Bovard: Misdefining Liberty
From Jim Bovard:
The definitions of liberty devised in ivory towers and elsewhere have a profound impact on political and judicial thinking. Regardless of how wrongheaded some concepts of liberty prevalent early last century may now appear, America’s legal structure is now based on those ideas. And that legal structure continues binding today’s citizens to the intellectual follies of previous generations of thinkers and reformers.
The Founding Fathers’ concept of liberty was forged by decades of abuses by British colonial rulers. “The Restraint of Government is the True Liberty and Freedom of the People” was a common American saying in the 18th century. Historian Forrest McDonald wrote that “political discourse [in Revolutionary-era America] was an ongoing public forum on the meaning of Liberty.”
The Founding Fathers’ concepts of freedom fit into the classical British tradition. In 1721, John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon defined liberty as “the power which every man has over his own actions, and his right to enjoy the fruit of his labor, art, and industry, as far as by it he hurts not the society, or any members of it, by taking from any member, or by hindering him from enjoying what he himself enjoys.” Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations, advocated a system of liberty whereby “every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest in his own way.”
However, changing political circumstances and shifting intellectual tides would eventually help to obscure American thinking...
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How clear is your definition of liberty?