Chad Perrin: SOB

2 March 2006

with liberty for all

Filed under: Liberty — apotheon @ 04:20

Freedom is not liberty.

The Founding Fathers of the United States created quite a legacy for us. Declarations, wars for independence, and guarantees of protection for rights, as well as voluminous collections of documentation of their political philosophies and examples of their conviction in practice. In all of this, I really don’t remember much reference to freedom.

The founders referred not to freedom, but to liberty. In this day and age, however, people don’t much talk about liberty — they only talk about freedom. People seem to think these two different concepts are strictly synonymous, but this is clearly not the case or, at least, it’s clear to the discerning thinker who spends a little time pondering the matter. Whereas someone not held in chains is free, and someone kept in chains is not, liberty is somewhat apart from physical status. Freedom is merely a lack of restriction, while liberty implies responsibility as well.

In some states, one has the freedom to openly carry a firearm in public. Liberty implies the responsibility to provide for one’s own defense as well as the right to do so. Whereas freedom means you are not controlled, liberty means you have rights and responsibilities that arrive in pairs. One is free to remain silent so long as compulsion to speak is not applied, but one has the right to privacy and the responsibility to safeguard the privacy of others. One is free to speak so long as one is not silenced, but has the right to speak freely and the responsibility to speak honestly. Liberties are rights and responsibilities in practice.

Increasingly, language is corrupted by a lack of precision and care. It degenerates in the hands of the willfully ignorant, who accept the thoughts of others as their own without pausing to consider what they mean. Their heads are empty vessels waiting to be filled by whatever others wish to pour into them. Words are redefined, and Newspeak evolves. Words with meanings dangerous to government are marginalized (like “liberty”) or redefined (like “right”).

When was the last time you heard a politician exhorting us to support the defense of liberty? We are told to support the defense of “freedom” instead — or, worse yet, “democracy”. Democracy not only doesn’t guarantee freedom; it also inevitably leads to restrictions on freedom. Worse yet, it actively erodes liberty in some ways by its very nature when allowed to flourish unchecked.

How often do you hear of “rights” to things? How can one have a right to something that someone else has to provide? A right to materials, rather than to actions and pursuits, is a right to enslave one’s fellows. Such rights do not exist, except in the propaganda of the willfully ignorant and their manipulators. One cannot have a right to press others into slavery. In fact, one has a specific right to remain unenslaved, and a responsibility to safeguard that right for all. While others are slaves and we condone it by action or speech, or even by inaction and silence, we are ourselves slaves. Neither the right nor the responsibility can exist without the other. They are bound together in liberty.

I am a gun owner. I have the right and responsibility of defense. I support this right for others because to fail to do so is to fail to support that right for myself. I am a supporter of liberty in all things: I am a libertarian.


  1. Nietzsche once said that equal rights for all results in no rights for all.

    I agree that rights must carry responsibilities.

    I also consider myself a libertarian, in that I think government should serve and protect, not dictate. On the political test linked to from one of your pages I scored Libertarian, slightly left of center.

    I have read the Tao Te Ching several times, and often consider myself a Taoist — but then, Taoism eludes categorization (“The way that can be spoken of is not the true way”). Are you translating the Tao Te Ching from the original?

    Comment by Sterling Camden — 2 March 2006 @ 04:24

  2. I’ll eventually include some discussion of how I’m accomplishing the translation on the Translation page of my taoism subsite. For now, though, here’s a summary:

    I’m using a character-by-character direct and comprehensive translation of the “original” (as it exists in China today) coupled with examination of pretty much every published English translation of it on which I can get my grubby little mitts for clues on interpretation of the translation into English that actually reads reasonably well. I own no less than five different (readable) translations in hardcopy, and have probably that many again in electronic form that I’m also referencing, though the real basis of the translation is of course the character-by-character translation.

    Comment by apotheon — 2 March 2006 @ 04:32

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