Saturday, July 5, 2014

Freedom Versus Liberty

I'm a law and order kind of guy. I mean I write novels in which a guy catches bad guys and protects the weak from the scary. But I'm also a liberty guy. Notice I didn't say freedom. I'm not a political writer--I think the last place that it's helpful to get political is with a bunch of strangers on the interwebs. And I'm also not prone to deep discussions of philosophy in this venue. I mean I guess I do wax philosophical from time to time, but that's light-weight stuff compared to discussion of the nuanced differences between freedom and liberty.

Depending on who you ask and what definition you read, freedom--true freedom--is totally without constraints. It's doing and saying whatever you want whenever you want without worrying about the consequences. I'm not a fan of that. What I'm a huge fan of is liberty. Liberty is freedom within reasonable limits. With liberty, I'm free to do and say whatever I want right up until I do real harm to your person or liberty. That's what our country is supposed to be about.

The reason I bring this up is the boneheads who live across the street from me. They don't understand the concept of freedom versus liberty. Yeah, it's against the law to set off fireworks in the middle of town. But my sense of liberty is that as long as they're not hurting me or anyone but themselves, that's pretty much none of my business. If they blow themselves up, they are free to be idiots. When that liberty became freedom, however, therefore meaning I needed to intercede was when they decided that, rather than fire their bottle rockets straight up, it would be more fun to use passing cars for target practice. And that not being enough, they decided that they needed to pull out the heavy artillery. I don't know exactly what they were lobbing out into the streets, but after what sounded like the second bomb went off just outside my house, I ran to the front door to discover that whatever had just exploded had been thrown in front of a passing car, making it slam on its brakes and probably causing its driver to wet him/herself.

That, my friends, is the difference between freedom and liberty. Their right to celebrate the Fourth of July ends when they start actually causing harm to the liberty and safety of others. I'm not trying to be a buzzkill here. You want to blow your entire hand off with an M80 and don't mind being called Ol' Stumpy the rest of your life, more power to you. I'll never call the cops on you for letting off some fireworks, especially on Independence Day. But you don't have the right to inflict that fun onto innocent bystanders or passers by. If we could all just keep that in mind as we live our lives, our country would be a lot nicer place.

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