freedoms as sure as imprisonment.

    IMHO

    Liked by 2 people

    1. RE: “In other words, liberty or freedom are meaningless if you live in the forest alone. You are the slave of survival. But in a complex and crowded community, every activity will encroach on another’s freedom.”

      That’s a nice thought, but it ignores too much. For example, it ignores that society (unlike nature) has the option to define the conditions of freedom, either expansively or restrictively. It is the exercise of that option (e.g. by creating a constitution) that marks the difference between liberty and freedom.

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    2. The marketplace is quite capable of organizing the division of labor and providing for our needs far more efficiently than the iron fist of government.

      Government is rarely required other than to exclude force and fraud from the marketplace, and in every case where it goes beyond that, we become less free and less prosperous overall.

      Like

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