Posts Tagged ‘liberty and license’

Jul 03

Essay on Freedom.

Freedom Defined: I can define it, you can’t. Learn Why!!

Essay By Dr.James K. Hahn.

No public servant should ascend to elected office without knowing how to define freedom and why that is important!

Did you ever notice that truth is often difficult to discover, yet when revealed astonishingly simple?  The kind of “Oh! I knew that! That is so obvious!” truth?   But you couldn’t articulate that simple, obvious truth no matter how hard you tried simply because it was so simple and so obvious, so ordinary it escaped notice and detection and frustrated articulation.  So it is with freedom.  Much has been written about freedom, what it means to be free, the benefits arising thereof and so on.  Only one person of note ever came close to a definition, and he was being sarcastically facetious. He was also a socialist.  So now it is my turn.  (Note: Quotes from judicial works in “blue”.)

At the beginning of the American phenomena and its separation from empire Thomas Jefferson authored one of the most astonishing documents in the history of civilization and at the time one of the most dangerous.  Its implications sent fear through the hearts and minds of the rulers of civilizations across the world.  He put pen to parchment and laid down the American Declaration of Independence.  In that Declaration he identified the very essence of freedom.  To wit: the claim that “Governments derive their just powers from the Consent of the Governed.”  This one word, “Consent” at once separated the citizen from the subject, the free man from the serf and the slave, the chattel and the bondsman.  Why and how is this so?  Just this. What must you  possess to give your “Consent”?  You must have the individual authority to give it. (Note: The concept that all authority rested with the people and not with the royal elite and the divine right of kings turned the powers of European rulers upside down and was much feared.) And what is inherent in all authority?  The RESPONSIBILITY for the consequences of the exercise of that authority.  FREEDOM, then, is nothing more nor less than the responsible exercise of individual authority.

Thus the definition:

Freedom: noun: The Responsible Exercise of Individual Authority.™©

This is not only the definition of freedom but the requirement of all those who would be free!


So simple it may seem as trite.  So obvious, yet it has escaped any framework of succinct definition until now. Research has revealed that all other attempts to define freedom are merely collections of adjectives attempting to give subjective and descriptive meaning to the term.  None offer a succinct definition of the word as it describes a free person functioning in a free society.  Every act we commit, or not, flows from our individual authority and we inherit responsibility for the consequences.  However, this simple idea has not been without criticism.  “Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” George B. Shaw. 

It follows that the exercise of individual authority without regard to responsibility is not liberty, but license. But also, when the community acts such as a collective at the expense of the authority or responsibility of the individual its acts become tyranny.  In a free society, the individual is sovereign not the community.  Indeed, we are not a sovereign nation.  We are rather a nation of sovereign individuals by which the State embodies, represents, protects and defends our sovereign interests.  Without that recognition of individual sovereignty we are reduced to mere members of the masses to be managed and controlled by an authoritarian oligarchy.  This is what distinguishes us from every other civilization on Earth.

Why is this important?  Whenever the State usurps any portion of responsibility for the individual, no matter how well meaning, it must necessarily usurp that portion of authority required to discharge that responsibility and with that authority goes that portion of freedom.  It is therefore impossible for a free person to be a Socialist or a subject thereof or any authoritarian oligarchy and remain free.  Rather the duty of the State is to enhance and facilitate the ability of its sovereign citizens to exercise responsible authority over themselves.

Further,  whenever the State usurps authority over a citizen or any number of citizens without regard to responsibility it commits an act of tyranny.  This begs the question, how can any State, no matter how great its resources, bear the burden of competence required to accomplish such a duty even in the event of brief emergency?  The agents of the State must have a clear understanding of their duties but also knowledge of the limits of their power.  The people must understand that the duty of the State is to facilitate their responsibilities not to assume them.  The burden of preparedness must fall on the individual.

Example: The issue of programs sponsored by the State already in existence and those pending deployment.  The oldest and most familiar of course are Social Security and Medicare.  Both of these schemes have reached the event horizon of deficit funding.  As was inevitable shifting demographics and shrinking relative wealth creation have driven the funding obligations for these programs into the black hole of the public treasury from which they will not re-emerge during the lifetimes of anyone now living, if ever.  There were better and more effective means of addressing the issues these programs were designed to resolve, but the obvious was ignored in favor of government sponsored socialist mechanisms whose failure was guaranteed from the outset. It is clear, or should be, that mechanisms designed to provide economic sustenance for specific demographic groups or individuals should never be rooted in dependence on the productivity of one group by another. Free people do not own the labor of others. We do not own each other.  Such systems are an inherent form of slavery or servitude which is not acceptable under the Constitution.  All such systems, if there are to be such systems, must be founded in equity and individual ownership.  By this approach each individual would be economically prepared for both the anticipated and unanticipated events all peoples must deal with over the course of their lifetimes.  But those solutions are for another post. (see the Great Irony of Economic History.) However here we offer this caveat from a speech by another great leader.

Labor believes in turning workers against owners. We believe in turning workers into owners.”   Margaret Thatcher.  1987  (this is also a goal of theBushwhacker)

If freedom is the responsible exercise of individual authority then the duty of the State of a free people is not to usurp responsibility for and therefore authority over the citizen, but to enhance and facilitate the ability of the individual to exercise responsible authority over him or her self.  Economics are fundamental to just about everything.  The modern word economics is derived from the Greek Oikos Nomos which meant Law of the Home.  Indeed, the success of any economic system requires a strong economic foundation beginning with the individual and the individual family unit.  Nothing can assure the success of and duration of a free society more reliably than ubiquitous individual economic competence and integrity.  The proof of this principle is replete throughout history.  Economics are essential to the moral threads that hold families and societies together.

To be succinct, the best use of this definition may lie in the legislatures within which to frame all law and better define the meniscus between the powers and duties of the State versus the authorities and responsibilities of the people.   It is never the duty of the State to hold the rights and privileges of the innocent at large hostage to either the circumstances or behavior of the lowest and least common denominators among us.

The best use of  law is to deter rather than prevent injustice.   According to Blackmun as stated in Roe v Wade the law “does not deal in speculation.” but rather “deals in reality, not obscurity,…. the known rather than the unknown.”(pg. 191 and 192 Reports.) and therefore the knowable rather than the unknowable.  Justice Douglass quoting Justice Clark claims that the law recognizes only the “actual” and not ” potential “. This assumption is the basis of most law, but not necessarily regulations that carry the force of law.  However no free person or persons should be required to exist under the substantial and persistent threat of harm by others or the State.  The threat alone impedes the exercise of one’s personal authority and is an infringement on his or her fundamental civil right of legitimate activity of any sort.  It is extortion against civil liberty.  Therefore any law or regulation that creates an adversarial relationship between the State and the legitimate activities of the innocent citizen at large and for the sake of expediency must not stand. This is the difference between deterrence by just law and mere prevention by regulation.  If the law does not serve justice in a free society it serves nothing at all.  Mere order can be enforced and attained by tyranny and oppression of the populace. (An example of the latter can be demonstrated by the late Spanish dictator Franco who dispatched pairs of Guardia armed with sub-machine guns to every populated corner of Spain.)

“Government is not reason”.  “It is not eloquence.  Government is force; like fire, it is a dangerous servant– and a fearful master.”

Again, the duty of the State is to enhance and facilitate the responsible exercise of individual authority, not to presumptively impede it.

George Washington’s warning to the people.

When the Free individual engages his environment he has three choices under the option of his personal authority.  To fulfill any want or need he or she can do or make what he requires for himself,  he can obtain the services of someone else to render or fabricate it for him, or he can do without or leave the task undone.  These are his choices.  If he, by his own efforts, accomplishes the service or task for himself he of course retains responsibility for the consequences of the accomplishment.  If he chooses to abandon the chore and leave it undone, he also inherits the consequences of his neglect or inattention.  If he obtains the services of another individual or individuals he, by his own choice, extends his authority by consent to such parties.  However he cannot transfer his authority.  The responsibility for the consequences remains with him.   The principle is simple.  The individual cannot legally forfeit or abandon his freedom or his right to that freedom.  His freedom is represented by his individual authority.  Inherent in that authority is responsibility for the consequences of the exercise of that authority.  Thus the responsibility for the consequences also remains with the individual.  The liberty and responsibility of any individual cannot be forfeited except by due process of law and only for just or compelling cause prescribed in law.  This was the original intent of the caveat: “Buyer beware.” Use caution in extending personal authority to those you would enlist or employ in your behalf.  You may have to live with the consequences.  Unfortunately the legal profession has succeeded in significantly eroding this duty.  This does in no way abrogate the obligations of contracts.  The contractor accepts, by his own authority, certain obligations specifically or by reasonable implication the responsibility for those duties set forth in the contract at the risk of being subject to certain penalties ascribed therein.

It is the opinion of theBushwhacker that no public representative should ascend to or be sustained in office without knowing how to define freedom and why that is important.

Oh! The only other person to approach a succinct and meaningful definition of freedom, parroting the thinking of Sigmund Freud,  was George B. Shaw,1930. “Liberty means responsibility, that’s why most men dread it.” Unfortunately this was the basis for his socialist ideals and his sympathy for the authoritarian movements arising in Europe during that period. If mankind was incapable or unwilling to accept responsibility for himself then the responsible elite must take charge and manage the masses for the good of all.  Individuality is then forfeited for the good of the whole.  The end, therefore, justified the means to that end. Thus the rise of the dictator class who initially seemed to bring such order to society.  In the end it brought misery and death to millions.  (Ironically even many in the West, including Charles Lindbergh, were initially seduced by such movements.  It should be remembered that no two liberal democracies have ever made war on each other.)

The duty of the state of a free people is to enhance and facilitate the sovereignty of the individual such that he can successfully achieve and manage his own economic destiny thus enabling him to bear the burden of his responsibilities. The free man thus becomes an economic asset of a free economy.  The perceived duty of the socialist state is to relegate the individual to a simple and insignificant member of the masses to be managed, as an economic liability, by the state.  You choose.

Much more could be said but the reader has enough to think about for now.  Did the foregoing challenge your preconceptions?  Did it infringe on your comfort zone?  Your fortress of myth?  If so, all for the better.  Leave your thoughts, ask your questions and think!!.

Freedom is not Free!  Diligence is required.  If you want to promote and preserve the cause of genuine freedom pass on the definition to others.

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© 1996-2012 Do not reproduce or copy this article without permission except for personal use being mindful of proper credit and acknowledgment.  theBushwhacker