“Man if born free, but everywhere he is in chains.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau writing in Social Contract.
The story of world history is essentially between freedom and slavery. Slavery has plagued humanity since ancient times. Unfortunately, slavery has been more common than liberty throughout the ages.
In my previous post, I spoke about the importance of liberal democracies in the world for more peace, prosperity, and global security. But where does freedom come from? What does it mean to be free?
PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM
John Locke argues humans are free, independent, and equal in their natural state. Therefore, Thomas Jefferson deduced individuals have “inalienable rights” as he wrote in the opening of The Declaration of Independence. Rights do not depend on a government, but are part of every human.
A central thesis of his freedom philosophy rested upon private property for the individual. He lauded freedom of the press also so people could express their inner thoughts to a mass audience.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau adds more color to the concept of freedom by advocating a voluntary social contract among individuals to form a civil society from Locke’s state of nature. He argues the resulting government led by the sovereign is more just and can offer more protection for private property.
Finally, Baron de Montesquieu contributes the idea of de-centralized power to the discussion on liberty. He advocated ordered liberty – following the law to promote greater safety. Highly centralized power in the hands of a sovereign in tyranny.
Locke, Rousseau, and Montesquieu wanted pluralism, protection of individual rights, and a not-so-powerful sovereign to lead.
STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM
The recent titanic struggle for freedom occurred during the Cold War between the United States and its allies versus the ex-Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.
Václav Havel, and Lech Wałęsa championed peaceful resistance to communist rule in their struggle for freedom in Czechoslovakia and Poland, respectively, during the Cold War. Many more steadfastly fought tyranny and risked their lives to triumph over its evil.
Though controversial in many elite Western circles, then US President Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” crack at the ex-Soviet Union animated many political prisoners rotting in Eastern European jails.
The battle against freedom is never won. Evil has been a part of humanity from its beginning. Only through eternal vigilance can the natural yearning for freedom triumph and global security endure.