AOH :: FREEDOM.TXT|
Defending Freedoms You Don't Happen To Like
DEFENDING FREEDOMS YOU DON'T HAPPEN TO LIKE
By Robert Brakeman
Most wise people of most times and places, as well a great mob of
secondary-literary hacks, curbstone philosphers, and intellectual
knaves, have said at some point in their lives, "In order for liberty to
have meaning at all, it has to have meaning for all our citizens", of
"If we're serious about our love for freedom, we'll fight for it, even
when it's being exercised by people we consider lunatics, or even
What's being said is that if a particular "right" is contingent upon
what those in political power happen to think of the person exercising
the right, it's no right at all - it's a mere privilege subject to
revocation, like an 8th grader's hall pass or a politician's sworn oath.
We must not differentiate among persons.
There's something equally true which both leftists and rightists have
generally failed to see. It is that in thinking of freedom, we also
should differentiate among freedoms. Just as we should not say, "I
believe liberty should be enjoyed by all persons", and then look to see
who a particular liberty-enjoyer is to decide whether to include him
out, so we should not say, "I believe that all persons should enjoy
freedom to control their lives as long as they do not aggress against
others, then look to see the way in which they're controlling their
lives (peaceably) so we can decide whether to make exceptions to the
If you were to ask a thousand liberals and a thousand conservatives
"Should a person have absolute control over his or her own life as long
as no aggression is committed against others?" ninety nine percent of
each would nod so hard they'd endanger their uppper vertebrae. So why
do liberals spend so much time advocating the theft of money from people
they don't like and the giving of it to those they like better (under
such euphenisms as taxes and welfare)? Why do conservatives hardly
finish breakfast before they're out trying to put people in cages for
doing things with their own bodies that conservatives don't like?
Both groups allow their visions of the "Good" Society to override their
theoretical committment to liberty in the abstract.
What is important is there is only one liberty - the liberty to control
one's own life. What we tend to think of as various freedoms are just
different expressions of that one liberty. A person seeking to keep
that which he has earned, and one trying to use his body as he sees fit
are both expressing the same (the only) claim to liberty - they are
claiming the absolute right to their lives and products of those lives.
Once we realize that there is only one liberty (with various ways of
expressing it), it is logically easy to conclude it's as indefensible
to differentiate among ways of expressing freedom as it is to
distingish among people doing so. Over and over and over again (to
paraphrase FDR), we need to stress that once we've established that
liberty is the issue in a given case (no aggressive acts), the argument
is over. The way the person in question is enjoying liberty
(controlling his own life) is as irrelevant as who he is. We must dended
freedom we don't like as much as individuals we don't like.
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