There are two common definitions of “liberty”: (1) the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views and (2) the power or scope to act as one pleases.

For the most part, the political party railing about “liberty” these days tends to be the Republican Party. In my part of the country, as well as elsewhere, they find masks and social distancing “tyranny” and “oppressive.” Most refuse to wear masks except when absolutely required, because they want the liberty not to be inconvenienced and, in effect, the liberty to infect others.

But this desire for “liberty” is only for their liberty.

What I find both ironic and hypocritical is that they support oppression and restriction in a considerable number of areas. They want to dictate what a woman can and can’t do with her own body, even what forms of birth control her insurance, whether private or Medicaid, will pay for. They want to legalize the right of religious believers to discriminate against employees and customers on the basis of their own religion.

They oppose removing barriers to oppression and discrimination, which is, in effect, the same as retaining oppressive restrictions. They close polling places and limit ballot drop boxes, which is certainly restrictive. They gerrymander legislative districts, which restricts the liberty and voting power of those in the other party.

They want the liberty to pollute the air and water, which restricts and oppresses the ability of others to breathe. They want the liberty to pay workers as little as they can, even when people can’t live on those wages, and then they complain about government providing aid to those underpaid workers, calling the taxes required tyrannical. They’ve pushed to restrict the ability of people to obtain affordable health care.

But they claim they’re for liberty.

Just whose liberty is another question.

6 thoughts on “Liberty”

  1. R. Hamilton says:

    obDisclaimer: I do wear masks and I’m told I did social distancing long before it was cool. I also tend to avoid demonstrations, rallies, etc even when there’s no pandemic, because I have no desire to look for trouble (and don’t like loud crowds anyway, regardless of whether I agree with them).

    There is a legitimate issue here. Despite those who wish federal mask and distancing mandates, the federal government does NOT have the authority for that; it can (and has!) offered guidance, but it’s up to the states to use their remaining sovereignty to follow (or not follow) that guidance. In practice, places that are relatively isolated and with very low population density are NOT the same as places with high density and lots of transients; the precautions they might need aren’t the same either.

    But even beyond that, I question the degree to which the presumption of infected-ness can be imposed even by the states (despite the number of asymptomatic cases justifying it on strictly factual grounds); IMO, that plays fast and loose enough with due process to raise grave concerns, and even if justified for a quasi-emergency, tends to play into the hands of politicians of WHATEVER ideology (mostly the left) that want to control everything they possibly can.

    The presumption that individuals have the freedom to be damnfool, even at risk of not only themselves but others, seems more important to me than the presumption that government should have the power to prevent this particular scenario of people putting one another at risk; especially since it isn’t necessary anyway. Private employers can require both employees and customers to follow masking, distancing, and other safety rules; and aside from employment, people can refuse to attend anything where such rules aren’t followed, and just stay home as much as possible. No government authority needed. Even the slaughterhouses, with people close to each other on the lines, don’t want to be closed with most of their employees sick; so (albeit far too late) they eventually put up barriers between stations, etc. If the worst case can do the right thing NOT because it’s the right thing, but because eventually it’s in their interests, than enough others will that sensible people will be able to protect themselves. Further example of government making it worse: the requirement in various (mostly blue) states that nursing homes admit COVID-19 positive cases. Nuts!

    Whatever the problem is, the use of domestic government authority, except to arrest, try, and hopefully convict criminals (esp. violent ones and rioters!), is likely to be worse than the problem. There are suicides resulting from distance learning replacing the social ferment of schools; there are other costs in lives as well as treasure to many restrictions. Government is ONLY a necessary evil when it’s minimal, otherwise it’s Just. Plain. Evil.

    The people of the far east, experienced in pandemics though they may be, are NOT an example; they’re all conditioned to high population density driving a yielding to the mass interest. A FAR better example is refugees from Cuba or the former east block, who have a direct and personal understanding that it’s better to be hungry, sick, or dead than to be under an authoritarian government.

    I would as always go further, too far for most: ALL benefits and entitlements, except for those injured in the line of duty, should be privatized or phased out – not overnight, I’m not quite a monster – but within a generation at most. If people starve, they starve, their problem unless someone volunteers to help. If there are dangerous idiots out there, they’ll still be some no matter what government does. A competent adult’s survival is their own responsibility alone, not society’s.

    1. Postagoras says:

      Gosh, government isn’t perfect? Right, but do you demolish your house if there’s a problem with the wiring?

      You’ve nurtured this fantasy while living in a society that believes the opposite. And you and your forebears have reaped the benefits of that society.

      I hope, for your sake, that you never have to live in your fantasy society. And someday, I hope you stop living in your fantasy.

    2. Your basic point is that “individuals have the freedom to be damnfool, even at risk of not only themselves but others, seems more important to me than the presumption that government should have the power to prevent this.” In short, you believe that personal freedom to harm others is paramount. You’re basing this on the assumption that the majority of individuals act rationally. The problem is that, more often than not, a large percentage don’t, and without laws and regulations, will indeed — and have historically — acted in ways that harm the majority.

      As Jefferson is reputed to have put it, if men were angels, there would be no need of laws. The problem is that they’re not. The real question is what laws are necessary and to what extent.

      1. R. Hamilton says:

        No amount of laws will eliminate harm caused by the irrational.

        The MOST restrictive solution tolerable (IMO) is a cost/benefit analysis, rather than the usual “if it saves even one life” propaganda. Every restriction intended to protect against harm has some risk of (granting benefit of the doubt) unintended side-effects that also do some harm.

        I’m certainly not saying have no laws at all. I’m saying don’t expect to fix everything, because the numbers of the irrational make that a losing proposition – they’ll always come up with new ways to do harmful things, whether foolishly or in the slightly longer-term irrationality of willfully criminal conduct. And each of those restrictions probably fails to allow for some useful exception that ought to exist.

        So let everyone that wishes to survive be smart enough and tough enough to function with a minimal set of laws, as in: don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t commit fraud, don’t violate a contract. Full stop. Yes, probably need a minimal amount of rules for water and air usage too, but not to the crazed save-the-planet level; that will (or won’t and if it won’t, we’re unfit as a species) happen with minimal interference as problems create marketable opportunities. With such a simple set of laws, there’d be zero need for domestic surveillance, or for executive discretion, all complaints could result in investigation and enforcement, with no worry that the “privileged” could get special breaks.

        Some simplifications: fraud is fraud, whether it’s in-person or online. Advancing technology has merely created variants, not really created that many new basic categories of crimes.

        I think that competent authoring of legislation (not to mention a separate body that reviews and repeals legislation, or at least standing committees to that end) so as to be applicable to variants of basic crimes and much less ambiguous rather than self-employment for lawyers (which most legislators are) by loading up on ambiguity, would do much do allow for a much simpler body of law.

        In other words, a lot of the dangerously irrational are big-government types, esp. in legislatures, but not limited to there.

        1. Hanna says:

          “I’m not quite a monster…”

          Not quite, I agree. Just another Republican party monster, warts and all.

          Your Fuhrer tRUMP, hath proved & supports it all the time so…

  2. Tom says:

    The problem with Liberty or Freedom appears to be pitting those who follow the concept put forward by Thomas Hobbes:

    “… a free man is he that in those things which by his strength and wit he is able to do is not hindered to do what he hath the will to do.”

    Ignoring John Locke’s opinion:

    “Persons have a right or liberty to (1) follow their own will in all things that the law has not prohibited and (2) not be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, and arbitrary wills of others.”

    And John Stuart Mill’s recognition of the difference between liberty as the freedom to act and liberty as the absence of coercion.

    This difference in “Liberty” continues to be misunderstood by those who wish to have liberty but to also enjoy the fruits of society in their town, county, state and the United States.

    Jacob M. Appel has summarized the principle which is (or was) possible in the US:

    “I am grateful that I have rights in the proverbial public square – but, as a practical matter, my most cherished rights are those that I possess in my bedroom and hospital room and death chamber. Most people are far more concerned that they can control their own bodies than they are about petitioning Congress.”

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