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Thread: Freedom v. Liberty, and where do they come from?

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Freedom v. Liberty, and where do they come from?

    Last night I had an interesting conversation with a couple of friends regarding the liberty, freedom, the differences and who/what provides them. It really changed my perspective on some things.

    One friend who is far more versed in political history (not just US but going back thousands of years) used a very good illustration. He stated that under total freedom, we could drive our car on any side of the street we choose. But we then limit the freedoms of others who want to drive on the same side but in the opposing direction. Therefore, liberty allows us to set a limited regulation (drive on the right side of the road) which provides the maximum freedom without inhibiting the freedoms of others.

    Now, I think that total freedom leads to chaos and liberty provides a balanced level of regulation, checks, and controls to provide the maximum amount of freedom, without limiting the freedoms of others. Furthermore, I think that freedom comes from god and liberty comes from the government. However when the government creates too many regulations, it creates tyranny and we lose our liberties and our freedoms.

    What are your thoughts on freedom and liberty? Where do you think that they come from?
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  2. #2
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Freedom doesn't come from God it comes from Germany.

    This comes from German (literal, modern-day translation, "Freiheit"), but is actually closer in derivation to the German word "Friede", which means "peace" and is a word of pre-Christian, Germanic origin (originally "Frith").
    Parsing words to support how you feel the government is overreaching is fine, but in the end these words "mean" nothing. Freedom and liberty are two words that get used to describe a feeling or an expectation that we believe we are owed. Our framers used these words because they felt that it conveyed a certain belief about how men are created equal and freedom was a core principle to these beliefs.

    Our country was founded by men who didn't want religion and a monarchy to make decisions for them. They wanted their "freedom" and "liberty". I don't think they determined that those words would be framed as a God given right or creation and government overreach in the future. Just my .02.
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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hink View post
    Freedom doesn't come from God it comes from Germany.



    Parsing words to support how you feel the government is overreaching is fine, but in the end these words "mean" nothing. Freedom and liberty are two words that get used to describe a feeling or an expectation that we believe we are owed. Our framers used these words because they felt that it conveyed a certain belief about how men are created equal and freedom was a core principle to these beliefs.

    Our country was founded by men who didn't want religion and a monarchy to make decisions for them. They wanted their "freedom" and "liberty". I don't think they determined that those words would be framed as a God given right or creation and government overreach in the future. Just my .02.
    I also think those words don't mean much. To me a perfect example of how they have lost any real meaning if they even ever had any, is the whole fight for civil rights. People opposed to civil rights often claim, or claimed that they should have the freedom to discriminate. Should not people also have the freedom to not be discriminated against? Who wins the freedom argument there?
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Personally, I think these two concepts should be framed as Liberty AND Freedom, not Liberty VERSUS Freedom. Freedom is an integral part of the definition of Liberty. That is, liberty enables freedom.

    In political thought, there are two concepts of Liberty commonly used. The first, positive liberty, refers to having the means or opportunity to do things of your own free will (which is where I think folks get the “G_d-given” idea from). Negative liberty refers to a situation in which one is protected from tyranny and the arbitrary abuses of authority.

    In our country, I believe the original context embraced the “negative liberty” concept. We were gaining freedoms from the tyranny of England. But over time, as the memory of that tyranny faded, it has changed into positive liberty. Maybe its because of our growing sense of entitlement, which taken to the extreme, is what the American brand of Libertarianism seems to represent. “I should be able to do what I want with my land, my money, my life, my family, etc.”

    As you described well in your example about driving, I think this is a constant balancing act between authority and individuals’ ability to act as they see fit. But its more complicated than a simple dichotomy between “the people” and “the state.” There are many additional, potentially abusive authorities out there. For many, I think the situation of the government stepping in to manage equitable access to health care through the Reform Act and these exchanges (where policies are to be written in plain English and the exchanges facilitate residents gaining access to non-biased information) is protecting the citizenry from the abusive potentials of the powerful health insurance companies who truly hold power over life and death in certain circumstances.

    Other recent arenas where people are being protected from abusive practices of those with authority and power include payday loan laws, mortgage protection laws (like the SAFE Act), civil rights laws, etc. I think the issue of trying to reduce the enormous and growing income inequality in our country is another example of this.

    I think it’s a matter of opinion/perspective about who is being “tyrannical” and who is “protecting” not to mention who is having their freedoms curtailed and whose are being protected (as Ima pointed out). People bandy these terms and concepts around very freely and without a lot of thought so I don’t give the average pundit/talking heads’ discussions of “freedom” and “liberty” very much weight. When we start talking about Freedom Fries and Liberty Cabbage, I think the conversation has devolved beyond value.
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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Based upon you description, would that make libertarians, freebretarians?
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    Personally, I think these two concepts should be framed as Liberty AND Freedom, not Liberty VERSUS Freedom. Freedom is an integral part of the definition of Liberty. That is, liberty enables freedom.

    In political thought, there are two concepts of Liberty commonly used. The first, positive liberty, refers to having the means or opportunity to do things of your own free will (which is where I think folks get the “G_d-given” idea from). Negative liberty refers to a situation in which one is protected from tyranny and the arbitrary abuses of authority.

    In our country, I believe the original context embraced the “negative liberty” concept. We were gaining freedoms from the tyranny of England. But over time, as the memory of that tyranny faded, it has changed into positive liberty. Maybe its because of our growing sense of entitlement, which taken to the extreme, is what the American brand of Libertarianism seems to represent. “I should be able to do what I want with my land, my money, my life, my family, etc.”

    As you described well in your example about driving, I think this is a constant balancing act between authority and individuals’ ability to act as they see fit. But its more complicated than a simple dichotomy between “the people” and “the state.” There are many additional, potentially abusive authorities out there. For many, I think the situation of the government stepping in to manage equitable access to health care through the Reform Act and these exchanges (where policies are to be written in plain English and the exchanges facilitate residents gaining access to non-biased information) is protecting the citizenry from the abusive potentials of the powerful health insurance companies who truly hold power over life and death in certain circumstances.

    Other recent arenas where people are being protected from abusive practices of those with authority and power include payday loan laws, mortgage protection laws (like the SAFE Act), civil rights laws, etc. I think the issue of trying to reduce the enormous and growing income inequality in our country is another example of this.

    I think it’s a matter of opinion/perspective about who is being “tyrannical” and who is “protecting” not to mention who is having their freedoms curtailed and whose are being protected (as Ima pointed out). People bandy these terms and concepts around very freely and without a lot of thought so I don’t give the average pundit/talking heads’ discussions of “freedom” and “liberty” very much weight. When we start talking about Freedom Fries and Liberty Cabbage, I think the conversation has devolved beyond value.
    I agree with Wahday, I think. Both concepts tend to very subjective in nature. What one person's idea of freedom and liberty is different than another's. Further, it's dependant on both the culture and time. Our ideas of both concepts in this Country has changed over time, depending on the circumstances. In the 1800's, freedom from want-the basics for life-was a major concern.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    The OP errs in not making any qualitative distinctions between good and bad regulations when he asserts
    when the government creates too many regulations, it creates tyranny
    The very first definition of 'tyranny' one finds googling is the "arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power". I will concede Federal regulations may in some cases be voluminous (particularly where the nature of what they regulate is complex) or even difficult for a lay person to understand, but absent any compelling examples, am unwilling to accept that federal regulations are 'arbitrary' or 'unrestrained' simply because skis says so. Bureaucracy as a tool of governance may have several inherent flaws, but being tyrranical by nature is not one them.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian
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    I think freedom and liberty are just abstract concepts that serve more as an ideal than anything. I don't think anyone is truly free in that we all have various physical, psychological, spiritual, social, and economic needs that need to be met. Trying to fulfill these needs is the driving force behind everything we do. Since it's nearly impossible to fulfill all these needs, we're forced to prioritize or at least balance them.

    Then the concept of liberty is completely subjective in that it tries to create an environment that is most conducive to our needs. The problem is that everyone has different needs which often conflict. One person's socialist utopia could very well be another person's tyrannical government. Neither position is wrong but trying to reconcile those differences is extremely difficult.

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    I'm NOT much into parsing words, either, primarily because word meanings not only change within differing contexts, but also can change radically over time. I would put "freedom" and "liberty" as two prime examples.

    The Founding Fathers, especially Jefferson, could speak and write eloquently and without embarrassment about "freedom" and "liberty" and "men's God given rights" to both while owning other people; while denying married women rights to their own wealth, their bodies, or their children; while denying men who weren't rich enough the right to to participate in government; while killing native peoples to take their lands, etc. Today, we would say all those things are fundamentally wrong and don't fit our concept of freedom and liberty.

    Moreover, tyranny doesn't come solely from "the government". Religion can exercise as much tyranny as any government, and even more in some cases. The perfect example of this is religious cults. Tradition can also result in tyranny in isolated societies where access to other ways of thinking is very limited. Appalachia and other parts of the rural South prior to WW II were probably good examples of this.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    The OP errs in not making any qualitative distinctions between good and bad regulations when he asserts The very first definition of 'tyranny' one finds googling is the "arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power". I will concede Federal regulations may in some cases be voluminous (particularly where the nature of what they regulate is complex) or even difficult for a lay person to understand, but absent any compelling examples, am unwilling to accept that federal regulations are 'arbitrary' or 'unrestrained' simply because skis says so. Bureaucracy as a tool of governance may have several inherent flaws, but being tyrranical by nature is not one them.
    You are correct, I should have clarified and there are very good regulations. Regulations that people should drive on one side of the road or the other is a great example of needed regulations that don't create a tyranny. Furthermore I totally agree with everything you posted, including the point where just because I personally believe that something is tyrannical does not mean that it is. Do I agree with everything that every level of government does, no. But I don't think that anyone does. Do I think that the Federal Government requiring the American People to purchase a product is tyrannical, yes. But that is no secret in here. But then again I also think that the patriot act is tyrannical too.

    This thread is not about what I think, it about what everyone else thinks. That is why I asked the question. I don't think this is a partisan topic. I also agree that it can be very subjective, which is why I think it makes for great conversation.

    Linda_D makes a great point about it not only being about Government. There are tons of great examples of this throughout history, especially when it comes to religion and societal groups. The mob might be another example of this. In all those cases, there is a hierarchical level of power that establishes rules that are overreaching and damaging to those with lesser power.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

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