FREEDOM: a circumstance of minimal constraints

Freedoms from the actions of others are the core social democratic freedoms. They are conditions of participation in a society wherein the various forms of oppression are prevented. For a society to be able to function for the benefit of most of its members, the first priority must be given to minimizing victimization. All individuals must be free from the actions of members who intend some form of subjugation. There must therefore be an unqualified prohibition of and protection from all forms of slavery, mutilation, subservience and subjugation for all members of the society. Failure to include such considerations into the administrative and enforcement fabric of a society will virtually ensure the growth of resentments and the potential for revolution. The core social freedoms must be legally recognized universal rights.

Freedoms of actions involving others are of necessity framed as rights constrained by pragmatic realities. A 'freedom' with respect to action can never be certified as a right to do anything you like. The much aspired to 'freedom of speech' will never be a 'carte blanche' to say whatever you like whenever you like. There will be consequences, either official or unofficial, whatever you say. A society that grants a right to a 'freedom of speech' that includes slander, perjury, sedition and fraud is unsustainable. There will be limitations imposed whether the accumulation of assets is justified by a 'freedom to purchase' or a 'right to own'. It is foolish for a society to allow an individual to 'own' a vital resource like water or energy, and no society, however stupid and misguided, would allow an individual to 'own' a nuclear explosive device. Similarly, rights to assemble, marry, hunt, fish, garden, adopt, practise any religion, etc are freedoms that are limited by the circumstances as they are viewed at the time. In a social environment, absolute freedom of action is an idealistic absurdity.

As humans increasingly dominate the planetary environments, impotence or indifference to the isolated actions of individuals is gradually being replaced by legislated rules of behaviour. The frontiers of discovery and the 'free' interaction with nature are gradually retreating and actions that pioneering individuals indulged in with impunity are no longer generally acceptable. The idea that there are individual freedoms to interact with nature in isolation from the rest of society is incrementally being constrained and circumscribed. Climbing mountains and exploring caves may continue in the meantime to be possible actions for the adventurous spirits, but random, perverse and avaricious destruction of life and habitat will be actively prevented. For whilst most humans are naturally stupid, some are not, and whether the one group will overcome the other is an evolutionary stage that is still in the process of being worked out.

There is a sense in which a 'freedom to act' is thought of as a capacity of the individual solitary awareness to act in a manner which it determines itself... the so-called 'free-will'. Motivation is assumed to come from an internal source of choice and is not determined by any external influence... gods or evil spirits or environment or whatever. If this perspective is accepted, then a 'freedom' to commit suicide is undeniable. From a social point of view such action is very uncomfortable and individuals so inclined are dissuaded or prevented from taking such action. The dilemma of course is that denying the social acceptance of suicide will almost certainly entail denying other freedoms that had been already approved. A determined suicide can only be thwarted in the short term by physical restraint and drugs, until such time as counselling, persuasion or medical intervention removes the intention. In spite of the often unhappy consequences of successful suicide, trying to legislate against it is another example of an exercise in futility.