Freedom comes with limitations

The week leading up to Independence Day made it glaringly obvious to me that few people today really know what freedom means. Sure, they know and use the word, but it is something like the word relativity to them: Something they have heard of and that they might think they understand because of how others have explained it to them.

Often that explanation is in error.

Few are so completely clueless that they believe, as former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is quoted as saying in a speech in March 1994, that “freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.” He would want his subjects to believe that, of course, but he was wrong.

Freedom means doing what you want to do. Nothing more and nothing less. That can be good or bad, depending on what it is you want to do. There is a responsibility that goes along with freedom.

You have a right to exercise your freedom, but only within certain limits. You have no right to harm people who are not harming you and no right to violate their property rights. If, by exercising your freedom or by doing your job, you step outside these bounds, your freedom — your action — is in the wrong. As long as you operate within this constraint, your actions are not subject to another’s wishes, opinions, edicts, or whims. No matter what they may tell you in an attempt to justify violating your liberty.

The question is, are you free to do anything you want that doesn’t cause physical harm to someone else and doesn’t steal from others or damage their property? If not, why not?

If someone or something interferes with your ability to do what you want, limited only by the condition that you not harm others, no matter the justification used, they are not advancing freedom, but are an enemy of freedom. Those enemies of freedom are what we should be commemorating our independence from, not only on July 4th but throughout the year.