What is “liberty”?

by Chuck Donovan

I recently received this email.  I wanted you to take a look at my answer.  It comes from what I consider to be the most important speech ever delivered, “The Misesian Vision”, by Lew Rockwell

Mr. Donovan, I was perusing your website and reading about your mission and approach, as I am currently researching the candidates for Georgia senator in order to determine which one aligns most similarly with my libertarian-esque values. I noticed that the majority of your views include or are based upon “liberty” in some form or fashion, but I could not seem to find a clear definition of what liberty is to you, exactly. If you could possibly provide your particular definition of what liberty is, what it means to you, it would greatly assist me in understanding your positions.

My response:

The best speech I ever heard was delivered by Lew Rockwell early this year.  Here is what I consider to be the best part of it, and what I think would be a good answer to your question.

The speech is entitled “The Misesian Vision”.  You can find it at http://www.mises.org, my favorite website.

In liberty, CHUCK

“If the goal of the state is that all citizens must come to hold the same values as the great leader, whether economic, moral, or cultural, the state must become totalitarian. If the people are led to believe that scarce resources are best managed in a way that producers and consumers would not choose on their own, the result must be central planning.

No longer is the idea of a state-planned society seen as frightening. What scares people more today is the prospect of a society without a plan, which is to say a society of freedom.

When I say freedom or liberty, I mean a social or political condition in which people exercise their own choices concerning what they do with their lives and property. People are permitted to trade and exchange goods and services without impediment or violent interference. They can associate or not associate with anyone of their own choosing. They can arrange their own lives and businesses. They can build, move, innovate, save, invest, and consume on terms that they themselves define.

We cannot predict the results. Human choice works this way. There are as many patterns of human choice as there are humans who make choices – billions.  The only real question we can ask is whether the results will be orderly — consistent with peace and prosperity — or chaotic, and thereby at war with human flourishing.

Today, a free social order sounds like chaos, not anything we dare try, lest we be overrun with terrorists and drug fiends, amidst massive social, economic, and cultural collapse. But, the main lesson from economics history is that again and again for centuries: government cannot improve on the results of human action achieved through voluntary trade and association. This was a message of freedom, one that inspired revolution after revolution, each beginning with the conviction that humankind would be better off without central government than it would be under tyrannical rule.

The best and only place to start is with yourself. This is the only person that you can really control in the end. And by believing in freedom yourself, you might have made the biggest contribution to civilization you could possibly make. After that, never miss an opportunity to tell the truth. Sometimes, thinking the unthinkable, saying the unsayable, teaching the unteachable, is what makes the difference between bondage and sweet liberty.” – Lew Rockwell

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