Thursday, May 13, 2010

Yes, We Do Live in a "Free Society"

Most Americans believe that we live in a "free" society. The United States is the land of the "free." "Freedom" is one of the most important words in this nation's political lexicon and most Americans take pride in the fact that America is a "free" society. I want to start out be examining this idea of American freedom. First I want to state that I believe that the American idea of freedom is not in fact a delusional concept. It is real. Traditional American concepts of freedom, ideas that have to do with ideas of limited, representative government, traditional ideas of freedom of religion, and press; democracy, the freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom from arbitrary state power are all valid concepts. They all have a certain degree of reality within the context of American society. They are not fictitious concepts. Americans have a right to feel pride in these freedoms.

It is characterized more by freedom's opposites, unfreedom, servitude, and submission. To initiate my discussion of this realm I will first start out by suggesting some definitions of "freedom." This is not easily done because freedom is generally not defined precisely by most people.

Thus in America freedom is defined by the relative absence of governmental restraints on life, liberty, the use of property,etc. Often in the purely conservative political lexicon, freedom is simply identified as a absence of governmental power or interference in one's life. That's all I have to say on that!

In fact even within the political left, economic oppression is normally seen as being only about the unequal distribution of economic resources. Left liberal analysis or even socialist analysis seldom questions the unjust structure of economic institutions.

1 comment:

Edwin said...

Your definition of freedom as freedom from government restraint is too narrow. There are many kinds of oppression that require government action to eliminate. Slavery, and later racial segregation, was eliminated because of government action. While it is true that slavery and later segregation had laws supporting them, simply eliminating the laws and declaring that everyone is free without government enforcement would not have worked. While they are very rare, there are still cases of slavery that come up today that the government criminally prosecutes.

Freedom is complicated. The freedom that some of our founding fathers were fighting for was the freedom to keep slaves. Much of the current "states rights" push have their roots in the civil rights era (and going further back to the civil war) when people were trying to maintain the state right to continue separate but equal laws.

Your point that there is a broad consensus in this great country about the current structure of economic institutions is correct. There is now also broad consensus that people shouldn't be restricted from taking part in these economic institutions because of race, gender or ethnicity. But this state of freedom is not due to freedom from government, it is instead a result of laws and government regulation that it exists.

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