Friday, October 9, 2015

Freedom vs. Liberty, the Ongoing Debate

I think it is time for some discussion of Freedom vs. Liberty, and just what is the difference?  The dictionaries aren’t so clear on this.  We generally think of freedom as an absence of restraint.  

However there is a practical limit to freedom and we call this Liberty.  One of the Founders implied that Liberty as practiced in America is for a moral People.  I tend to agree with that assessment.  It could be said that Liberty is freedom practiced with morality.

Liberty implies that we have freedom that is limited by what is morally right or correct or maybe polite.  Liberty implies that we have freedom that is exercised with responsibility to acknowledge that those around us have equal rights and liberty to exercise those rights as well.  We have to recognize that all individuals, by virtue of being human, have certain unalienable rights, which further implies that they also have Liberty to exercise those rights.

It is inevitable that during the course of exercising our individual Liberty we will “bump” into others who exercise their rights.  When that happens each one backs up a little and says, “Excuse me,” or “Pardon me,” and then each makes a little behavioral modification that preserves that peace.  They do it not because they have to, but rather because it is the polite thing to do.  It is the, “Don’t do unto others, as you would have them not do unto you,” rule.  Folks ask pardon because they “care” about other folks and do not want to cause offense or pain or discomfort to their neighbor.

There are many examples of how people practice this in everyday life. When we share a narrow sidewalk and two people must pass, each must make room to accommodate the other.  If one person just marches down the walk making those he meets step aside with no accommodation on his part then we think of that as rude and inconsiderate.  We don’t pass a law saying each must step aside.  Neither do we generally start a fight.  However at some point a person who refuses to comply with the moral etiquettes that have sprung up over generations will get a reputation that will eventually cause society to react unfavorably to him.   

Then there is the ‘little old lady with walker’ who would find it very difficult to leave the sidewalk.  Freedom says she has no more “right” to the walk than anyone else.  Morals state that, “I would never make her step aside, since I have no disability to contend with.” 

I would encourage each every member of society to practice Liberty with it's implied morality and not absolute freedom.