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Freedom and Liberty

December 1, 2009

These are two concepts that we need to be absolutely clear about or else the politicians will pull the wool over our eyes.

“Free” as an economic word means no cost.  If your mama didn’t tell you that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” or “if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is” then there is something missing in your education and you could be what swindlers call a “mark.”  Free as no cost is a chimera.

Free also means free to choose.  In this sense it becomes more of a political word and is synonymous with liberty, though especially economic liberty.

Liberty is the right to choose.  It’s not the right to do anything we please; liberty always has constraints.  In our republic, that constraint is the social contract embodied in the Constitution.  The Founders wrote the Constitution so that the constraints were the minimal necessary for an orderly society.  They tried once before in the Articles of Confederation and found that they had erred on the side of too much liberty.  So they added a little more control and gave it to a central government which before had been lacking.  People were so suspicious of it that they wouldn’t agree to it without a specific Bill of Rights.

There is also a moral dimension to liberty.  Our moral values and the morals of society at large also serve to constrain our choices.  This prevents liberty from becoming license.  License generally means the permission to do something.  Our moral sense as a people constrain us, not the government.

When government forces you to do something or prevents you from doing something, it takes away your liberty.  It takes away your freedom of choice–like forcing you to buy government health insurance, the so-called “public option.”

Make no mistake: to fail to understand that preserving our liberty is what the Constitution is all about is to risk losing both the Constitution and our liberty.

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