Freedom vs Liberty

Freedom vs Liberty

Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, wrote:
  • "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Jefferson was careful not to use "freedom" loosely, instead consistently stressed "liberty" in his writings. In everyday language we regularly interchange freedom and liberty, but in a political context these two expressions are distinguished. Broadly speaking, "freedom" means being free (of everything), and "liberty" means being free to do (some) things. Jefferson believed that we are not free to do everything, but must be free from despotic oppression (by government); Hence "freedom of press" and "freedom of religion".

The terms "freedom" and "liberty" become especially complicated and contradictory when used in political contexts such as Classical Liberalism, Right-Libertarianism, Left-Libertarianism, Anarchism and Neoliberalism. They all take "liberty" as a core principle but differ on their understanding of "freedoms". For example, capitalist, pro-market, anti-government-regulation Libertarians in the United States endlessly rant about "corporate freedom" but do not really address potential environmental concerns, corporate tyranny or poverty - it's "freedom" for them and limited "rights", limited "liberty" for everyone else.

Some food for thought: "By age 23, up to 41 percent of American adolescents and young adults have been arrested at least once for something other than a minor traffic violation." ** Out of an adult population of about 250 million, almost 70 million have criminal records. And most, due to Criminal Background Checks for Employment are left out of the job market. But you have the "liberty" to "pursue" a job, and they have the "liberty" to reject you.
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