One of my favorite freedom discussions took place a few years back when a friend and I were conversing with our five-year-old daughters about whether they could or could not go play at the neighbors’ house. My friend told her daughter no, she couldn’t. Not until she was able to take responsibility for getting home at a certain time, at which the five-year-old yelled loudly with hands on hips: “I don’t want responsibility! I want freedom!”
So, to respond to Duane Adams’ letter to the editor published May 17, yes, we all want freedom. That would be great. Regulations are annoying. They slow me down and get in my way. Sometimes they are so poorly written they are laughable.
If we all took responsibility, we would have no need for government regulation. But we don’t. We are lazy. We are greedy. We say, “Everybody else is doing it.” We litter. We pollute the air and water.
Edmund Burke, widely regarded as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism, made a distinction between ‘individual liberty’ and ‘social liberty.’ “
“Permit me then to continue our conversation, and to tell you what the freedom is that I love, and that to which I think all men entitled. This is the more necessary, because, of all the loose terms in the world, liberty is the most indefinite. It is not solitary, unconnected, individual, selfish liberty, as if every man was to regulate the whole of his conduct by his own will. The liberty I mean is social freedom. It is that state of things in which liberty is secured by the equality of restraint. A constitution of things in which the liberty of no one man, and no body of men, and no number of men, can find means to trespass on the liberty of any person, or any description of persons, in the society. This kind of liberty is, indeed, but another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws, and secured by well-constructed institutions.”
Can we, by participating in our democracy, and by electing leaders not beholden to one group or another, construct better institutions, and thereby achieve this social freedom in which we maximize each one’s liberty without treading on others?
P.S. - For those who think that we should rely on the unseen hand of the marketplace: It doesn’t work when economic power and political power are one, which is what seems to have happened.
Editors Note: this originally appeared in the May 24th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted on Blue Louisa with the author’s permission.