One of the most pivotal figures in the development of Western philosophy, Plato, once defined freedom as, “the ability to comport with the good willingly and rationally, uninhibited by unruly desires or external force.”
A thousand years after Plato, Christian scholars such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas held similar views, considering freedom to mean that the people were free from influence in order to pursue what as morally and ethically good.
These early views, the virtue of freedom was that it allowed for one to pursue goodness as being the highest virtue in one’s life. However, if one desired to pursue wickedness, this was not considered to be something representative of freedom. Essentially, freedom should never supersede the pursuit of righteousness.
Ultimately, there would be a shift in how people defined freedom, in the 1600’s with the emergence of what would become the liberal school of political thought.
In the 17th century, the grandfather of Western liberalism, Thomas Hobbes, proposed that “good” was universally an indefinable concept because what is good is relative to each person’s view. This system of beliefs would usher in a political and social view that held that having the diversity of thought was in itself virtuous.
A great number of contemporary Americans might be surprised to know that the modern views on U.S. constitutional rights are indeed constructs of liberal thinking. In fact, the idea of freedom of speech is directly out of the playbook of the forefathers of liberalism; men such as Thomas Hobbes or John Locke.
I’m not saying that to try to irritate or initiate an argument with anyone who is conservatively minded. Rather, this is an inarguable fact. The idea that one should have absolute impunity in speech is the epitome of demonstrating virtuousness through diversity.
In fact, prior to the 1650’s, the entire world’s population would have considered it to be unthinkable to allow people to march and chant the slogans of a foreign enemy, on one's own national soil, after having once gone to war in order to eradicate this enemy's way of life.
However, today there is a great number of Americans who are willing to fight and die in order to defend and protect the right for Nazis to do just that in the United States.
This is beyond a doubt one of the most significant examples of American acceptance of classical-liberalism, and a rejection of orthodox-pre-1650’s conservative thought. In fact, the classical-conservative view would have been consistent with saying that any person chanting or promoting Nazism should be rounded up and arrested because the freedom of speech should never supersede the righteousness of speech.
In truth, there is no such thing as devout conservatives or liberals in America. At least, not by the true definitions of these political schools of thought. Instead, the overwhelming majority of Americans political thoughts are a confederation of piecemealed beliefs from both partisan tenants, put together in a way that has a more Left or Right flavor in modern society.
There is a very novel belief in contemporary America that the Founding Fathers established America on the basis that the people should have the right to be free and unmolested by the government.
In all fairness, this concept may have been the prevailing theme at the onset; however, a house built on the “power to the people” was a house of cards, that rather quickly tumbled.
It took all of three years after the initial adoption of the first ten amendments, for the United States to add the eleventh amendment- a constitutional law that extended sovereign immunity from not only the federal government but to individuals states as well.
This meant that the government couldn't be held liable unless it chooses to waive its sovereign immunity and consents to being judged on the basis of fault.
Interestingly, the government’s view that it is beyond reproach from the legal system is NOT a principle mentioned in the original United States Constitution. Rather, the courts have acknowledged it is a recognized principle originating from English common law.
Remarkably, in a nation that prides itself in being the epitome of freedom, the government’s ability to say, “I’m not bound by the law because I am the law” has been accepted as a self-evident truth by Americans for the last 223 years.
With this very verifiable historical fact in mind, I now ask one to consider their own views of their constitutional rights. For the sake of argument let’s take a look at the Second Amendment.
Now, many a person’s modern views on the Second Amendment is that it was written with the intention of providing American citizens the protection from their government becoming tyrannical and imposing its will upon them.
If you have this interpretation, let me ask you why?
Is it based on personal objective examination of, not only the entire climate of early America but also on legitimate actionable ability in modern-day America?
Or is this belief based on something you were told early in childhood from a parent, teacher, or maybe society as a whole?
If you engage in true introspection and examination, do you truly find this concept to be true if you examine the objective evidence?
If your answer is yes, than how do you account for the fact that three years after the Second Amendment was written, the United States government strengthened its superiority over the people?
In a nation full of Revolutionary War veterans, granted not only the protected right to weaponry but also morally obligated them to stand up to a government that restricted the freedoms of the people… and what? Everyone said, “Ohh shucks! We had a good three years. It was nice while it lasted.”
Could it be that even 200 years ago, the people didn’t believe they were entitled to unequivocal freedom and accepted, the government is the law, and therefore the government is above the law
Examining this same belief in the inalienable right to bear arms on the basis it provides the people some degree of control over their governance, how exactly do you account for the fact that the United States government’s military power is so vastly superior to that of an American citizen? Short of God coming down and reenacting David slaying Goliath, it is fundamentally impossible for the American people to actually stop their government through violent confrontation.
Ultimately, my point is that people in America don’t have the right to unequivocal freedom now because we've never had it in the first place.
What most Americans consider as their principled sense of freedom today, is merely the Americana that came from the 17th-century liberal shift on how freedom is defined.
Contemporarily freedom is considered as an end in itself, and not as a means to an end. As a result, the concept of freedom has become regarded as if it is a commodity or intrinsic good. In fact, in America, the “ownership” of freedom is considered the highest good one can have. Ultimately, these views are right out of Thomas Hobbes’ tenants of liberalism.
Now, that isn't to say we don't add our own American flavor to the early liberal view of freedom. In fact, our Americana belief of freedom comes from how we view every other intrinsic or consumer good.
The more freedom we can get, the better off we all are.
The concept that freedom is synonymous with goodness means that Americans suddenly feel that any constraint placed upon them is representative of something bad. In fact, if freedom is viewed as the commodity of good, then any limitation is viewed as being a construct of some American Satan and means the deprivation of one’s ability to be good.
This is why the mere thought of one not being able to own a modification that allows a semi-automatic rifle function as a fully-automatic rifle is considered an intolerable and suffocating world to be forced to live in. Equally, this is why people attach their First Amendment freedom of speech vastly beyond the actual legal area of protection.
Essentially, as alarming as this may seem to some people, social media is not your inalienable right to use, nor do you have the protected freedoms to say whatever you. In fact, as a publicly traded company, if Facebook wanted to suddenly ban every single person who liked the Dallas Cowboys from their platform, they would be well within their legal authority to do so.
The reason this may confound some Americans is a result of the modern assumption that our constitution and establishment came about because of our Fore Fathers throwing a ring into the volcano at Mount Doom in Sauron’s land of Mordor in order to ensure that Americans had boundless freedoms for all time.
Ultimately, was is neither true then, nor is it true today.
Eventually, the most significant obstacle in American society today is that the liberal view of freedom has been allowed the nation to run amuck and the nation lacks any semblance of true principled good it desires to be.
In turn, America has become inundated with the belief that freedom equates to goodness while successfully removing what is fundamentally good from the equation.
No longer is the sentiment of what is being said taken into account in regards to what is good. Rather, the freedom for people to say it represents the goodness.
Consider that for a moment. We defend the right for people to publicly advocate a system of beliefs that encouraged and facilitated genocide, torturer and mass murder of millions of people during the 1940’s in Europe; and then we consider the highest good we can achieve is to say, “I don’t agree with them, but damn, I sure am proud they have the freedom to say it!”
Think about that for a moment. We have all adopted the belief that our value of freedom is based on other’s ability to advocate bigoted views of reducing freedom and life.
Now, the common counter-argument to this is, “Well the moment we start restricting free speech is a slippery slope that can ultimately lead to the loss of freedoms.”
Let’s be honest here. When one says that, I’m going to assume they do not desire the freedom to support Nazism themselves. Instead, what one is really saying is that any reduction in freedom as an intrinsic good could mean that they could end up losing something some day.
Now this view in and of itself is an illogical and dystonic to the modern definition of freedom as a consumable good.
Well, when Pepsi stopped manufacturing and selling Crystal Pepsi, the entire brand did not collapse into oblivion, much less did soda as a whole.
More importantly, the American people DO NOT have unequivocal free speech as it is.
The issue of what determines what manner of speech is or isn’t free in America has nothing to do with the goodness it provides society as a whole. Instead, it is how threatening it is to the body of government. So long as the entire body of government is good, the people within it can eat cake.
If a white supremacist group wants to parade around advocating hate against minorities… Meh… that’s fine. If the views supported by this white supremacist group inspires Dylann Roof to murder nine African Americans inside a church… Hey! Just the cost of having a free society right?
Well maybe so, provide that belief was even-steven for everyone. However, try and set up a table in your local public park recruiting people to join ISIS and take up arms against the American government and see what happens.
“And that was the last time anyone saw Johnny…” will be the ending line of your autobiography.
To put this in perspective, if a group is an advocate of hate against an entire racial demographics of people, inspiring mass murder, and causing that entire racial demographic to be fearful even when they attend church… That’s just the cost of doing business in a free and open society. The fact that this freedom is not good for society is irrelevant.
However, if a group is an advocate of hate against the entire American government, inspiring mass murder as a means to destabilize the government, or God-forbid makes the government a little fearful… we will pursue you to the ends of the earth to kill you, your children, and your children’s children… This is called “protecting freedom.”
Essentially, freedom in terms of what is good for the government and what is good for society, have two vastly different meanings.
The cruel truth for modern Americans to accept is that the current view of freedom is a contradiction to the initial American beliefs in freedom.
Going back to the Second Amendment, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Notice, in this statement the framers of the constitution DID balance the greater good and freedom. In fact, the entire amendment is based on the principled belief of upholding the greater good by placing security and safety as being the pinnacle reason for the right to bear arms.
By the very clearly expressed intent of the Second Amendment, safety and security is priority number one, freedom to bear arms is merely the vessel to achieve it. However, if the right to bear arms infringes on the safety and security of the people, then suddenly what is the great good is no longer at the top of the hierarchical structure. Essentially, the national sentiment becomes contradictory to the principled character of America and the balance of goodness and freedom.
Additionally, freedom exclusive of what is morally good isn’t conducive to social sustainability.
If freedom means that society is free to be as good or as evil as it desires, the results are, good people in a nation end up constantly being victimized by the evil people. Then in like gluttons for punishment, demand that people can continue to be as evil as they want so they can victimize them again.
At the end of the day, is the fundamental desires of Republicans and Democrats that drastically different? Is there truly a great difference of opinion among people that freedom should mean individuals are unrestrained from being able to move humanity towards an existence that represents all that is good in life?
This isn't about existing in a fascist or communist political system, in which the government controls the direction of the people. Rather, it is the fact that the government and society as a whole should have some clearly defined sense of what represents goodness in life and then be free to pursue it through their own individual paths.
Personally, I believe that the pinnacle of all human pursuits should be striving to arrive at a place of goodness and universal peace amongst people. In order to actually achieve this, it means that freedom can never supersede the greater good. Instead, freedom must be considered as a vessel that facilitates travel towards good. If not, the mere act of free travel becomes what is good, regardless of the direction it is headed.
Anything that inspires a direction away from the greater good of humanity should not be considered to be synonymous with freedom. Principally, because it is representative of restraining humanity’s ability to live long successful lives, where individuals are encouraged to be virtuous and educated, in order have a greater understanding towards fostering a meaningful peaceful existence.
The problems America faces today are not from a lack of freedoms. Rather, America feels like a polarized powder key of emotion because we have become entangled by a limitless number of paths, of which very few end in liberty for the pursuit of greatness.
You cannot extract the pursuit of greatness from liberty, because the moment you do, you are an organization with no defined direction, goals, or mission statement. Most importantly, if we don’t wake up and decide that our liberty will be in the pursuit of greatness, we may one day discover that we have freely pursued our own destruction.
With that said, I will leave you with one last thing to consider.
On March 23, 1775, at the Second Virginia Convention at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, Patrick Henry famously said, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
Two-hundred and forty-two years later, if we continue to decide we will no longer pursue liberty exclusive of greatness, then we will only be left with our own deaths.