Before I begin, it’s important to know that Freedom and Liberty despite long-held misconceptions aren’t necessarily interchangeable words. Mind you, Merriam-Webster gives multiple definitions for each, instead, I’ll focus on these specific ones.
Freedom: 1: The quality or state of being free: The absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. 2: A political right.
Liberty: 1: The quality or state of being free: a: The power to do as one pleases. b: freedom from physical restraint. c: freedom from arbitrary or despotic control. d: The positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges. e: The power of choice.
Okay, that may not quite explain my point, so let me put it a few others ways, freedom and liberty are inherent to everyone, they exist by the mere fact we’re alive, think inalienable rights which are “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Liberty is how we enjoy freedoms such as free association, free speech, freedom to worship as we see fit, etc. In other words, liberty is necessary to exercise our rights, while freedom is philosophical. To put it in layman’s terms, Americans (within reason) have the freedom to do as we please, but liberty is action exercised on the part of the individual. For those who exercise, freedom is anaerobic while liberty is aerobic.
As President Calvin Coolidge put it: “All liberty is individual liberty.”
If history teaches us anything, it is that historically liberty has not been mankind’s natural state. While philosophically we may have always had every freedom one can fathom, we’ve not always had the liberty to enjoy them. However imperfect, the United States has served as the laboratory of freedom and liberty since its founding, while the individual states have served as the laboratory of democracy. When the United States was founded, it set in motion the idea that the individual has the liberty to exercise their freedoms and the state has no cause (within reason) to hinder the free exercise of said rights.
Boiling it down to one or two succinct ideas, America was founded on the idea of freedom and liberty. These concepts were lofty ideas at the time, and today they’re taken for granted and done so at the peril of our entire nation. These ideas require a nation of individuals acting responsible, taking stock before making decisions. Sadly, today, we find a growing number who believe individual responsibility is antiquated and that the state should just care for everyone, at least those who agree with them, and if you don’t then you become the enemy. Those who believe in more government should realize that liberty isn’t something that easily comes along and once lost, it will be lost for generations if not forever.
As Benjamin Franklin said: “Where liberty dwells, there is my country.” Like Franklin, the Founders understood that liberty requires the eternal vigilance of the citizenry. Even with a limited government, the Founders understood human nature and that it would be hard to ignore the siren call of despotism. The Founders knew that as the nation grows, so too would the government and thus the things the people want the government to do. As the people clamor for their government to do more, the government does more, and mostly do things we don’t need nor want. The government will always justify the existence of bloated bureaucracies and ultimately acquires more authority through consent or by force. For evidence, one must only look to our Federal government and the litany of things it does that are unquestionably unconstitutional. This isn’t to say that we don’t need a Federal Government, but we need one that lives within the confines of the Constitution and not a liberal or progressive court.
Rights: Negative and Positive
To quote Professor Aeon Skoble, “Fundamentally, positive rights require others to provide you with either a good or service. A negative right, on the other hand, only requires others to abstain from interfering with your actions. If we are free and equal by nature, and if we believe in negative rights, any positive rights would have to be grounded in consensual arrangements.”
For example, everything in the Bill of Rights is essentially a negative right. Personally, I say that negative rights are the real positive rights due to the fact negative rights prevent others, especially the government from infringing on the individual. Whereas “positive” rights (which is a misnomer), are rights that use the threat of force or force which runs contrary (with certain exceptions) to freedom and liberty. When it comes to our negative rights, a person must exercise responsibility and at the same time, be prepared to accept the repercussions of their actions or words. For example, in 1919, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes noted in Schenk v. the United States that a person can’t “falsely shout fire in a theatre and cause a panic” and claim to have freedom of speech when they’re arrested for causing a stampede.
On the other hand, positive rights often involve the rights of some to be trampled while giving to others. When it comes to positive rights, they should really be called “positive privileges” as usually a few are afforded a privilege at the expense of others. These types of rights are often billed as the “public good” and in some respects, I believe they do serve a greater good but there are certainly better ways to go about it.
The “Progressive Era”
In 1796 Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Timid men…prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty.” To me, the modern progressives are the timid types who want the rest of us to suffer under despotism or as you may have heard it “equally shared misery.”
The modern progressive era (which is another misnomer), really began during the Woodrow Wilson administration. From that point, history shows that from generation to generation the number of people in society and thus in government who abide positive rights has grown. In other words, the number of people that believe it’s the government’s role to force people to follow every dictate that only one ideology supports are on the rise. Oddly, the word progressive and liberal as in “classically liberal” once meant something positive. Once upon a time, a progressive serving in government could use their platform or “Bully Pulpit” as Teddy Roosevelt did to give voice to those without one and to correct injustices in society.
Now, we see progressives create more problems, both intentionally and unintentionally in search of problems to solve. In fact, most of the problems they look to solve are ones they and their predecessors created. This is one reason we’ve seen more emphasis placed on those pesky positive rights vs leaving individuals and local and state governments alone to handle their own issues. On the other hand, many Americans have fell victim to generational indoctrination and have given over their individual liberty in exchange for more government and the promise that the government will tend to their needs, wants and desires, and more.
After all, negative rights require individual responsibility, which means the individual must act responsible and bear any consequences for their own words and actions. Sadly, these days individual responsibility or the prospect of it has become a scary notion to a lot of people, especially with the promulgation of the idea that everyone is a victim. This victim mentality has grown and created an entirely new and very profitable industry known as the “grievance industry.” In fact, this industry in recent decades has created new categories and sub-categories of victims. As an example, just look at the number of newly created “genders,” or the fact that Leftist with the support of the Democrat Party pushes speech codes, known as “political correctness,” which amounts to controlled speech.
When a person, group, organization, etc. can’t say what they need to say or discuss what they wish to discuss, it makes it easier to manipulate and indoctrinate individuals on a mass scale. At the same time, when conservative college and university groups invite conservative speakers, they’re often shut down cold. This is telling, on top of the fact that many of these same schools require classes that push flawed ideological notions and shut down any discussion that runs contrary to this. As Edmund Burke said in 1784: “The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.” And it’s certain that the modern Left and the Democrat Party are delusional and have abdicated their individual responsibility in exchange for a government that acts as a security blanket. To gain more support they’ve expanded their brainwashing and indoctrination from university campuses to our elementary, middle, and high schools on top of pushing this into early childhood development and education.
And think about this, when people disagree with this and push back, they’re vilified, attacked verbally and in some cases physically and their businesses and livelihoods are destroyed. The Left doesn’t care, to them, it’s about the “greater good” or “general will,” but that greater good is what they, not anyone else decides it is. If you, the individual object to all of this, then you’ll be compelled to comply again by the threat of force or by force. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sound like freedom and liberty to me.
This need to use men and women with guns to force people to get in line, shut up and go along runs contrary to what this nation should be about. That’s not to say that there’s not a time and place for compulsion in rare instances, but it shouldn’t be the norm. As Thomas Paine wrote in 1792 in his Plan of a Declaration of Rights: “Liberty is the power to do everything that does not interfere with the rights of others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of every individual has no limits save those that assure to other members of society the enjoyment of the same rights.”
The Left doesn’t care, they only care about their ideology and to an ideologue, facts don’t matter, the ideology is what’s important. Additionally, they only care for their freedoms and liberty but not the freedoms and liberty of others. Again, as Thomas Paine wrote: “He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy against oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”
In the United States, we’re well past time to stand up, say enough, say no more and fight back against what I call a “Flawed, Destructive and Evil Ideology” that is adhered to by far too many these days. We must take heed of the writing on the wall, we can no longer slumber and hope the nightmare ends on its own, it will not.
Take Heed America
Thomas Paine wrote in his Letter to the People of France in 1792 “It is impossible to conquer a nation determined to be free!”
It seems the number of individuals who want to be free is by far outnumbered by those who are incapable of a coherent, factual, individual thought. These individuals want, no, let me correct that, they demand more government and are willing to go to the most extremes to get their way. Oddly, the same people protest when they get more government, but nobody ever accused these individuals of suffering from too much common sense.
Mind you, this hasn’t come about by accident, nor by some grand ancient conspiracy, but through generations of individuals across the political spectrum of having abdicated their roles in society. In fact, it’s been said that America is “advanced citizenship,” which requires an educated, informed, and active citizenry. To quote Michael Douglass’ character President Andrew Shepherd in the movie The American President: “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, you want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”
While I strongly disagree with the burning of the flag, the sentiment is clear and that is, we should all be able to espouse our beliefs, opinions, and thoughts without being shut down or attacked. The Left doesn’t support this, they believe in mob rule, lawlessness, destroying individuals, businesses, and more. They believe in weaponizing the government against those who disagree with them or oppose them in an election. But, it’s not enough to just point this out, what’s important is “We the People” do something about it. Sadly, I believe my pleas will fall on deaf ears, but this November I’ll have my answer. If historical trends hold true, then I should be prepared to be disappointed, even if President Trump is re-elected. I say this since there are likely not enough Americans who are truly ready to stand up and reverse the damage already done by Leftist and the Democrat Party.
That said, individually we should strive to be informed and not allow ourselves to be manipulated into believing every nonsensical thing we see and hear on social media or from the “Mainstream Liberal Media.” We mustn’t allow ourselves to be manipulated, nor should we continue to abdicate our role as citizens and still trust that our freedom, liberty, and, our individual rights will be protected. It’s our responsibility as free people to be alert and active and to ensure our government officials are held to account if we want to remain free.
We must not only say “don’t tread on me,” but we should understand the meaning behind it and understand what we can do to ensure this doesn’t happen. We can’t merely rely on slogans and sayings, we must read and understand the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence as well as educate ourselves in civics and history. Sadly, it’s becoming popular to believe that these are antiquated documents that are no longer relevant, which those of us who love freedom and liberty believe this isn’t true and some of us have sworn to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution against “all enemies foreign and domestic.”
We can’t afford to continue to allow ourselves to be distracted by pop-culture, sports, or false information put out by celebrities and the talking heads on shows like “The View” or late-night talk shows. We must be educated and prepared to act responsibly by exercising our rights daily and doing our civic duty by showing up at town halls, at local government meetings, and more. We must educate ourselves on candidates for office and we must vote in every election and not just occasionally.
Bonus: Many Great Quotes!
- “Wear none of thine own chains; but keep free, whilst thou art free.” William Penn, Some Fruits of Solitude, 1693
- “The establishment of Civil and Religious Liberty was the Motive which induced me to the Field – the object is attained – and it now remains to be my earnest wish and prayer, that the Citizens of the United States could make a wise and virtuous use of the blessings placed before them.” George Washington to the Reformed German Congregation of New York City, November 27, 1783
- “Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.” John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765
- “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right…and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers.” John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765
- “But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty once lost is lost forever.” John Adams to Abigail Adams, 1775
- “I would define liberty to be a power to do as we would be done by. The definition of liberty to be the power of doing whatever the law permits, meaning the civil laws, does not seem satisfactory.” John Adams, Letter to J. H. Tiffany, March 31, 1819
- “Straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to liberty, and few nations, if any, have found it.” John Adams to Richard Rush, May 14, 1821
- “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Thomas Jefferson
- “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” Thomas Jefferson
- “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Colonel William S. Smith, November 13, 1787
- “The people…are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” Thomas Jefferson, Letter to James Madison, 1787
- “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Colonel Edward Carrington, May 27, 1788
- “We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed.” Thomas Jefferson, Letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, April 2, 1790
- “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Benjamin Rush, 1800
- “It behoves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case others.” Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Benjamin Rush, 1803
- “The human mind will someday get back to the freedom it enjoyed 2000 years ago. This country, which has given to the world the example of physical liberty, owes to it that of moral emancipation also. For, as yet, it is but nominal with us. The inquisition of public opinion overwhelms in practice the freedom asserted by the laws in theory.” Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, January 22, 1821
- “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin, Speech to the Pennsylvania Assembly, November 11, 1755
- “’Tis a Common Observation here that our Cause is the Cause of all Mankind; and that we are fighting for their Liberty in defending our own.” Benjamin Franklin, Letter to Samuel Cooper, 1777
- “God grant, that not only the Love of Liberty, but a thorough Knowledge of the Rights of Man, may pervade all the Nations of the Earth, so that a Philosopher may set his Foot anywhere on its Surface, and say, ‘This is my Country.’ ” Benjamin Franklin, Letter to David Hartley, December 4, 1789
- “Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.” Benjamin Franklin, Maxims and Morals from Dr. Franklin, 1807
- “The truth is, all might be free if they valued freedom, and defended it as they ought.” Samuel Adams, Article in the Boston Gazette, October 14, 1771
- “The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.” Samuel Adams, Article in the Boston Gazette, October 14, 1771
- “Our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty.” Samuel Adams, Speech in Philadelphia, August 1, 1776
- “Our unalterable resolution should be to be free.” Samuel Adams to James Warren, 1776
- “Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as the abuses of power.” James Madison, The Federalist Papers, 1788
- “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” James Madison, Address at the Virginia Convention, June16, 1788
- “Liberty and order will never be perfectly safe, until a trespass on the constitutional provisions for either, shall be felt with the same keenness that resents an invasion of the dearest rights, until every citizen shall be an Argus to espy, and an Aegeon to avenge, the unhallowed deed.” James Madison, Speech to Congress, 1792
- “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.” Thomas Paine
- “Remember, that in all countries where the freedom of the poor has been taken away, in whole or in part, that the freedom of the rich lost its defense. The circle has ever continued to constrict, till lessening to a point it became absolute.” Thomas Paine, A Serious Address to the People of Pennsylvania, 1778
- “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” Thomas Paine, The Crisis, 1777
- “Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia and Africa have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! Receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.” Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776
- “It is impossible to conquer a nation determined to be free!” Thomas Paine, Letter to the People of France, 1792
- “The fundamental source of all your errors, sophisms, and false reasoning, is a total ignorance of the natural rights of mankind. Were you once to become acquainted with these, you could never entertain a thought, that all men are not, by nature, entitled to a parity of privileges. You would be convinced, that natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator, to the whole human race; and that civil liberty is founded in that; and cannot be wrested from any people, without the most manifest violation of justice.” Alexander Hamilton, “The Farmer Refuted,” 1775
- “Political freedom includes in it every other blessing. All the pleasures of riches, science, virtue, and even religion itself derive their value from liberty alone. No wonder therefore wise and prudent legislators have in all ages been held in such great veneration; and no wonder too those illustrious souls who have employed their pens and sacrificed their lives in defense of liberty have met with such universal applause. Their reputations, like some majestic river which enlarges and widens as it approaches its parent ocean, shall become greater and greater through every age and outlive the ruins of the world itself.” Benjamin Rush to Catharine Macaulay, January 18, 1769
- “In every human breast, God has implanted a principle, which we call love of freedom; it is impatient of oppression and pants for deliverance.” Phyllis Wheatley, The Boston Post-Boy, 1774
- “There is not a single instance in history in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire. If therefore we yield up our temporal property, we at the same time deliver the conscience into bondage.” John Witherspoon, The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men, 1776
- “Freedom and not servitude is the cure of anarchy; as religion, and not atheism, is the true remedy for superstition.” Edmund Burke, Second Speech on Conciliation with America, The Thirteen Resolution, March 22, 1775
“Let freedom be the mistress of thy heart.” Mercy Otis Warren to Don Juan De Padilla in “The Ladies of Castille,” 1790
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