Freedom (political)

From Academic Kids

Freedom is the right, or the capacity, of self-determination, as an expression of the individual will.


History of political freedom

Some philosophers have distinguished two senses of the word "freedom". One use is the "negative freedom", which is defined as the absence of constraint. According to Hobbes, for example, one is free when the law is silent on a subject. But "freedom" is also used in another, "positive" sense, where freedom is defined as the ability to transcend the social and cultural conditions which limit the potential of the individual for self-actualization - or, in simpler terms, the ability to take certain actions according to one's own will.

Among others, Isaiah Berlin examined the difference between these two views of freedom in his 1958 essay Two Concepts of Liberty.

One of the most notable contributors to the modern conception of political freedom is 19th Century English philosopher John Stuart Mill who, in his magnus opus On Liberty, outlines several freedoms which were deficient in Victorian Britain. He largely bases his political philosophy on the harm principle - which basically demands that people be allowed do as they will unless someone is harmed (physically).

Forms of freedom

Another common distinction made between kinds of freedom is the difference between "freedom from" social and political ills (which, some argue, is really more accurately described as safety or security), and "freedom to" do what one wants (for which some consider the term "liberty" more precise).

Political freedom is often connected to thoughts of civil liberties and human rights, and so the fundamental ideas of positive and negative freedom inform the corollary debate over positive and negative rights.

In most democratic societies, key freedoms legally protected by the government include:

Many nations have specific chapters of their constitutions which codify these freedoms in a bill of rights.

The concept of what constitutes true "freedom" is often disputed by different groups on the political spectrum. For example, in right-wing libertarianism (i.e., libertarianism as it is understood in Britain and the United States; see libertarian socialism for libertarianism as it is understood in most of the rest of the world), freedom is defined in terms of lack of government interference; in particular, capitalists place a high value on freedom from government interference in the economy. This kind of freedom may be referred to as a kind of negative liberty.

Those on the political Left, on the other hand, place more emphasis on freedom as the ability of the individual to realize one's own potential and pursue happiness. Freedom in this sense may include freedom from want, poverty, deprivation, or oppression. These kinds of freedom may be referred to as positive liberty.

Many anarchists see negative and positive liberty as complementary concepts of freedom.

Environmentalists such as the Greens often argue that political freedoms should include some social constraint on use of ecosystems. They maintain there is no such thing, for instance, as "freedom to pollute" or "freedom to deforest" given the downstream consequences. The popularity of SUVs, golf, and urban sprawl has been used as evidence that some ideas of freedom and ecological conservation can clash. This leads at times to serious confrontations and clashes of values reflected in advertising campaigns, e.g. that of PETA regarding fur.

In jurisprudence, freedom is the right of autonomously determining one's own actions; generally it is granted in those fields in which the subject has no obligations to fulfil or laws to obey, according to the interpretation that the hypothetical natural unlimited freedom is limited by the law for some matters.

Recent Trends in World Freedom

During the 20th century, there was a dramatic growth in democracy, especially among the more developed countries, and decline in monarchy and colonialism. There was also, unfortunately, an increase in authoritarian regimes, and currently, 33 percent of people in less developed countries are living in countries with authoritarian regimes.

In the last several decades, there has only been moderate growth in freedom, and in 2000, about 40% of people in less developed countries still lived in countries that were not free.

Sayings on freedom

  • "Eλευθερος γ θανατος" (Freedom or Death!)
    Cretan War cry.
  • "Give me Liberty or give me Death!"
    Patrick Henry

External links

fr:libert sv:Frihet zh:自由 (政治)


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