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Freedom

In the United States we often think of the preamble to the Declaration of Independence when we think of freedom. It proclaims "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." It speaks of rights that we, as members of this society, claim for ourselves: a right to life itself, a right to liberty, and the right to pursue our own interests. Note that the word "free" in any form does not appear there, it is "liberty".

There is a tension between the rights of the individual and the demands of society. These are big issues: private ownership, women's right to choose, the role of government; these freedom-related issues are at the center of many current debates in our legislatures (and many disagreements in our various venues of social discourse). How much of my personal liberty am I willing to sacrifice in order to gain the benefits of living in society?

What Does It Mean To Be Free?

We often think of freedom as being the opposite of slavery: that one can choose what sort of work to do, when and how to do it, and for whom. (If work is the effort required to survive, is there any implication that it would ever be done for the benefit of another?)

This implies that any benefits derived from my labor must be under my control.

By extension, I have no right to or claim upon the products of another's labor. There, now I've arrived at one of the core principles of libertarianism.

[Libertarianism] at "Internet Encylopedia of Philosophy"

The Nature Of Work

"Work" is that collection of activities which enables survival.

In primitive conditions or in social isolation it speaks of those activities required to ensure survival: gathering food and water and finding shelter. In social environments some portions of these activities may be conducted in cooperation with others for mutual benefit. The rules that govern the cooperation are negotiated by the parties involved (because they are each free persons).

Does A Person Have A Right To Solitary Survival?

Given that survival of the species is dependent upon survival and interaction of multiple individuals, can we claim a personal right to survival (upon which the claim of a right to freedom depends)? Is there rather only a duty to work toward the survival of the social unit?

How far would such a duty extend? The basic social unit is a family. Do the duties of cooperative work toward common survival extend to larger social units (tribes or clans, villages, states, etc.)? Does the freedom postulated for the individual above apply only to the social unit?

Can we even claim such a duty at all? If every individual is free, is it sufficient for survival of the species if individuals mate freely with no duty imposed upon either partner toward the survival of the other or of any offspring. This is a pattern seen in other species.

How Do We Decide?

More free? or less free? Smoking, credit purchases, join club or church, accept new job. Do we have a right to privacy?

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