It is often assumed that freedom is good.
So if freedom is good, more freedom must be better.
But as a Traditional Conservative I feel very uneasy about this assumption. It is however an assumption that seems built into modern society, an assumption that underpins Liberalism and the lives we live.
Liberalism believes in absolute freedom, in economics (free trade, the free flow of capital and of labour) and in society (freedom of speech, the press and religion) and of the individual (sexual freedom, freedom to choose, freedom to travel, the freedom to be free from obligations). This absolute freedom says that everyone and everything should be free to choose their own direction and way in life. It is a logical extension of Liberalism and it is entirely consistent with both its theory and practice. However if you asked the average person what freedom was they would probably answer along the lines that freedom is being able to do whatever you want.
If that is correct and I believe it is, then what happens when I decide to murder my enemies? Is that a crime? And if it is, isn't that defining and restricting my freedom? Liberalism has an answer to that, it says that you are free to do as you please as long as it doesn't interfere with the freedom of others. It is a logical and even reasonable qualification, however it isn't consistent. How can someone who is absolutely free have restrictions put upon that freedom?
Here is what Conservative's have come to call the Unprincipled Exception, whereby Liberalism proclaims a universal principle and then makes an exception to it. As Meatloaf said "I'll do anything for love, but I won't do that!". Anything isn't as absolute as it is first implied to be, neither it seems is freedom. However it doesn't change the fact that it is inconsistent and that means that they can use two opposite arguments to advance their cause. First they can argue that they support freedom and more of it, implying that there are no limits. Then they can argue that they don't support people doing just anything they want, of course with freedom comes responsibility. The two arguments are at cross purposes, but the aim is not to be consistent, it is to be all things to all people.
Conservatives have always accepted that freedom is not unlimited, that freedom requires things from us at the same time that we are receiving things. That we have obligations. That one mans freedom can make another man less free. Your freedom to drive at 200 km per hour can have a serious impact on my freedom to have a safe walk. My freedom to learn the drums, might interfere with your freedom to get a good nights sleep. Is driving fast a freedom? Is having a safe walk freedom? Is learning the drums freedom? Is getting a good nights sleep freedom? If freedom is being able to do whatever you want then they are freedoms.
Freedom has always had limits and it is dangerous to let people think that it does not. Many people talk about their rights, which in modern parlance means freedom, the freedom to do as they want. Conservatives have always believed that at the same time as rights we also have obligations. It may be your right to cross the road, but it is also your obligation to keep yourself safe, that obligation can also protects others from harm. Only by mutual obligations between people and between people and society in general are we really free. Freedom is not licence or selfishness, which is what it becomes when there are no obligations. Freedom is being able to live our lives without interference. But we all know that is not how real life works, absolute freedom is impossible and we know it.
Upon Hope Blog - A Traditional Conservative Future
Another Article You Might Like?
The Party that lost its soul - The Australian Labor Party