Liberty not License Part I

May 18, 2012 by

We, the people of America, are said to be a free and independent people.  Our greatest possession is Liberty.  However, what does this mean?  What is it to possess Liberty at all?  Over the next series of articles, I intend to examine exactly what Liberty is and what it comes with.  With this knowledge, I shall show three examples of where Liberty exists with its connotations;  politics, economics, and society.

To begin, let us examine what exactly Liberty is. Liberty is our ability to act and choose our own lives without the restraints that others put on us.  Freedom to choose our own religion.  Freedom to choose our profession.  Freedom to decide our own personal destiny.  Freedom to spend our money as we see fit.  All of these freedoms are within the realm of Liberty.  In essence, Liberty is our right to govern ourselves.  Liberty is our freedom of self-government.

Now, we have this license to do as we please, seemingly.  However, there seems to be some conditions put on our Liberty.  Now, let us take the idea of government, or any institution who creates laws, out of the mix and, in its place, leave men to their own devices.  This is the ultimate idea of freedom, yet this seems not to be Liberty.  Now, in this state of nature, let us say that I form a pleasure for walking through the local mall and slashing at people with a switchblade.  This is a vile thing to do, but there is no government to stop me.  I am completely “free” to do this.  However, my continued actions will incur thoughts in others that they might be next.  With this thought, will they not employ any method at their disposal to rid themselves of me?  Thus, my life will not be long, nor my pleasure, if I partake in this freedom of mine.  For, if I am free to act according to my will, they are free to act according to theirs.  This combat of freedoms seems not to be Liberty, but freedom.  Liberty, rather, seems to be more of an act towards maintaining my rational freedoms.  For, a completely free man will not be free for long.  But a man in possession of Liberty will possess his Liberty as long as possible.  He recognizes that certain actions cause reactions.  And, when it is you who is governing your actions, there comes something with this governance.  If you screw up, and your life goes to hell, you have no one to blame but yourself.  If you decide to go make-shift bungee jumping off of the Empire State Building, you can’t blame anyone else when you die.  You chose to do it, you must take responsibility for the consequences.  It is, as one American History professor called it, the Spiderman Effect.  “With great power comes great responsibility.”  As the movie says, your possession of control over your own life means that you alone are responsible for the actions and results that occur from your choices.  Think of the movie Prince of Persia.  In the beginning of the movie, Prince Tus and Prince Dastan have to make a decision on whether or not to attack the sacred city of Alamut.  Dastan does not think that they should, and voices his disagreement.  Tus, though hesitant, disagrees and commands an attack on the city.  Dastan goes along with the attack at his brother’s wish.  After the attack, King Sharaman arrives.  The King knows the attack was wrong.  He scolds Tus for his decision and Dastan for allowing it to happen.  It is the same with our actions.  Every choice we make in Liberty, when the results come in we must take the blame as well as the rewards for our choices.  No matter why we chose what we do, we are responsible for our actions in the end.

A note that should be made in our definition is the acknowledgement that not everyone embraces complete liberty.  Many enjoy the comforts of living under the rule of complete freedom or under the influence of others.  While the first has already been disputed as not being beneficial, I feel I must dispute the later as well.  For, this belief that others have some kind of intimate knowledge of what is best for you is false.  They know what action is most beneficial to them.  Only you can be reliable enough to determine the best action for yourself.  Leaving your liberty in the hands of others should only be in cases where your information is sparse and the person you are leaving the decision to has proved a good adviser and has the information necessary to make a decision.  Yet, in the end, it must be realized that I am arguing the benefit of this as an ideal, not as this as being how things are.  Things are, for the most part, driven by the personal benefit of that which is most expedient and valuable to one’s self.

Thus, the best way to sum up what liberty is:  Liberty commands us not to be free, it commands us to be wise.  Liberty is not the merely the ability to act as we please, but to act in a way which is beneficial to ourselves.  To act that we might better ourselves, not merely to act for the sake of acting.

We must better ourselves that we become more capable and happier.  Our happiness is not achieved through our mere existence, but our thriving.  Not from our mere action, but accomplishment of our inner potential.  To do this requires the benefits of Liberty and Society.   Society allows us peace, industry, and the competition of ideas.  Society allows for a greater ability to obtain the things and ideas we need.  Liberty allows us to do these things while increasing our own abilities.

“He who lets the world, or his own portion of it, choose his plan of life for hum, has no need of any other faculty that the ape-like one of imitation.  He who chooses his plan for himself, employs all his faculties.  He must use observation to see, reason and judgment to foresee, activity to gather materials for decision, discrimination to decide, and when he has decided, firmness and self-control to hold to his deliberate decision.”

Liberty’s root is in our ability to increase these capacities within ourselves.  If we did not have this increase in internal abilities, but went along with the crowd, we would be no better than the apes.  Yet, it seems that being an ape would not be fulfilling as a human.  Thus, Liberty brings the reward of happiness as its benefit.

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