where the writers are
Freedom ain't what it's cracked up to be - but liberty, now there's a concept

Freedom is supposed to be one of the ultimate American traits, right?

It says so, right there in the Declaration of Indepedence, right? It's one of the three pursuits all true Americans dedicate themselves to, right? They just call it "liberty" instead of "freedom."

(Pause while I refer to dictionary. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11 Edition, if you must know.)

Freedom:  "The quality or state of being free: as (a) the absence of necessity, coercion or constraint in choice or action."

Liberty: "The quality or state of being free: (a) the power to do as one pleases."

Check it out. They start out the same, but then each go on the opposite side of the coin, in a yin and yang move: Freedom is defined in a negative sense, as the absence of something, while liberty is defined in a positive sense, with some righteously assertive words.

With liberty, you gets. With freedom, you goes without.

Well, says the opposition, you're going without something you don't want anyway. Who raises their hand in favor of necessity, coercion or constraint, anyway?

But what is a relationship, a household, a town, a society, without necessity, coercion or constraint? Is it not necessary to compromise with your mate to achieve a mostly harmonious relationship? Is it not necessary to use a little coercion on your offspring to raise responsible, autonomous, productive adults? Is it not necessary to constrain the actions of the tyrannical majority -- or minority -- to produce a functional town or society?

"Freedom!" cries the rebellious teenager. "Freedom!" cry the disgruntled workers. "Freedom!" cries the mother tied to laundry and cooking and cleaning. "Freedom!" cries the prisoner. What they really want is not to gain something but to be relieved or something.

Maybe, thinks I, we should be pining for liberty instead -- yearning to take action, rather than to not have to take action. Now wouldn't that be a liberating perspective? Freeing, even?

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