Principles of a free society
As the United States celebrates Independence Day, it’s a good time to reflect on the meaning of independence and freedom.
One of the best and most concise explanations for a free society that I’ve read comes from the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.
“A free society requires a limited government
that enacts and enforces objective laws
for the sole purpose of protecting individual rights.”
Limited government. For individuals to benefit from living together, we need a government that performs three basic functions: the police, to protect individuals from domestic criminals; the military, to protect individuals from foreign threats; and the court system, to enable individuals to settle disputes without resorting to force. Because government has a monopoly on the legal use of force, government’s every action must be objectively controlled and explicitly authorized.
Objective laws. There are two requirements for objective laws: 1) Laws must allow each individual to know, before taking any action, what conduct is illegal, why it is forbidden, and the penalty for violation; and 2) Laws must only forbid private conduct that violates the individual rights of others.
Individual rights. Rights are moral principles that define our freedom of action within society. A society is free when it secures our moral rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Our rights give us the freedom to support our lives and earn property by our own efforts, not by the efforts of others.
“Freedom, in a political context, means freedom from government coercion,” Rand wrote.
How do you measure freedom? What freedoms are you thankful for? How much freedom would you be willing to sacrifice for your own safety and protection?