LIBERTY OR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT?
By Michael Shaw
June 30, 2008
Chapter 1: Understanding Liberty
Who decides the terms of your life? Is it you, the individual? Or is it the state? Society has faced this core issue since the beginning of time.
If we resolve this in favor of individual rights to dictate the terms of one’s life, society must understand this:
Respecting individual dignity requires that we respect the private property of others.
These ideas are as old as the Ten Commandments which prohibit:
2. Coveting the property of another.
These principles came to fruition in society with the foundation of the United States of America in the constitution that guide and govern this country. In these institutions, the concept of self-governance is understood to be a necessary prerequisite to leading a life that is one’s own.
Americans know that something is wrong today. The American system of liberty is not being maintained. To fully understand this issue:
We must learn to understand the nature of the problem,
• We must learn what caused it.
To do the necessary learning, we start with an understanding of what could be: We must understand the basics of liberty.
Liberty presumes that the scope of government powers must be strictly limited and the law must be equally applied to every citizen. In other words, for liberty to exist, governmental favoritism must be eliminated.
Freedom means individuals:
Can act on their own authority.
• Have authority limited by their legal responsibility not to infringe on other’s right to life, liberty, and property.
• Have moral responsibility that limits their scope of rightful action.
• Have a social responsibility to work toward mutual benefits and productive societal gains.
Building a free society promotes the development of individual conscience. People in a free society, with nurture in a family environment, can become who they are. This system promotes general welfare. Healthy individual character development and positive individual personality expression require a developed conscience.
A person whose character is based on conscience is fully capable of constructive self-expression and of associating productively with others. The freedom to associate and the freedom to express are prerequisites to a person’s natural right to trade freely with others. Genuine free trade creates improvement as each party works toward mutual benefit. The result is a general rise to society.
Liberty and freedom promote and are a prerequisite to peace. However, genuine peace can only exist in free societies where civic responsibility is truly voluntary. Peace requires a system that is based on liberty.
Genuine peace cannot exist in a slave or serf society.
Liberty requires a self governance system. A self governance system of government is centered on the individual and is dependent on the family. Civilized government protects individual rights by exercising powers that are enumerated and limited. The enumerated powers primary design is to protect a citizen’s natural or unalienable right to life, liberty, and property. The alternative form of government uses force to direct the terms of individual life. When government’s force is not strictly enumerated and limited, ‘peace’ is no more than a symptom of society’s fear of government.
For genuine peace to exist, the right to determine the terms of one’s own life requires that we respect the property of others even if that is adverse to our own interests. Consider this example: A person wants to build a home on their land and neighbors object claiming that the new house causes ‘view shed pollution’.
Americans need to understand that if we focus on protecting our property value at the expense of another’s property right, we all end up without property values or property rights.
Respecting what others want to do with their lives and their property, providing one does not create a real nuisance for another, provides each person the opportunity to lead their own life.
George Washington said; “private property and freedom are inseparable.” Most Americans have lost an understanding of private property. Too many people think that private property is a thing; land, farm, maybe a car or a home. That is not the essence of private property.
Private property is much more than a thing. It is the relationship between a person and a thing. This includes the possession, use and right to depose of that thing. Property represents the liberty of a person’s action. The use of property and liberty of action is a necessary corollary to having your own life.
Let me illustrate:
Your hands are private property.
• My private property includes, perhaps begins with my hand.
• I choose my hand’s action.
• Thus private property begins with our very person.
• Our person is private property.
• Private property includes a person’s thoughts.
• Private property includes a person’s expressions.
Private property includes our person, our thoughts and our expression. But it is goes beyond that. We have private property in our action. Private action is private property.
At times, our private action results in creating a thing. Other times our private action provides the opportunity to trade with others for that we want.
However, private property is much more than a thing which we hold title to. Our rights to private property incorporate our liberties. These are essential to living a private life.
Consider what happens when the use of something that is your private property is taken from you by an illegitimate use of government force. This example could include your land, home, business, bank account, book or the use of your hand. If our private physical property or its use can be taken from us, our lives, our action, our expression and our thinking become much different.
People in the Soviet Union did not act in a way that benefited society because there was no benefit for the individual to engage in productive action. If the benefit of acting in your own interests is denied by agents of force, your life is that of a slave and society is a controlled encampment.
Without restoring and protecting individual liberty Americans will wake up thinking, expressing and acting differently. One day you may wake up to realize that your hand, your children’s or grandchildren’s hands are forced to act at the state’s direction in order to sustain bare existence. A ruling elite will direct the terms of ordinary people’s lives if liberty is not defended adequately and soon.
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The prerequisite for restoring and advancing Liberty requires that citizens begin to reacquaint themselves with the ideas that underlie the Declaration of Independence and the meaning of the word and ideas in the Constitution. Only then we can become confident of the continuation of a democratic Republic. A Republic that commits itself to doing what is necessary to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity.
Liberty! or Sustainable Development is a 13 Chapter serial adaptation of the transcript of Michael Shaw’s opening speech from the video: Liberty or Sustainable Development. Michael Shaw is President of Freedom Advocates.org. He can be reached at Shaw@FreedomAdvocates.org.
© 2008 Michael Shaw - All Rights Reserved