What Is Freedom?
Por Jorge Maspons
America’s Founders gave us a constitutional republic. Because of them, we have freedom.
What does it mean to have freedom? The word freedom seems jaded in today’s America. People take freedom for granted; we just don’t think about it anymore. Maybe if we had lived in Cuba when Fidel Castro came to power we’d appreciate freedom more.
In America today, we need a clear, compelling, and common definition of freedom, so we’ll know when we have it and when we’re losing it. During the America’s Founding Era, freedom was on everyone’s minds. Let’s focus our thoughts on that era in order to bring out the beliefs of our American ancestors on freedom. They believed…
Because men are not angels, some amount of government is necessary to secure our God-given rights. But because government officials are men, the powers of government must be strictly limited and constantly held in check. The U.S. Constitution, given to us by our Founding Fathers, properly limits the power of government.
This statement by Thomas Jefferson sums up the Founding Fathers’ view of the necessity to limit the power of government so that people can enjoy freedom: “In questions of power then, let no more be said of confidence in men, but bind men down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution.”
Because men created governments (and not vice versa), the rights of government are based on the God-given rights of the individual. An individual has the right to defend his life, liberty, and property; therefore, he also has the right to join with others to form a government to defend life, liberty, and property. An individual does not have the right to violate the rights of another, and neither does government.
Government should be large enough to secure our God-given rights, but not large enough to violate these rights. Anyone who understands this comprehends the proper role of government.
If there was no government whatsoever, our rights would not be secure. Individuals acting alone would be unable to protect their liberty against the criminal acts of unjust men. In the absence of any organized government, anarchy would prevail. Ultimately, the criminals would take control and enslave their fellow citizens.
Our rights also would not be secure under a system of total government. Such a government might grant its citizens privileges from time to time, but it could also take away those privileges on a whim. Whenever government has total power, individuals have none.
Our rights can only be secure under limited government. So, consider this for a clear, compelling definition of freedom: “Freedom is the limitation of government. It is a way station between anarchy (no government) on one end of the political spectrum and totalitarianism (total government) on the other end. In a free domain, people can enjoy their God-given rights without interference.”
In terms of character, values, and ideals, conservative spokesman, Robert Welch was a blessed throwback to our Founding era. During a 1964 debate with socialist leader Norman Thomas, he said, “I want for our country enough laws to restrain me from injuring others, so that these laws will also restrain others from injuring me. I want enough government, with enough constitutional safeguards, so that this necessary minimum of laws will be applied equitably to everybody, and will be binding on the rulers as well as those ruled.”
Preserving freedom for future generations and ourselves is not easy. As George Washington warned, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
In order to situate ourselves in the “freedom position” on The Political Spectrum, we must understand the proper role of government concerning freedom and we must understand our proper role as citizens who oversee a government and who interact with one another. In regard to our role as citizens, we should remember Ben Franklin’s warning, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
Let us, as a community of free people, adopt a clear, compelling definition of freedom, hire (elect) only men and women who agree with that definition, and live to be virtuous ourselves.