adventures in dysthymia

Thursday, June 16, 2011

MORE STUFF About Freedom and all that...

...continuing what I wrote about libertarians and free will a few posts back.

Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one. ~ Benjamin Franklin

Ben, I am sorry to say, was not being completely sensible the day he offered that oft-quoted bit of advice (especially for a fellow noted for wise sayings). The very definition of government means giving up some freedom in exchange for security.

The real question is where one draws the line. As in all things, there needs to a balance.

I do not recognize that anyone or any group -- even a voting majority -- has any innate right to tell me what to do. Whatever I do, it is for me to choose. Following the rules, however, allows society to function. After a fashion, anyway.

But my only true duty is this: to do what is right. To be able to do so is, I suppose, one definition of freedom. If one is prevented from choosing (or not choosing) the right thing, one is not free.

On the other hand, if some 'authority' stops me from harming someone else (or someone else from harming me!), is that acceptable? That is the security we expect from a government, isn't it? And have we given up freedom to have that security?

Strictly speaking, yes. But that person who might harm another is also taking away freedoms, via his or her coercion. So, in a sense, we give up one freedom for another.

It's always a balancing act and that slippery slope lies on either side. It would be far too easy to let ourselves just slide one way or the other -- to be doctrinaire, to be a 'true believer,' to think that blindly following a belief will solve all things. Even the libertarian who has such an attitude has given up his freedom in favor of a closed mind.

I would not call it a giving up of my free will, my individuality, to pay taxes or follow traffic laws. Those are just things we choose to do as part of functioning in our society. But they are a loss of freedom. Only we can decide whether we are giving up too much.

SB June 2011

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