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WHAT IS LIBERTY?


Oh my god, you like, don't know how wrong I am right now!



HOW MUCH FREEDOM?

Freedom is the condition or situation in which a moral agent, or person, can act upon themselves and their environment without being prevented by outside factors. Different people enjoy different degrees of freedom for many reasons, but to simplify a little, people's own time and property are respected to different degrees depending on the country they're in, the social caste they belong to, and whether they are doing time in prison, on death row, or are a powerful bureaucrat or politician.

How much freedom is too much, and how much is too little? The Liberal tradition gives us a nifty logic from which to defend this crazy thing called Liberty against the Divine Right of Kings.

Too little freedom might be the condition of, say, a worker in North Korea having to submit to forceful re-education, or a Chinese farmer having to give up their land since they are afforded no private property rights over it.

This is to say that too little freedom consists in the restriction of your powers of action over yourself either by imprisonment in a restrictive environment, restraint of your person, theft of your property, or simply being bullied, injured, or killed by others.

What does an excess look like? Is over-empowerment simply the flip-side of the disempowerment above? Is power an excess of freedom? The power to restrain, imprison, bully, injure or kill without thought of retribution or restitution must be a present reality in our world then, considering how often people are killed, maimed, bullied, harassed, stolen from and so on.

It seems that one side creates the other; the excess and dearth of freedom are joined at the hip; a vicious yin and yang of power and seeming helplessness. This is where Liberty comes in.



CIVIL SOCIETY OR THE STATE?

Liberalism is the political philosophy that society should afford each person complete freedom over themselves, and none over others. This could be described as a condition of Liberty. Liberalism in most forms allows the state the responsibility of enforcing the liberal order with its monopoly over the military, police, courts and statutory lawmaking.

Libertarianism takes the fight against authority a little further, opposing pretty much all political power, redistribution and paternalism. Minarchists seek a reduction of the state through constitutionalism, whereas Anarchists seek to abolish the state itself, effectively handing the reins entirely over to civil society.

Some ultra-Minarchists like myself are in the middle of that, regarding the rightful size of the state as little more than a constitution and a geographical placeholder, with civil society otherwise operating like that envisioned by Anarcho-Capitalists. But regardless of which of these solutions might come to pass, the question remains...



WHEREFORE ART THOU, LIBERTY?

Liberty is the best kind and degree of freedom for society as a whole. If every individual enjoys liberty, then their actions are limited only by concern for the freedom of others. This balance between power (too much) and prostration (too little) is perhaps the most important Aristotelian virtue of all.

It can be said that a society that lives according to this dictum is living in Liberty. as for what that could mean in practice, more another time!
















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~
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