For over many years, men and states have been putting in place efforts to secure their freedom. Freedom is thus a precious situation without which individuals and the state cannot make any reasonable progress. Liberty is a phrase that has inspired people over the past to revolt and often the history of mankind is whole about liberty. French philosopher Rousseau just before the famous French revolution in 1789 declared that Humans are born free but is everywhere in chains. It is an ideology with a powerful touch where people would still opt to die. The word liberty was coined from the Latin word Liber which implies freedom. Hence the literal connotation of Liberty is doing whatever one desires. Over the years, the word liberty has been misinterpreted with different meanings. It’s only in the context of the society that liberty can be enjoyed. A famous sailor by the name Alexander Selkirk was exiled in a secluded island, thus denied liberty on the basis that no human society existed on the island. This paper attempts to demystify the meaning of liberty with definitions from various scholars as well as a personal opinion on its meaning.
Meaning of liberty
The Greeks thought of liberty as the suppression of a person to the confines of the law or simply the rule of law. Rousseau viewed liberty of a person as the ultimate identification with the sovereign will. Hobbes on the other hand defines liberty as the absence of restraint. Carter perceives liberty as the positive capacity or power of enjoying or doing something worth enjoying. Hamburger defines liberty as being left to oneself and that all restraint qua restrain is wrong. Marxist can view liberty as drifting away of the state and its establishments and a stateless society, anarchist, on the other hand, may only enjoy liberty in the absence of the state through encouraging nihilism, pluralists view liberty in the operations of different associations, and democrats only enjoy liberty within the decentralization of authority. My opinion is that liberty is the creation of an environment where everybody has an opportunity to be their best selves and respect to humanity.
From the definitions above, it’s clear that there are two sides of liberty positive and negative. If liberty denotes the absence of restraints it then implies a negative side of liberty. It assures outright freedom to human beings. On a positive side of liberty, the unconstrained opportunity is provided through legislation to every person for their personal development. Many democratic states recognize and accept the positive side of liberty as opposed to its negative side, as unrestrained and absolute freedom will trickle down to license. All individual actions are social as they affect society. Liberty thus implies the absence of tyrannical and unjust restrictions, the rights of persons to partake actions that do not harm others, the moral, legal and reasonable restraints on individual functions, it, therefore, does not mean the absence of all restrictions, it is to be afforded to all persons inequality without prejudice and it is an important recipe for personal development.
Types of Liberty
The idea of natural liberty was made famous by contractualists such as locks, Hobbes and Rousseau. The idea of liberty is natural to mankind and hence it is conceived with man. According to Rousseau men are born free implying that liberty is natural where it its absence a structured political society can never exist.
This is enjoyed in the capacity of an individual or man. The absence of civil liberty is likely to diminish the status of mankind to the stature of animals. Liberty is afforded by the state to its subjects or citizens in the form of a bill of rights such as the right to own property, right to life, liberty, freedom of speech, or freedom of movement.
This is enjoyed by individuals in their capacity as citizens. It enables people to associate themselves with the affairs of a state. It consists of the right to hold public offices, right to vote, right to petition, and right to canvas among others. For citizens to enjoy this liberty they need to be educated on their rights as well as given straightforward and honest information.
People enjoy economic liberties in their capacities as workers. This liberty was made famous by Karl Marx who advocated for the exploitation of an unrestrained society. It denotes the absence of job opportunities, unfair remuneration, exploitation, poor working conditions, or poor living conditions.
This means peoples self-rule. Each sovereign state has the right to rule itself. Implying the absence of colonialism and imperialism. Hence, when a state is created, it is established with a right to be sovereign and independent. States should be free from external interferences, exploitation, or marginalization.
Aside from these liberties, over time the idea of international liberty and internationalism has emerged where the globe is viewed as a family of nations. International liberty means the reunification of war, relinquishment of force as well as peaceful settlement of any international disputes, control, and regulation of the production of weapons of mass destruction, international cooperation, the coexistence of nation-states and peaceful world order.
Some authorities responsible for affording liberties have in some cases taken advantage of it to suppress certain rights that are not in line with their ambitions. This has led to various conflicts either between individuals and the state or a state versus another state or the international community. Liberty, therefore, involves the opportunity to grow to comprise of the capacity to act, availability of an effective range of spontaneity, and choices, such as the ability to conduct oneself in accordance with own personality. The true test to liberty is vested in the laws of a country and the extent to which those in power are committed to the constitution. Liberty is therefore a child of rights. It flourishes best where rights are afforded to all without discrimination on the basis of colour, gender, creed, or financial status.