Freedom – Comparison of Different Definitions

Freedom is often a term used to describe various types of individual liberties, such as religious liberty, political liberty, freedom of speech, right of self-defense, and others. Nations fight for political freedom, youth desire behavioral freedom, and monks desire spiritual freedom. It is also used as a general term for the sum of specific liberties. The basic reference is to the freedom of a person to come and go as he or she pleases without unwarranted restraint.

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According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, freedom is defined as the quality or state of being free. This is a very simple definition with a wide meaning. What are the characteristics of the state of being free? Basically, it is characterized by the absence of restraints, or controlling forces and having the power to make choices on one’s own. The Oxford English Dictionary offers several short definitions that can be used to build one ultimate definition. The first offering is “Exemption or release from slavery or imprisonment; personal liberty”. This definition only relates to someone who has been in captivity so long and hence it cannot be accepted as a universal definition. Another definition offered is “Exemption from arbitrary, despotic, or autocratic control; independence; civil liberty.”

This is a slightly wider definition of freedom and can be seen in two ways: one is the legitimate striving of nations and individuals for independence and the other is the illegitimate striving of nations and individuals to stop obeying rules that society wants them to follow. The word freedom may also be used to refer to other meanings such as privileges, franchises, immunities; ease, facility as he speaks or acts with freedom; frankness or openness; improper familiarity, violation of the rules of decorum; and generosity. Some synonyms for freedom are liberty and license. Thesis Statement: Freedom is a quality that rests with the strength of the self to make free choices.

Generally speaking, people desire freedom from pain, freedom from undue taxation, freedom from worry, etc. In liberal democracies, appeals to this kind of freedom are made when there are calls for freedom from the constraints of an oppressive government. Therefore, related to the freedom from a force outside of one’s control is the civic and political liberties associated with modern liberal democracy: freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion. Each of these refers to the state of being exempt from an external uncontrolled force.

Most commonly, the word ‘freedom’ is used in a political context. Nations desire to be ruled by their own people. When foreign lands through war acquire other nations and interfere in their governments, then, ‘freedom’ is at stake. In France, the accent in the rallying slogan: “Liberté! Égalité! Fraternité!” was basically freedom, freedom; freedom. Many people have fought and lost their lives for the sake of such political freedom. Freedom in a democratic context may be defined as the absence of government coercion. The Founding Fathers of the United States have been attributed with creating the least coercive government in the history of the world.

The government was created solely to protect the rights, liberties, and property of its citizens. Any government coercion beyond that necessary to secure those rights was forbidden, both through the Bill of Rights and the doctrine of strictly enumerated powers.

The political left equates freedom with liberation from material wants, always via a large and benevolent government that exists to create equality on earth. The political right equates freedom with national greatness brought about through military strength. To modern liberals, men are free only when the laws of economics and scarcity are suspended, the landlord is rebuffed, the doctor presents no bill, and groceries are given away. But philosopher Ayn Rand has explained that such “freedom” for some is possible only when government takes freedoms away from others.

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The word “freedom” has acquired a new significance in recent times and George W. Bush has once been found using the words “free,” “freedom” and “liberty” no fewer than forty-nine times in a speech. Bush speaks of freedom to justify both the invasion of Iraq and a conservative agenda at home. “They hate our freedom” has become the all-purpose explanation for the attack itself. The National Security Strategy of 2002, which announced the doctrine of pre-emptive war, opened with the statement that freedom, as Americans understand it, is “right and true for every person, in every society.”

Thus, one finds that freedom lies at the heart of American political culture, and groups from abolitionists to modern-day conservatives will agree to this. Thus on an extended level, freedom can be defined as one that gives legitimacy to political goals of all kinds.

It is the historic rallying cry of the dispossessed. Freedom can also be what the philosopher Nikolas Rose calls a “formula of power.” During the cold war, the “free world” included Latin American strongmen, dictators like the Shah of Iran, and the rulers of apartheid South Africa. Today, countries that do not enjoy democratic freedom such as Egypt, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Saudi Arabia are considered allies of the United States in combating tyranny and establishing true freedom. This is a paradoxical situation.

Freedom from external constraint leaves one bound up within oneself. Once there is no external control, a person is a ruler unto himself. This kind of freedom offers no guidance about how to live well. The result is a feeling of being alone, lost in a world of possibility. Freed from others, the individual ends up feeling alone and isolated till he begins running away from his own self. In this way, when freedom from external constraint is crowned, it becomes a ravenous ruler, a power without guidance. Only by developing a clear system of inner values, the self will be strong enough to make free choices that ultimately define freedom for the individual in a very personal way.

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