Sunday, January 15, 2012

Wandering thoughts: Freedom

If you have paid attention to politics in the United States you have heard the word "freedom" shouted from all different sides.  Freedom has become a political slogan used to rally people to whatever cause a politician may promote.  From waging war on a foreign nation to shrinking the size of our government freedom always seems to be the laudable goal.

But what is freedom?  Absolute freedom is simply a synonym for anarchy, because without government and rules that is how we would live.  But anarchy is not really freedom either.  How much freedom exists in broken nations where government has failed leaving warring factions battling in the streets?  How much freedom exists in inner cities where the police cannot enforce our laws forbidding violence?  Are men and women truly free if they fear for their lives and safety when they walk down the street?  How free are we when our financial institutions lie unregulated and risky investing destroys our economy?  How free are we when a monopoly operates unchecked and prices skyrocket?  Freedom cannot arise out of liberation from all rules but instead requires subjecting ourselves to those rules that, while restricting some of our freedoms, give us greater freedoms in the end.  Thus, freedom from government is not enough because we need government to give us freedom from each other.

Freedom requires a delicate balance between restrictions and rights. We come together as a society to gain the benefits and protections of a cooperative communal group, and in this coming together we must give up some freedoms in order to gain the benefits of cooperation. With too many rights the people who do wrong can escape justice. With too many restrictions the innocent are oppressed. There is no easy solution, some things that seem overly oppressive may be necessary while some things that seem necessary may create benefits that are too small to justify the sacrificed liberty.

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