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So, how "Free" is "Freedom"?


Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Free or not, the retort to individual liberty rests within the "Golden Rule."

Originally published by Illumination Curated on Medium


The word "Freedom" over the last few decades has gone through multiple semantic shifts. It is the most abused phrase as to which I can attest. In literal terms, freedom is about having the ability to function or alter self or something without any restriction. Indeed. It is free if we can change something effortlessly but philosophically has gone through multitudes of vitriols. Although theoretically, freedom is perpetually correlated with having free will and being without unjust constraints. In the human kingdom, unlike any other being, freedom generally has a political and psychological dimension. Everyone seems to define freedom differently. A mathematician may study an equation with many levels of autonomy. The physicist may come up with a mathematical concept also applied to a body, constrained by a cascade of measured calculations, whose grades of freedom define the number of independent gesticulations that are granted.

However, as we have been witnessing in our lifetimes, it is not merely the quantitative measure of freedom that matters. But quality or how one perceives freedom in their living context is currently the most significant player in access to independence. It is apparent today that a religious radical envisions liberty differently than the one who believes in the collective rule of the majority, even though all have used the phrase "Freedom" somewhere in their constitutional slogans. But to the irony of all, very few have consistently endorsed "individual autonomy" and the "Golden Rule." Some, like Wendy Kyong Chun philosophically, try to create a distinction between Freedom and Liberty.

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun is the Simon Fraser University's Canada 150 Research Chair in New media and the past professor and chairperson of modern culture and media at Brown University. She describes liberty as linked to "human subjectivity," whereas freedom is purely an objective phenomenon. She backs her theory by exemplifying the United States Declaration of Independence, which, according to her, describes individuals as having liberty and the nation as being free. Wendy believes freedom is distinct from liberty, just like control differs from discipline. Thus autonomy, like discipline, is associated with institutions and a political party.

On the contrary, freedom can work for or against institutions, and it is not bound to their ordinance. Wendy Chun was not the only one making that distinction. John Stuart Mill was an 18th century English philosopher who also separated liberty from freedom. He defined freedom as primarily being, if not exclusively, the ability to do as one will and an action a person has the power to do. In contrast, liberty concerns the absence of arbitrary restraints and considers all involved rights. As such, the exercise of freedom is subject to capability and limited by the rights of others. Therefore, freedom and liberty may or may not coexist just as one can be liberated yet be bound by certain restrictions. Once again, logically, we won't have to separate liberty from freedom through a semantic shift or philosophical arguments if we truly incorporate the concept of the golden Rue in our everyday lives by coupling it with transparency and holding everyone accountable based on that principle.

Democracy foresees Freedom within a Political Vacuum.

Democracy, at the very least, predisposes freedom and liberty to political scrutiny. The democracy of the liberals dictates that establishing and protecting freedom government is the ultimate answer. Right, although the government is evil, it is necessary and somewhat inevitable. Nonetheless, the government itself needs to be limited and be on checks, balances, and restrictions, not the other way around. Then again, not just any government will remain under checks and balances for long. Not too infrequently, governments, despite a great start, slip through the cracks of bureaucracy and lack of transparency and switch roles with their constituents.

In a democracy, government, by default, demand the people's obedience through the tyranny of the masses, which defines what being free means to its constituents.

Democratic Socialism for Individual Freedom, or is it?

Socialism encompasses the spectrum of a socioeconomic system that epitomizes social ownership of the means of production. While full-fledged socialism was taboo in many post-cold war societies, the concept of "democratic socialism" emerged from the rubbles to restore individual freedom. Something that the original socialism did not convey. To the same extent, proponents of democratic socialism have been critical of the capitalist version of freedom, making them rethink their vision of freedom.

Democratic socialists want to promote individual freedom and win a society where everyone has a real say in the significant decisions affecting their lives by de-commodifying necessities like health care, education, and housing. But Ironically, the firms should be run collectively and democratically by their workers. Democratic socialists want to gain control over the most critical social decisions to put them in the hands of laborers and consumers. They merely accomplish that through strict campaign finance laws, attacking the corporate dominance of the media, and removing institutional barriers to popular rules, such as the electoral college and the Senate in the United States.

Democratic society will require socializing the financial sector so that the public will set investment priorities instead of the cream of the crop. That means they would nationalize utility industries such as energy and transportation publicly. Then, eventually, the most significant sectors will need to be brought under public control. As one would acknowledge, there is no individual freedom in a socialized system despite the social democrats' claim. Freedom to them means bigger government, more control, and less personal autonomy.

Freedom and Capitalism

Capitalism observes freedom through the spectacles of economic slack. It sees an economic system based on the private holding of productive assets within an economy. The fundamental Friedmannian freedom is financial freedom as a precondition for political freedom. And places "liberal" doctrine at the center of corruption since the Great Depression.

Milton Friedman believes a free desirable society must enjoy a convenient label. But that is easier than done in today's overtly politicized stage.

In today's political arena, where free-market capitalism has taken a turn into the crony capitalist corner, freedom has lost its credibility to corporatism and monopoly.

Freedom and Communism

A communist nation believes in freeing individuals from long working hours by automating production and eliminating corruption integral to the division between workers and owners. A communist system sees an individual's liberty in the sense of having one's life structured around survival, which Karl Marx, the founder of contemporary communism, referred to as a transition from the "realm of necessity" to the "realm of freedom." Society is composed of an intellectually inclined population with both the time and resources to pursue its creative hobbies and genuine interests and contribute to creating social wealth in this manner. Karl Marx's radical individualism considered "true richness" to be the amount of time one has at his disposal to pursue one's creative passions.

Do we need Freedom?

Freedom is a two-way street. One cannot expect to be free if they don't respect others' freedom too. Because of failure to uphold that notion, many take refuge in redefining freedom and liberty or defy freedom altogether.

We must recognize that freedom has a list of its true meaning, just like liberty, independence, autonomy, and equality. In reality, no one is entirely free under the current terms. Some say one's talents, family circumstance, job, prosperity, cultural standards, and laws against murder, incest, burglary, and so on constrain and circumscribe your choices. And then there is the freedom of others that necessarily limits their freedom. Yet again, that would be true if we fail to incorporate the golden rule and transparency within the liberty equation.

Some uphold the portrait of freedom and rights, such as religious freedom or freedom of speech. The other stance is that rights have no extraordinary stature unless authorized by the government or sustain certain rituals. Absolute monarchy like Saudi Arabia; is an example where it "theoretically" pursues just society by definition of one family. Or the Chinese communist Party that claims an equitable society. In turn, the internationally recognized justification for freedom is by reference to human rights, those ordained for a human being.

Freedom is not Free

Indeed, there is no price one can place on freedom. However, it does not mean lawlessness and does whatever without consequence.

Freedom isn't free, is eminent for its rhetorical use for the past century. "Freedom isn't free" is an American expression utilized widely in the United States to illustrate appreciation to the military for defending individual freedoms. But then again, whether that also implies an association with imperialism or embraces the government-run military-industrial complex is a separate matter of discussion. Logically, one cannot possibly believe in liberty and freedom if one doesn't respect the freedom of others.

Freedom is more about Autonomy, Option, and Independence.

I want to emphasize the one-sided view of choice and freedom. We need to ensure not to be paralyzed by an abundance of options. Option without respect for others is not adequate for favorable freedom. Too many choices can turn people into passive "pickers" rather than active "choosers," and the proliferation of options can erode a person's sense of self-definition and turn the task of self-definition over to local culture. There is a need for constraints that enable people to reconnect choice with freedom and autonomy. one can only do that by upholding the golden rule.

Freedom is individual autonomy, yet the interpretation of personal freedom as autonomy or 'self-governance in contemporary literature contributes to the sophistication of that ideal rather than as a denial. The modern effort to understand freedom as autonomy produced a wave of fantasizing in the existentialist movement and various contemporary attempts to refine, extend, and appropriate this radical objective.

Personal freedom is the core postulate in the context of human rights. Every human being is inherently free to choose how extensively they want to enjoy privileges. But, according to some scholars, autonomy includes a requirement for proper enactment of human rights. The more robust personal freedom is, the more advanced and productive a human being may strive to become. An autonomous person is the best self-advisor in compliance with their expertise and lifestyle. Rights embedded in a legal document are not adequate to ensure and protect a modern individual. Personal autonomy is fundamental for the development and commission of human rights. The improvement of human rights is impossible without the adequate growth of human dignity. Suppose we depreciate a particular individual as the initiator of one's conduct. In that case, we create a causal relationship between gross violations of human rights in the community and violation of the right to personal existence. But the execution of human rights law in international legal documents does not guarantee the universality of human rights. So, it compels widespread recognition of human individuality to attain the acceptance of human rights and freedoms.

In the late 18th century, the Liberalism movement was born in a response counter to the authoritarian elements in the prior society, emphasizing freedom as the ultimate goal and the individual as the leading entity in the community. However, even they couldn't sustain their version of liberty simply because they never genuinely agreed upon human individuality as the fundamental necessity and did not recognize the value of the golden rule in freedom.

Freedom without the golden rule is nil. The Golden Rule leads the way people choose for others what they would choose for themselves. If everyone behaves selfishly under the slogan of freedom, then no one will have freedom. Individual freedom requires every sovereign individual's independent collaboration without infringement on others. And yes, indeed, it is priceless with no warranty.



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