The 6 Basic Foundations of Liberty

In his essay On Recapturing Liberty, written in 1979, Ridgway K. Foley Jr. writes the following:

Personal Freedom. The doctrine of personal freedom forms the touchstone for any study of the philosophy of liberty. Freedom means naught without individual liberty of action and freedom of choice. Talk of social or group freedom descends into meaninglessness: Such phrases merely provide a euphemism for coerced action substituting the subjective values of the leaders, or those enjoying power, in place of the value preferences of individual actors. The essence of personal freedom resides in the major premise that it is both morally propitious and pragmatically efficacious that each individual human being remain able to seek his own destiny without the aggressive intervention of mankind.

Individual Responsibility. The concept of individual responsibility refers to the reverse side of the “personal freedom” token: One cannot exhibit meaningful freedom unless he remains ever willing to abide by the natural consequences of his choice freely exercised. We inhabit a world where action produces consequence by the inexorable grinding of natural law. Individual responsibility marks the willingness and ability of the actor to accept the results of his acts rather than shunting the consequences onto the shoulders of his neighbors who did not make the choice in the first instance.

Private Property. One who accepts the premise of a personal right to free choice and action must logically and necessarily defend the concept of private property against its many and varied invaders. A right to live one’s life apart from the aggression of others rationally includes the right to produce, maintain, and transfer all value created, whether in the form of goods, services or ideas. One repetitive aberration in the modern world concerns the person who decries state-imposed theology while applauding governmental regulation of productive pursuits. Freedom of speech, of religion, of press, and of association mean little where individuals or groups, by legally-sanctioned power, can control meeting houses, newsprint, sound trucks and billboards.

Market Economy. Again, both moral and material reasons support the voluntary exchange or market system of transfer: Such an institution produces more and better goods, services and ideas at a lower cost, and such a system harmonizes with the fundamental doctrines of personal freedom, individual responsibility, and private property; they thrive in no other garden. Whether mislabelled “free market,” “free trade,” or “free enterprise,” the market economy imposes no limitations upon the nonaggressive transfer of created value between willing individuals and groups.

Limited Government. The theory of limited government lends political support to the economic doctrine of a voluntary market. In order to effect a society which displays personal freedom, individual responsibility, private property and a market system of exchange, certain governmental preconditions must exist. On the one hand, the state must not impose strictures upon free nonaggressive action, be it in the form of regulation, taxation, subsidies, rules or orders, for to do so would amount to a denial of the tenets stated. On the other hand, the state must exert some force and apply some sanction, in its role as the repository of community power, lest the baleful nature of mankind discussed in the first section of this article take precedence. Community action must tread deftly between the quagmire of restraint and the nightmare of anarchy. The proper role of the state rests in the restriction and punishment of initially-aggressive human action—the prevention of force and fraud—and in the peaceful settlement of otherwise insoluble disputes between citizens by means of orderly and established rules of law.

Subsidiarity. Finally, the doctrine of subsidiarity provides a means of governmental decision-making appropriate to the limited government idea. Subsidiarity merely refers to the normative rule that no higher or more general organ of government will issue a rule or determine an order when the same task can be accomplished by a lower and more specialized form of government. The limited government theory presupposes that the state which governs least, governs best, while subsidiarity expresses the proposition that the government nearest the affected society, governs best, in regard to those matters which deserve state attention.”

To read the entire essay click here, http://www.thefreemanonline.org/features/on-recapturing-liberty.

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