On the 243rd anniversary of brave men signing a document declaring 13 State’s independence from the British Empire, we, as Americans, celebrate our freedom. However, what is seldom talked about is freedom from what and freedom to do what. Unfortunately, today’s society has substituted the idea of autonomy for freedom — that freedom means we are “free to do whatever we want.” But it is a mistake to understand freedom this way, for autonomy leads to chaos, and chaos to anarchy, and anarchy to tyranny.
Real freedom, the freedom of the founders, is not autonomy, but has a sovereign and has boundaries. As mentioned above the founder’s idea of freedom had two parts: freedom from and freedom to. Freedom from is fairly obvious. The Founder’s freedom was freedom from the tyrannical style of government being dictated by King George of England. We have all heard “no taxation without representation”. Founder’s freedom makes this claim a baseline — that we consent to be governed under a new set of principles, where each citizen has adequate representation in government’s decisions. If we disapprove of that governance, then we have the right to replace those representing us. Freedom from tyranny by consenting to be governed in a particular way, with the ability to correct course upon our disapproval.
The other aspect to freedom is “freedom to”. This quality of Founder’s freedom is the purpose (why) we are free. Being free is not to do anything one wants. Instead Founders freedom is available to us in order to pursue happiness — life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. Now happiness had a different definition in 1776 than it does today. In order to understand what the Founder’s meant, we must understand what happiness meant then, not now. Happiness was not getting drunk, becoming rich by taking what other’s have or having sex with whomever one desired. No happiness was about pursing wise living. In other words if one wants to be truly happy, do not pursue things that only temporarily satisfy the senses, but instead seek truth and wisdom in how to live. That means real freedom has moral limits; real freedom requires virtuous behavior. If you want to be happy, align your life with what objective truths about the world.
Freedom from and freedom to. But there is one final aspect to the freedom project we celebrate today. Real freedom requires personal responsibility. Many people do not understand this. They make the mistake thinking freedom means they can do whatever they want and then when they find their life in a roadside ditch, they often blame others and want others to pay for their errors in judgment. That is not freedom, that is enablement. As a society we should have a safety net to help those out life’s roadside ditches, but we should, at the same time, demand a change in behavior and a realigning to the real meaning of freedom — not autonomy, but limits and personal responsibility.
The more our society wanders off the path of our Founder’s freedom and down mountainside towards autonomy, the more the government will be required to create new laws and new programs in order to maintain order. The more laws created, the more programs created, the less freedom we will enjoy. We are either free and govern ourselves with proper moral behavior or we will be, more and more, bound by an ever growing, ever powerful, strong man government.
Happy Independence Day. Be sober minded. Enjoy family and friends. Be thankful for wise men and women who took a great risk to their lives, honor and sacred fortune in order to create a freedom and prosperity that had never been experienced in the world before. Today we celebrate the Founder’s freedom.