Liberty is immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority. There are various dimensions to liberty. In the United States the dominant political parties are both guilty of abridging our liberties in the name of what cause or crisis they find convenient or expedient. The culture of liberty is not something that can be readily acquired in a given society. Liberty walks hand in hand with responsibility. Freedom to do as one pleases, unchained from facing the consequences of ones choices, actions and inactions, is the path from civil society back to savagery. A culture in which liberty is appreciated and exercised may require generations to develop. Such a culture is certainly not something that can be established in an election cycle.
The only freedom that a government cannot wrest from the citizenry is the freedom to think as it sees fit. All other freedoms or liberties or rights can be taken from the people if the state is willing to apply the force required to deny the people the exercise of their liberties. The freedoms and prerogatives belonging to the people can also be removed by guile in lieu of naked force. Even what is right and wrong can be made subject to the interest of the state. Such has happened in the past, and nothing in the human heart has changed enough to prevent it from happening in the future.
For example, in the United States the dominant political parties are both guilty of abridging the liberties of the citizenry in the name of security. Both parties voted for the ‘Patriot Act’. Both parties have in the name of “public safety” made it possible for citizens to be subject to arbitrary surveillance, interrogation, detention and search. The fourth amendment was written to protect the private citizen from just such demonstrations of power by the state. It has instead become a pitiful battle cry used to justify abortion as a means of birth control used in lieu of responsible contraception.
In the name of “public safety” the state now argues that tracking the movement’s of individuals using their cell phones does not require a warrant. “Public safety” spawned the war on drugs and currently has incarcerated two million people. Most are non-violent offenders whose only crime was possession, who only become further criminalized by their experience in prison. In many jurisdictions modern blue laws outlaw smoking in public spaces. In the name of “public safety” our right to self defense is being eroded by the state in a sustained campaign of misinformation echoed by a fourth estate that has been transformed from guard dog of the republic to megaphone of the party in power.
We as a whole are far less free today than we were sixty years ago, even when segregation’s evils are accounted for. We are on a trajectory away from a society based on Liberty, where freedom is balanced by responsibility, ruled by laws, to a society based on security – claiming as its birth right safety from danger and want – governed by the whims of rulers. Such a society will see neither liberty nor security. Such a society will resemble the tyrannies of old, for nothing in the human heart has changed enough to prevent such a tyranny from happening again in the future.