True Freedom Does Not Come Cheap
Those of us who have been brought up in a culture suffused with democratic and liberal values generally have little difficulty in grasping the meaning of negative freedom - “leave me alone to do what I want,” to put it crudely. Of course, the freedom from external interference, manipulation, or control, is and can never be absolute. For example, I am free to marry whomever I wish - provided they agree! - but I am not free to host a loud disco in my flat at 3am in the morning. In short, the freedom to do what we want is necessarily constrained by the rights, liberties, and well-being of others.
What we, children of liberal democracy, are often less primed to grasp is the other, more positive sense of freedom: the freedom to live a worthy and flourishing human life. This sort of freedom cannot be guaranteed by a constitution or law, because it depends not only on our freedom from tyranny, but also on our access to external opportunities for flourishing and our ability to exercise some degree of rational dominion over our own passions.
For example, I am not free to live a worthwhile and flourishing life if I am paralyzed by the fear of death, and that fear haunts me and plagues me wherever I go. That sort of inner freedom depends on the intimate sphere of the heart and mind, which is shaped by our own choices as well as the type of education we have received in the home, and the type of community we have the fortune or misfortune to live in. Clearly, laws can contribute to our personal safety. But they cannot guarantee freedom from fear.
One may be fortunate enough to be born into a society in which conventions and laws protect people from domination. That may be a civilisational achievement, but it is not necessarily a personal achievement. Positive freedom, on the other hand - the freedom to realise our full potential as human beings - never comes cheap.
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