Monday, February 11, 2008

What Is Freedom?

It’s been awhile since my last blog. I took a break over the winter holidays and then “my guy” pulled out of the presidential race. For the time being at least, it’s back to business as usual.

Several weeks ago I received a letter from a boy scout who was working on a project for a citizenship badge. The subject was freedom. He wanted to know my definition. I said the following:

“There are those who never have known freedom and those who were born free but have had their freedom taken away. I am an American and was born free and still have my freedom. I do not have the experience of what it is like to not have freedom.”

We all need to be diligent about our freedom.


cdmwebs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cdmwebs said...

I read your book a few weeks ago and that led me to this blog. Great stuff, sir.

I know you had initially supported Bill Richardson, but what are your thoughts on Congressman Ron Paul? I believe if anyone has our freedom and civil liberties in mind, it's him.

hare said...

Good evening, sir.
My name is Anton, and I'm a student of Economic Academy in Russia. Recently, as part of my management course, I read your book "Iacocca: An Autobiography" and while searching further information came across your blog.
I would like to thank you for this book since I think it sets an example of determination and other most valuable qualities to follow.
I also hope I'll read your new book when it'a available in Russia.
Speaking about the freedom, I could make a remark concerning the coming elections in our countries.
In your country there is a real competition among the candidates. Whoever wins - it's going to be tough for him. And that is because the US citizens have politicians to chose from.
Now, Russia. The results of the March elections are not a secret. Putin's successor is going to take office - and not because we don't have the legal freedom to chose. WHAT WE HAVE WE HAVE AN ILLUSION OF CHOICE. Apart from that successor there are three crazy unprofessional guys who will ruin the country within a month if they win. Thus, there's NO COMPETITION What I mean is that the present authority is no good but the options available are much worse. In this context the question whether we have real freedom or it's just a bubble arises sharply.
I'm 20 and maybe my vision of such concepts is naive and immature but in my view freedom in politics is like an ideal competition in economics: you'll be striving to achieve it but will never get.
But freedom as your inner feeling can exist regardless of anything.

Sincerely yours,

Sachin Palewar said...

It was good to find your blog and website after reading your autobiography. Why don't you plan another updated edition for it in current context? Thanks for being an inspiration to many people like me via your great autobiography.

ADV said...

I have created a website that I sincerely believe addresses the significant issues you have raised in your book. The address is and I think if you have a look at it you will agree that it is a viable way to exert influence and effect desperately needed change in our system of governance.

Our cause needs a champion and I can think of no one better equipped to lead the charge than you. I respectfully request that you take a look at the site and favor me with your thoughts on our enterprise.

There can be no greater legacy for you than to associate your trusted and respected name with a cause of this stature and nobility.

Even if it is not my cause that appeals to you please continue to speak for us and don't ever stop reminding our government that it is an institution by, for and of the people. I salute you.


Anthony DiVona
Delray Beach, Florida

Charles said...

Thisnis the very reason I urge everyone including Mr. Iacocca read "Because They Hate" by Brigitte Gabriel. This is a book every American should read.

Thomas said...

by Dr. Ron Paul, 1987
Excerpted from Chapter 1 of Freedom Under Siege
pp. 36 - 39

If a precise understanding of rights is not generally agreed upon, a political system designed to protect individual liberty cannot be achieved. The signers of the Declaration of Independence declared that rights are inalienable; i.e., incapable of being lost or surrendered. To avoid any misunderstanding, something this important must be clearly defined. Lincoln pointed out the danger of a vague definition when he said:

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty, but in using the same word, we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty means for each man to do as he pleases with himself and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the products of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things called by the same name liberty. It follows that each of the things is, by the perceptive parties, called by two different and incompatible names – liberty and tyranny.

The world today, just as in Lincoln's time, is still in need of a good definition for the word liberty. But more than that, we need determined people who believe in and are willing to defend liberty. Those who dare to use the word liberty when promoting violence and tyranny must be clearly exposed. The tyrants must be identified and never confused as friends of freedom. If a battle must occur – which inevitably it must since liberty and tyranny cannot coexist – let it never be supposed that two factions advocating liberty are battling one another. The conflict must be clearly between liberty and tyranny.

In order to minimize the confusion, we must do our best to define rights. A right is a natural or God-given permit received at birth, to act in one's own self-interest with total control over one's own life and property as long as others are not injured nor their property taken or damaged. Liberty does not come as a grant from the state. The state can only expect those funds from the individual required to guarantee that the rights of all are equally protected. Ideally those funds would be collected through a voluntary agreement between the state and each citizen. The role of the government in a free society is limited to settling disputes when the voluntary courts fail. Minimal police activity is warranted when private security falters. The protection of our geographic borders providing adequate national security from outside threats is a proper function of a government dedicated to protecting individual freedom.

Individuals in a free society must have the right to keep the fruits of their labor if the concept of individual rights is to have any meaning.

There is no conflict between what is called "natural" rights and "God given" rights. The Founding Fathers said we were endowed by our "Creator" with our rights, but they also had no qualms with the term natural rights. It certainly seems reasonable that life and liberty come as a magnificent gift from the Creator. Obviously these cannot come from a government official, an act of Congress, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or the Magna Carta. Quite to the contrary, tragically governments over the centuries have done a lot more to destroy this natural gift than they have to secure it.

I see no conflict between the self "ownership" concept associated with natural rights and those who, for religious reasons, believe their life is “owned” by God. One is a political concept and the other a religious concept. Obviously no one can dictate another's religious belief. What one does with one's life and property is a personal decision and it may or may not include religious beliefs. In a free society a person can "turn his life over to God" or squander it as he chooses. The important thing is that the state not be permitted to assume any ownership role of the individual.

A society built on the principle of individual rights rejects the notion that the state should protect a citizen from himself. Government cannot and should not protect against one's own "unwise" decisions. Freedom is impossible once a government assumes a role in regulating the people's eating, sleeping, drinking, smoking, and exercise habits. Once government believes it has an obligation to improve or protect the people physically it will then claim it can protect them economically and intellectually. It leads to a regimented society, hostile to individuals who cling to the notion that their lives and liberty are their own. Conservatives certainly must be reminded that "civil" liberty is the same as economic liberty, and present-day liberals must be told that economic liberty deserves the same protection that the written and spoken word under the First Amendment. Preemptive regulations of either literary commercial activity, for any reason, are prohibited in a free society. Fraud and libel are crimes that, when proven in a court of law, must punished.

The most important element of a free society, where individual rights held in the highest esteem, is the rejection of the initiation of violence. Initiation of force is a violation of someone else's rights, whether initiated by an individual or the state, for the benefit of an individual or group of individuals, even if it is supposed to be for the benefit of their individual or group of individuals. Legitimate use of violence can only be that which is required in self-defense.

This means that all associations are voluntary and by mutual consent of both parties. Contracts drawn up without force or fraud must be rigidly adhered to. This sounds reasonable, and most people would agree this outline of mutually agreed-to associations. But it also means that free people have the right to discriminate – in choosing a spouse, a friend a business partner, an employer, an employee, a customer, etc. Civil rights legislation of the past thirty years has totally ignored this principle. Many "do-gooders," of course, argue from the "moral high ground" for their version of equal rights, knowing that they can play the sympathies and the guilt of many Americans. Yet the real reason for some of these laws is less than noble. For instance, minimum wage laws are popular, but the proponents rarely admit that this protects higher paid union-jobs and it increases unemployment.

Total freedom of contract and association is what the "pursuit of happiness" is all about. Once this principle is violated, the gradual but steady erosion of our liberties can be expected unless the principle of individual rights is reestablished.

Free choice means that the incentive to produce is maximized, since it's assumed that we can keep the fruits of our labor. In a free society, an individual benefits from wise and frugal decisions and suffers the consequences of bad judgment and wasteful habits. The state should neither guarantee nor tax success, nor compensate those who fail. The individual must be responsible for all of his decisions. Because some suffer from acts outside of their control, we cannot justify the use of violence to take from someone else to "help out." People in need are not excused when they rob their neighbors, and government should not be excused when it does the robbing for them. Providing for the general welfare means that the general conditions of freedom must be maintained. It should never be used to justify specific welfare or any transfer of wealth from one person to another.

A free society permits narrow self-interest but allows for compassion and self-sacrifice. Greed, when associated with force or fraud, is not acceptable. A free society is more likely to survive if compassion is voluntarily shown for the unfortunate than if the poor are ignored. A healthy self-interest associated with a sense of responsibility for family and friends is far superior to a welfare state built on foolish self-sacrifice and violent redistribution of wealth.

A society that holds in high esteem the principle of individual rights is superior in all ways to a society that distorts the meaning of liberty and condones the use of government coercion.