What do we mean by liberty?

By Nathan Barton

As lovers of liberty (libertarians, classical liberals, self-governors, free-market anarchists,) we here at TPOL obviously want to be clear to readers and others about how we define liberty.

We take to heart Sam Adams’ statement: “If ye love wealth better than liberty,” he said, “the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsel or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands of those who feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you. May posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

Sadly, as his cousin John demonstrated, it is far too easy to forget about the true meaning of liberty and slide into tyranny – or at least make a good stab at it.  As other, more able writers have pointed out, the replacement of the Articles of Confederation by the United States Constitution itself was a successful attack on liberty itself, despite claims to the contrary, and despite the addition of the Bill of Rights.

The entire idea of liberty is (to us here at TPOL) one of God’s greatest gifts to His creations, humanity. We find ourselves at extreme odds with those who also claim to follow Christ Jesus but who do not recognize free will – that there is a vast difference between KNOWING how something will come out and forcing someone to do something (the usual religious term is “foreordaining” someone’s actions).

Let us consider the American Heritage Dictionary definition:

  1. The condition of being free from confinement, servitude, or forced labor.
  2. The condition of being free from oppressive restriction or control by a government or other power.
  3. A right to engage in certain actions without control or interference by a government or other power.

Confinement is something we can all understand. Or can we? Is it confinement to NOT be able to go to another country without having to jump through a bunch of hoops? Getting all kinds of permission? To not be able to travel on a public road without having to have at least three pieces of paper (or plastic)? All issued BY or per order of government?

Servitude and forced labor? Aren’t these pretty much the same thing? But how much “forced labor” is “acceptable? Is it 5% or 50%? Is it measured by taxes? It surely is more than just being put into a chain gang to fix a road or pick up trash. We are told “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” (Stated by Nazgul Oliver Wendell Holmes and carved over the entrance to the IRS headquarters in DC – and notice who paid Holmes’ salary!) People like to quote the Bible “Pay taxes to whom taxes are due.” (Romans 13:7) But do they bother to look at the context? God was satisfied with expecting just 10% – so even if we believe that human rulers are needed and tolerable, they surely cannot demand more than God, can they? So at a minimum, everything over 10% (what are we at now, with the new “anti-inflation” stupidity – 55% for all the levels?) can be considered theft – or worse, slavery: servitude.

Are we free from “oppressive” restriction or control? What is “oppressive?” Who decides? For those of us who are Christian (and perhaps even Jewish), oppressive would be anything beyond that 10% of money/labor/earnings – and beyond what is required in the Torah and New Covenant. For anyone else? What is oppressive? If liberty is the ability to do as one pleases (another definition), then is it oppressive to limit that to only what would not harm another person? As lovers of liberty or (at least lower-case) libertarians, we believe that: for EVERY person’s liberty should be as precious to us as our own. That matches with the Bible: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Let us continue this discussion at a later date. Especially the idea of what “government” means, when looking at liberty. Meanwhile, let us here at TPOL ask our readers, what do YOU define as liberty?

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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4 Responses to What do we mean by liberty?

  1. Pingback: What do we mean by government? | The Price of Liberty

  2. Darkwing says:

    Define: The right to come and go as I wish, not to harm or stop any one else from the same. With next to no government involved in my life. The right to go about my life without fear of government and the right to protect myself without government.


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