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What's the Big Deal About Liberty?

Updated on July 29, 2011

Why Does it Matter?

We live in a day and age when it seems most people are more concerned with having a comfortable life than with having liberty. Large homes, big screen TVs, and nice cars have the highest priority for some. For others, it is security. The knowledge or at least perception that no matter what happens in life (job loss, sickness, loss or damage of property, foreclosure, eviction, etc) they will be provided for. For still others it is being successful; achieving status, popularity or fame; acquiring wealth, or even having great family life.

Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things; in fact some of them, such as having a strong family, are critically important. However, when we neglect the importance of liberty in our society, we risk losing everything which was mentioned above. It is liberty that allows us to pursue the things we enjoy.

There are people around the world (billions of people) who live in comparative poverty, owning few possessions; they have no earthly security; and they have precious little hope of ever achieving any amount of financial prosperity. Simple observation will also tell you that the vast majority of these people also experience little to no liberty in their lives.

All of the items listed in the first paragraph are in essence made possible by liberty. Without liberty, pursing quality life is a vain pursuit. Yet people in America spend most of their lives trying to accrue “stuff”, and spend very little (if any) time thinking about the Liberty they enjoy which allows them to pursue the “stuff” they enjoy.

People are taking liberty for granted while in the meantime, liberty is waving a not so fond farewell.

What is Liberty?

Liberty is different from freedom. Freedom deals generally with the concepts of being free: the ability to make choices and have rights. Liberty has much conceptual similarity, but is referencing a person’s ability to self govern. According to Wikipedia (and I think this is a great definition), Liberty “is a concept in political philosophy that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions.”

Notice, how it said “take responsibility of their actions”. Liberty is does not mean you can just do whatever you please, nor does is represent anarchy. It is simply the idea that people have a God given ability to think and make decisions for themselves and take responsibility for their decisions.

Source

Drawbacks

Liberty has its drawbacks. If you make all your decisions, then you and only you are responsible for consequences of those decisions. If you make a choice to perform poorly at work and get fired or laid off as a result, you shouldn’t expect the government or your former employer to bail you out with unemployment, because they didn’t make the decision. You did.

But when you do get bailed out you can expect to have more regulation placed upon your life because by allowing others to take responsibility for your actions, you are violating the basic principles of liberty.

Likewise, if you purchase a house you cannot afford and the government prevents foreclosure, you can expect to lose a little bit of your liberty.

The more that the Government “helps” you, the more control is shifted from you to the government. You are losing liberty. We are losing liberty.

Source

The Roll of Government

Should the government be involved in social issues? Welfare, healthcare, unemployment, food stamps, ect…This can be debated and the purpose of this hub is not to make a case either way, but rather to challenge your everyday thinking and maybe get you to think a little bit about what freedom means and how it impacts our lives. It is important to understand the payoffs and drawbacks of liberty. Liberty gives us freedom. It also gives us responsibility.

Which would you prefer? You had better think about it, because while you sit and enjoy the benefits of liberty, people around the world who are supposedly “provided for” by their government are forced to accept an incredibly low standard of living. If you enjoy liberty, yet do nothing to protect it, you don’t deserve to have it.

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    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very well analysed. Liberty and freedom as 2 different entities, never gave a deep thought to this.

      Voted up.

    • Jason Matthews profile image
      Author

      Jason Matthews 5 years ago from North Carolina

      You're welcome TalkinTom! I believe it is important for people to understand what liberty means. People talk about liberty on occasion, but rarely do they understand the implications of the word. Everyone wants to be "free" but few desire to be "responsible."

    • TalkinTom profile image

      TalkinTom 5 years ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin

      Excellent points, Jason! I like the way you clarify the difference between liberty and freedom.

    • Jason Matthews profile image
      Author

      Jason Matthews 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks for your comments SpiffyD...right on! Keep up the good hubbing!

    • SpiffyD profile image

      SpiffyD 6 years ago from The Caribbean

      I like the distinction highlighted between liberty (as a political philosophy) and freedom. That self-governance is critical, since some rights actually infringe on others. As someone put on, one right ends where another begins. Useful hub.

    • Jason Matthews profile image
      Author

      Jason Matthews 6 years ago from North Carolina

      No Worries breakfastpop! Thanks for commenting...you have good insight!

    • profile image

      breakfastpop 6 years ago

      Sorry for the typos. I am not at my own computer so I can't edit anything!

    • profile image

      breakfastpop 6 years ago

      This administration is trying to undermine the concepts of liberty, freedom and responsibility. They are essentailly rewarding individuals for allowing the government to make all decisions. This is a very critical time in our history. I hope we wake up in time to salvage our nation. and our lives. Up usefula and awesome.

    • Jason Matthews profile image
      Author

      Jason Matthews 6 years ago from North Carolina

      @ WillStarr: I completely agree!

      @ Don: Thanks for your comment. Certainly there are benefits which come from regulation, but I tend to think they are mostly short term, when liberty can give lasting benefits...so long as there is a nation of people who are willing to govern themselves!

    • Don Simkovich profile image

      Don Simkovich 6 years ago from Pasadena, CA

      Nice Hub, Jason. The concept of liberty is important to keep discussing. I think of Singapore as perhaps a society where there seems to be freedom and yet countless regulations. Maybe, from what I hear, they have the cleanest streets in the world but there also seems to be a large amount of micro-management of citizens.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Far too many today are willing to trade their precious liberty for a false sense of security from big government. Unfortunately, they are also trading my liberty.

      I give you Obamacare.