Sunday, December 10, 2006
Lībertās = Freedom plus Responsibility
The thing about our children is that it is hard to deny their humanity, their person-hood, their fundamental identity with us. It would be difficult to demonize a child and alienate it from its parents. That is the meaning of children is it not? Continuation of the self. To accept that your child has the same existential life-force as yourself is an instinctual and necessary condition for the continuation of the species. But to grasp that sameness intellectually is only the beginning. What happens if your child is wedded your enemy and has your grand children, then by extension your grandchild is your equal, and it can be inferred that your enemy is too. As are your parents, siblings, and their mates and offspring. The ultimate outcome of this line of thought is self evident.
It is my belief that this is the meaning Thomas Jefferson was using when he wrote in the American Declaration of Independence that "All men are created equal ... with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Thus, I think of liberty not as just some petty freedom to do what I choose, or freedom from repression by others, but as a combination of individual rights and responsibilities within society. Each of us is sovergin.
Liberalism is an ideology, philosophical view, and political tradition which holds that liberty is the primary political value. Liberalism has its roots in the Western Age of Enlightenment. Broadly speaking, liberalism emphasizes individual rights. It seeks a society characterized by freedom of thought for individuals, limitations on power (especially of government and religion), the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a market economy that supports free private enterprise, and a transparent system of government in which the rights of all citizens are protected. In modern society, liberals favor a liberal democracy with open and fair elections, where all citizens have equal rights by law and an equal opportunity to succeed. Liberalism rejected many foundational assumptions which dominated most earlier theories of government, such as the Divine Right of Kings, hereditary status, and established religion. Fundamental human rights that all liberals support include the right to life, liberty, and property. A broader use of the term liberalism is in the context of liberal democracy (see also constitutionalism). In this sense of the word, it refers to a democracy in which the powers of government are limited and the rights of citizens are legally defined; this applies to nearly all Western democracies. Liberalism also emphasizes equality of opportunity, and not equality of outcome, citing the desire for a meritocracy.
Political liberalism is the belief that individuals are the basis of law and society, and that society and its institutions exist to further the ends of individuals, without showing favor to those of higher social rank. Magna Carta is an example of a political document that asserted the rights of individuals even above the prerogatives of monarchs. Political liberalism stresses the social contract, under which citizens make the laws and agree to abide by those laws. It is based on the belief that individuals know best what is best for them. Political liberalism enfranchises all adult citizens regardless of sex, race, or economic status. Political liberalism emphasizes the rule of law and supports liberal democracy.
The impact of liberalism on the modern world is profound. The ideas of individual liberties, personal dignity, free expression, religious tolerance, private property, universal human rights, transparency of government, limitations on government power, popular sovereignty, national self-determination, privacy, "enlightened" and "rational" policy, the rule of law, fundamental equality, a free market economy, and free trade were all radical notions some 250 years ago.