Liberty is what individuals have when they are able to peacefully pursue, nurture, and make independent decisions about personal, family, voluntary, and commercial interests and relationships. In defining individual liberty, Benjamin Constant, the French classical liberal, said: “…it is the right…to be neither arrested, detained, put to death or maltreated in any way by the arbitrary will of one or more individuals. It is the right of everyone to express their opinion, choose a profession and practice it, dispose of property, and even to abuse it; to come and go without permission, and without having to account for motives or undertakings. It is everyone’s right to associate with other individuals, either to discuss their interests, or to profess the religion which they and their associates prefer, or even simply to occupy their days or hours in a way which is most compatible with their inclinations and whims.”
In America we are slowly but surely losing our individual liberty as big government controls more and more aspects of our lives. This is a dangerous trend because without individual liberty there is no freedom, which is why my co-author, Archie Jones, and I made fighting for individual liberty Rule #4 in our new book, Rules for Conservative Radicals available at www.patriotdepot.com.
The statist and socialist policies advocated by Barack Obama and his fellow liberals are antithetical to individual liberty. In a socialist environment the individual’s liberty is subjugated to the state and his status, standing, and stature are all determined by his relative position within the political order. In other words, in a socialist system the individual has only as much liberty as the state allows him. A nation cannot have a civil society without individual liberty.
Because leftwing policies and practices continue to move America inexorably toward socialism and the corresponding loss of individual liberty, it is important for conservatives to fight to maintain individual liberty in America and to be able to articulate the benefits of individual liberty.
Writing for FREEDOM DAILY, Richard Ebeling lists the following benefits of individual liberty:
Allows people to shape their own destinies, manage their own lives, and pursue their own dreams unencumbered by government interference.
Allows people to enter into contracts, exchanges, and interactions of their own free will and to set the parameters of those interactions so that both benefit. Exchanges between individuals who have the benefit of liberty can be win-win exchanges, whereas exchanges directed, controlled, or manipulated by the government tend to be win-lose or lose-lose exchanges.
Allows people to freely and voluntarily enter into associations and relationships of mutual interest such as religious and church activities, cultural associations, clubs, professional organizations, and charitable groups without requiring the approval of government.
Allows what Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek called the “spontaneous social order” to develop. The social order in a free society is spontaneous because people form their associations—whether in church, professional organizations, cultural groups, clubs, or charitable groups—voluntarily rather than by government coercion. Socialism does not allow for the development of a spontaneous social order. Rather, the ways in which people form associations are designed, planned, and controlled by the government. For example, after Hitler’s National Socialist Party (Nazis) took control in Germany prior to World War II, membership in the Nazi Party was a prerequisite to securing a good job, decent housing, and other amenities of life.
It is the antithesis of the collective tyranny associated with statism and socialism where the state, not the individual, is paramount.
With individual liberty, we—individual Americans—make our own decisions about our lives. With socialism—the antithesis of individual liberty—government makes our decisions for us. Take a moment and review your daily life. How many of your decisions are dictated or at least influenced by the coercive power of government?
As Americans, we have already lost much of our individual liberty. For a more in-depth treatment of this topic, see the book Rules for Conservative Radicals available at Patriot Depot