There is a huge misunderstanding about the nature of freedom. In particular, this misunderstanding extends to the nature of economic freedom and the role of government to regulate mankind. These are the epic issues, not only of our time but of all time. These are the primordial struggles which man has faced since he emerged from the cave.
These struggles have summoned our greatest ideas, our greatest thinking and our greatest contributions to the fundamental questions of why we are here. Sometimes we call this work philosophy, sometimes economics, and sometimes it is far broader than both of these. The truth is that we are always standing at the cross roads on these questions. The barons of thirteenth century England stood at the cross roads when they presented King John with Magna Carta. So did the American founding fathers when they wrote that man had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Freedom is a difficult concept, one that is not only worth fighting for every day, but one that is so prone to being overcome by coercive government power that it must be defended with commitment, resolution and knowledge. It is a fragile and cherished thing then, this freedom – a wrong turn and it is easily lost. Liberty, a word that describes what freedom means so well is so often abused that we have all but lost a hold on how fundamental and important a concept it is. You cannot have liberty, unless you restrain the powers that impinge on liberty. And you must understand that liberty is a uniquely individual concept. Liberty means nothing except when it is applied to the individual.
The forces that curtail individual liberty are the collective power of other men. When these men abstract for themselves coercive police power in the form of a government, the exercise of that power contains an inherent danger. But man is a fallen creature, and with no government over him, it is inevitable that he will degenerate into a collection of sins, or violent actions. Hobbes, at least in respect of this aspect was correct. Government of some kind is needed. Thomas More’s vision of Utopia is an illusion.
The question is what kind of government that should be. What is its role?