Through all the history of the humankind a notion of liberty has been thoroughly researched by the philosophers, politicians and economists. It was often proclaimed to be the most valuable thing a person can possess, but sometimes it was pronounced the greatest enemy of social and political stability. Till nowadays the dwellers of our planet can not agree on the same handling of this notion. It’s impossible to solve this problem in a short essay, so it should be seen as an attempt to compare different views on this notion.
The editors of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Law (1996) explain freedom as an “enjoyment of the rights enjoyed by others in a society free of arbitrary or unreasonable limitation or interference”. The authors of the WordNet 2.0 presume that liberty is “personal freedom from servitude or confinement or oppression”. As we can note, the word liberty has different meanings by itself, and driven through the alembic of fancy of everyone who’s interested in the question multiplies the amount of explanations for the notion many times. This is the fact that often causes incomprehension and misunderstandings during discussing it.
Liberty has always been highly appreciated by the creative people, such as writers, poets, painters and sculptors etc. For most of them it is an essential condition for the effective work and for the peace of spirit and mind. David Hume notes, that “…the arts and sciences could never flourish, but in a free government…” (1752) and many of the arist will completely agree with him, as freedom of thoughts and deeds is one of the most important things for them. It’s apparent that an artist cannot create anything of real value when his mind is shackled and when he is told what to do, think or dream about. The deprivation of liberty is often murderous for a creative person.
But artists are not the only ones in need of freedom. Ordinary humans, the citizens of their countries also value the liberty highly. John J. Lalor says that it doesn’t take much effort to keep liberty within the bounds with the help of the self-respect, welfare and morality, even when it’s not limited legally. That sounds coherent, as the fact is known that the revolutions do not happen in societies where all of their members possess everything essential. People who have things they value do not rebel against the existing regime. The other way round, those who do not have anything to lose, are always ready to battle. This is the main reason for the dictatorial policy of the poor countries’ leaders.
As you can see liberty is one of the vital things the government has to provide to its nation. But considering it, a dilemma appears, a question which was formulated by John Stuart Mill: “Ought we therefore to lay on no taxes, and, under whatever provocation, make no wars?”(1869). Sure enough it is problematic for the government and folk to reach consensus on where the personal liberty has to give place to the civil duty. The cabinet gives people a right to choose their life-style, education and profession, but at the same time it makes them pay taxes, acquire some compulsory educational level, get the license for driving a car, and when the war comes all the men must go to protect their country from the invasion and occupation.
As it was previously noted, not all the people agree on the meaning of the word liberty. Most think it is the right to do the things you want to do unless it doesn’t pinch the rights of the others. But some individuals presume that the liberty they possess gives them the right to do anything they desire, regardless of what other people think of their actions. Murray N. Rothbard asks: “What, for example, of “incitement to riot,” in which the speaker is held guilty of a crime for whipping up a mob, which then riots and commits various actions and crimes against person and property?” Politicians, sociologists and social psychologist are still in search of an answer.
It has always been a problem when the state is unable to provide its dweller with liberties declared. It often happens that if the person is not the member of the prevailing social, cultural or ethnical group his rights are strictly limited in spite of the existing laws designed to protect them. Bruce Smith in 1887 was sure that the effective majority had the right to do what it wanted to, and it was impossible for the individual to oppress its actions. More than hundred years passed but, ruefully, the situation hasn’t changed a lot.
Liberty is not the stable thing that is presented you when you’re born and stays yours to the grave. You have to daily prove you’re worthy to possess it. At this point I agree totally with Bruce Smith who said: ”… principle of individual freedom—which… fired the most noble-minded of our ancestors to rebel against the tyranny of those who won, or inherited, the rights of that conquest—is in imminent danger of being lost to us, at the very hour of its consummation.”
Different people value liberty for various reasons. For some of them it’s a warranty that their kids won’t be forced to vote for the person they despise, or pray the gods they do not worship. Some see their liberty in a right to kill and be killed, some want to born as much children as they can handle. It depends on the person really. Anthony Lee Gregory, the American journalist and writer says that liberty is the right to carry any weapon of your choice. You can choose between living your life for yourself and devoting it to the other people’s benefit, between bringing love or hatred to the world around you. So, it’s your turn to choose how to use the liberty you possess.
Mackay, Thomas, ed. various authors. (1891). Plea for Liberty: An Argument Against Socialism and Socialistic Legislation, ch2, 6, New York: D. Appleton and Company
Smith, Bruce. (1887). Liberty and Liberalism: A Protest Against the Growing Tendency toward Undue Interference by the State, with Individual Liberty, Private Enterprise and the Rights of Property, 14, London: Longmans, Green, and Co.
Hume, David. (1987). Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, Part 1, Essay 12,
Of Civil Liberty, n.d
Lalor, John J. (1899). Cyclopedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States by the Best American and European Writers, License and Liberty, v.2, p. 266, New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
John Stuart Mill. (1965). On Liberty, ch.2, p.43, London: Longman, Roberts & Green
Murray N. Rothbard. (1978). For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, ch.6, p.63, Collier Books, New York
Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Law (1996), Freedom, Retrieved October 29, 2004 from the World Wide Web: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/freedom
WordNet 2.0. (2003), Retrieved October 29, 2004 from the World Wide Web: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/liberty
Anthony Lee Gregory. (2002). What is liberty?, October 29, 2004 from the World Wide Web: http://www.anthonygregory.com/whatisliberty.html