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The Calling of Cultural Liberty · Thursday November 06, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

It’s good to see Rob Myers observe that freedom is for people – not inanimate objects, not intellectual works, nor the culture formed from them.

It is the human being that is to be free, not their works.

We can chain our books to the shelves of our libraries without compunction for their lack of liberty, but we should not manacle the hands of those we sell them to lest they place what is now rightfully their property in a photocopier.

Rob also enumerates other terms people use and abuse when describing the epiphenomena of cultural liberty, e.g. “Commons”, “Gift Economy”, “Quid Pro Quo”, etc.

I’d suggest that ‘Freedom’ can also be abused as a term (not least ‘free’).

It is not absolute freedom that is the ideal to be pursued, but freedom ethically constrained.

Otherwise, if ‘freedom’ is to be misconstrued as an inherently noble objective, we have such aspirations as “the freedom to choose how my work can be used, and what copyright license I give” and “the freedom to inspect or sequester source code from the author’s premises”.

‘Freedom’ is not a trump card to play when seeking to violate another’s right. It alleges an unethical constraint when asserting one’s rightful liberty against its suspension by the privilege of another.

We may express a desire to have the freedom to park our car on our neighbour’s drive, but the mere citing of an aspiration of ‘freedom’ cannot invoke a right, as if that invocation could then trump our neighbour’s natural right to privacy.

Freedom is a lack of constraint. It is neither intrinsically noble nor inherently ethical.

Ethical freedom is a lack of unethical constraint, and is more succinctly termed ‘liberty’.

We do not have a right to freedom. We have a right to liberty – freedom constrained only by the equal rights of others.

Rob Myers said 3849 days ago :

I have been using “freedom” and “liberty” as synonyms despite coming at this via Mill and Berlin. I agree that the word “freedom” can be misused.

“Liberty” has problems as well, though. Libertarians of the Ayn Rayn variety for example.

;-)

Crosbie Fitch said 3849 days ago :

I’d see a pursuit of ‘freedom’ as closer to ‘libertinism’ than a pursuit of liberty as libertarianism, but these words do get stretched a tad.

Given Ayn Rand supported patents and copyright I’d say she was a utilitarian in a libertarian’s clothing.

I’m not saying ‘liberty’ is free of abuse, but it seems a better term than ‘freedom’ if needing to refer to liberty as understood by natural rights libertarianism.



 

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