In politics and philosophy liberty refers to the civil freedoms to which all people are entitled, in a state of nature it refers to total freedom. Given this we can say there are generally two types of liberty:

  • Natural liberty: The complete freedom one has in a state of nature when not in a social compact with others.
  • Civil liberty: Freedoms granted by the state, when one is in a social compact with others.

Liber in Latin means free, so Liberty broadly refers to the idea that all humans are born with inalienable rights (rather than these rights being bestowed upon them by a Government). The political philosophy born from the concept of liberty is “liberalism” (with conservatism being the push against this). See Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Burke, and Mill. The political philosophy that came after this addressed additional civil liberties necessary for a just state, and this is called social liberalism.

Although there is no agreement on the definition of Liberty (see nearly every political faction and war fought from 1688 on), we can broadly say liberty includes concepts such as: the social contract, freedom from kings, freedom of speech, religion, press, and assembly, freedom of trade, and generally the freedom to consent to be governed. Or perhaps, in sum, simply the freedom to pursue happiness.

The Romanticist version sees all men as naturally good and applies liberty to emotions, libertines apply it to the freedom to enjoy life’s sensual pleasure, libertarians accept social injustice in exchange for individual liberty, social liberals say humans can’t have liberty if they live in squalor, some think democracy breeds liberty, others think it can only be obtained in a republic ruled by law, some even think Monarchy or Communism is the path toward liberty… some, to the frustration of most everyone else, use liberty as an excuse to push their own special interests (as what is natural liberty if not deregulatory?).

We all agree liberty is one of the most important underlying concepts of humanity, but rarely do we agree on its meaning or the mechanics that it takes to achieve it.

According to John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government:

“In the state of nature, liberty consists of being free from any superior power on Earth. People are not under the will or lawmaking authority of others but have only the law of nature for their rule. In political society, liberty consists of being under no other lawmaking power except that established by consent in the commonwealth. People are free from the dominion of any will or legal restraint apart from that enacted by their own constituted lawmaking power according to the trust put in it. Thus, freedom is not as Sir Robert Filmer defines it: ‘A liberty for everyone to do what he likes, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied by any laws.’ Freedom is constrained by laws in both the state of nature and political society. Freedom of nature is to be under no other restraint but the law of nature. Freedom of people under government is to be under no restraint apart from standing rules to live by that are common to everyone in the society and made by the lawmaking power established in it. Persons have a right or liberty to (1) follow their own will in all things that the law has not prohibited and (2) not be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, and arbitrary wills of others.”

Or as Jefferson put it quoting Locke,

“That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”

Of course this message isn’t much different than the one that Aristotle writes in his version of the Athenian Constitution (350 BC) where he quotes Solon (who lived in 600 BC). Or, that Aristotle himself writes in his masterwork Nicomachean Ethics.

‘The purpose of all human acts is to procure happiness’ – (rough translation) Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics book 1, section 7. A book on moral virtue as understood by Aristotle.

Factoids tagged with "Liberty"

The Civil War was About Slavery Fact

The Civil war was about slavery, but it wasn’t “just about slavery”. Sectionalism, Protectionism, and States’ Rights were also factors.

Philosophy Requires Liberty Fact

To advance culture philosophically (not just technologically or economically) liberty is required. The major philosophical works came from liberal nations.

Hitler Was a Left-wing Socialist Liberal Myth

The idea that “Hitler was a left-wing socialist liberal” is a myth. Hitler was a Fascist. Fascism has some socialist roots, but it is a unique authoritarian and nationalist ideology separate from socialism or liberalism.

Raw Cookie Dough Can Make You Sick Fact

Raw cookie dough can make you sick, especially dough that doesn’t use treated flour and pasteurized eggs. Studies have shown, untreated raw flour can contain germs like E. coli, and unpasteurized raw eggs can contain germs like salmonella.

The Greeks Founded the Basis of Utilitarianism and Consequentialism Fact

Although we can consider Jeremy Bentham the founder of modern Utilitarianism, and his successor John Stuart Mill the one who popularized it, early Greek philosophers like Aristotle, Aristippus and Epicurus presented the original Utilitarian / Consequentialist / Greatest Happiness theories.

There is a Gender Pay Gap Fact

The gender pay gap is real, and so is the gender earnings gap. Even after all reasonable differences are factored out, an unexplained pay gap between men and women exists across the board.

The United States is a Corporation Myth

Despite misconceptions, the United States is not a corporation. This can be confirmed by its lack of incorporating acts, its sovereign immunity, and past court cases, among other things.

John Locke is the Father of Liberalism Fact

John Locke can be considered the father of liberalism. His theories on life, liberty, property, consent, and the social contract form the foundation of classical liberalism.

A Third Party Can’t Win Myth

Third Parties can win elections, but they rarely do. This is because the United States of America has a two-party system in practice.

The United States Has a Two-Party System Myth

Despite two parties dominating politics due to a majority being needed to win elections, the United States doesn’t officially have a two-party system. Parties aren’t even mentioned in the Constitution.

All Action is Human Action Fact

As Mises said, “all action is human action”. In other words, although we form groups that can indirectly act through consensus, groups themselves aren’t physical entities (and thus they can’t act directly).

Athens had a Democracy Fact

Classical Athens had a type of Direct Democracy that included direct voting on laws and election by lottery, but participation was limited to adult male citizens who owned land.

Stability Breeds Instability Fact

Stability isn’t necessarily destabilizing, but as Hyman Minsky’s Financial Instability Hypothesis eludes: longterm stability breeds instability and diminishes resilience in economic markets, mainly due to psychological factors.

Politics Can be a Science Fact

Politics can be treated as a science (political science), but it must always seek data that can be confirmed by our senses (empirical evidence).

Frankenstein Can be Read as a Political Metaphor Fact

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) can be read as a political metaphor where Dr. Frankenstein and his monster represent the philosophies and attitudes of the liberal revolutionaries, specifically those of the French Revolution and ensuing “Reign of Terror.”

Your Vote Doesn’t Count Myth

It is a myth that your vote doesn’t count. Despite the electoral college electing the President directly, every vote counts. It just counts in complex ways that differ by election, state, and region.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent Fact

You have the right to remain silent and not make any self-incriminating statements in police custody, as granted by the Fifth Amendment and confirmed by Miranda v. Arizona.

America is a Christian Nation Myth

America is not “a Christian nation” in terms of having a national religion. Despite a majority of Americans being Christian, the Bill of Rights ensures religious liberty for all.

Lincoln was a Republican Fact

Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican President. Lincoln, a former Whig (and then “moderate” “anti-slavery” Republican), favored social justice and federal power over states’ rights regarding slavery.

Human Behavior can be Random Fact

Human behavior can be random to some extent, but most behavior is based on prior input, and thus is “deterministic” (meaning not totally random).

The United States of America is a Democracy Fact

The United States is a Constitutional Federal Republic (a federation of states with a Representative Democracy). Despite a strong democratic tradition, the U.S. is not a “Direct Democracy” (where people vote on laws directly*).

There Was a “Golden Age” of Islam Fact

The Islamic Golden Age lasted from roughly the 8th – 13th century. In this time, Islam helped spread, persevere, and advance science, wisdom, reason, and learning.

Blog Posts tagged with "Liberty"

What is Social Liberalism?

Social liberalism is the ideology of collective liberties and rights that favors social welfare and justice. It comes in a political and economic form.

What is Classical Liberalism?

Classical liberalism is the ideology of liberties, rights, individualism, reason, and tolerance that comes in a political and economic form.

What is Conservatism?

Conservatism is the ideology of governmental, cultural, and economic order, tradition, hierarchy, and authority that generally comes in classical, social, and economic forms.

What is Liberalism?

Liberalism is the political ideology of liberty and equality, where classical liberalism emphasizes individual liberty and social liberalism emphasizes social equality.

What is Guy Fawkes Day About?

We explain Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes Day, and the symbolism behind the the Guy Fawkes mask, the fifth of November, and the Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot.

Civil Religion

“Civil Religion” is “the religion” of the state. It doesn’t describe the theology of the state, but rather the shared identity built around national symbolism and customs.

Separation of Powers Metaphor

The four “elements” (or “powers”) that form the foundation of government can roughly be expressed as: citizens, executive, legislative, and judicial.

Where Does the State of Nature Argument Come From?

We often attribute the origin of the state of nature argument to Hobbes, but it can be traced to thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, and the Sophists in the 300s BC, and is then mused on by other early philosophers.

The Birth of Modern Banking

Modern banking originated in Italy around 1150 as Jews fleeing persecution brought new practices, including “discounting”, to the merchant banks of the Italian piazzas.

What is the State of Nature?

The state of nature is the state humans lived in before forming the first societies. By examining the state of nature we can better understand the implicit and explicit social contracts which govern societies.

The Attributes of Government

Different types of government can be said to be based on a number of attributes like power source, power structure, and economic system.

The Paradox Principle

In practice, human action often has paradoxical or unintended effects. Sometimes effects or side effects even have the exact opposite effect as intended.

The Historical Effects of Wealth Inequality

We examine the historical effects of social, political, and economic inequality on society to see how it has led to social unrest and events like revolutions and populist uprisings.

What is the General Will?

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s concept of the General Will roughly means “that which is in the best interest of the people” or “the public good”, and not just popular consensus.

Naturally Occurring Social Systems

Naturally occurring social systems are systems that naturally arise when societies form, such as politics, economics, mathematics, and language.

Types of Governments

We explain the basic classical forms of government and the many types of governments that can be derived from the classical forms.

Adam Smith as a Moral Philosopher

We explain Adam Smith the Moral Philosopher, his Theory of Moral Sentiments, and how it connects to his economic theory in Wealth of Nations.

Federalists and Anti-Federalists Explained

The Federalists and Anti-Federalists were the first political factions of the U.S.. They arose out of a debate over the ratification of the 1787 Constitution and went on to form the basis of our current two-party system.

Do Fines and Fees Ensure Social Justice, or Do They Harm it?

The Constitution protects our Liberty, but the law has placed limits on this. Those limits are sometimes enforced with large legal fees. To what effect this promotes social justice, and to what effect this harms social justice by creating opposition is debated.

The Basic Types of Political Parties

On this page, we look at political parties from a historical perspective to better understand the underlying left-right politics all political parties are based on.

The Cycle of Oppression and Rebellion

Most groups, bound by class, race, religion, socioeconomic status, or some other force have faced oppression with rebellion. Here are tips on avoiding common pitfalls.

Tolerance Paradoxes Explained

We explain paradoxes related to tolerance and Politically Correctness (PC), including “the paradox of tolerance” and “tolerance as a form of intolerance.”

Is America an Oligarchy?

The United States is a Federal Republic with democratic values that some claim contains a growing oligarchy (or corporatocracy). We look at those claims.

What Does “Politically Correct” Mean?

Political Correctness (politically correct or PC), describes how much tolerance, sensitivity, censorship, and freedom of expression “is correct” in a given setting.

American Politics Explained

A simple explanation of American politics including an overview of US history, the political parties, and the political system.

Wealth and Income Inequality

We explain economic inequality from a historical perspective, and then consider the effects of wealth inequality and income inequality in America today.

The Point of Life is Happiness

We present a discussion on “the meaning of life as happiness,”the Greatest Happiness Theory,” “the Good Life,”the Pursuit of Happiness,” and Virtue Theory.

Book Reviews tagged with "Liberty"