Are we free?
Wat does freedom mean?
What is a right?
What role does the state have in a free society?
Responsibility -- the other side of the freedom coin
Free and responsible, can everybody be that?
Is freedom democratic?

Are we free?

The Netherlands is not occupied by the government of a different country, as it was during World War II. In addition, our constitution guarantees us certain rights. Most people in the Netherlands consider themselves free. Nevertheless in the Netherlands there are many prohibitions and obligations, and we have little privacy.

We Dutch people are occupied by our own government, which we elected ourselves. That government limits our freedoms. Limiting freedom is what governments do. Compared to some other countries we are free, but there is room for much more freedom.

What does freedom mean?

Freedom means that everyone may do or not do what s/he wishes, go and be wherever s/he wishes, and live as s/he chooses, as long as s/he does not violate someone else's life, liberty of movement, body, or property.

"Liberty, levity," is a rough translation of a common Dutch saying. It suggests that there is something wrong with being free. Demanding freedom is considered a kind of sin; submitting to authority a virtue. Such values serve the interests of those who aspire to exercise power over others. The Freedom List considers freedom the highest political value. In general, free people are happier than unfree people.

This does not mean that a free society is a utopia. Utopias don't exist. The promise of and belief in a utopia has caused much misery and deprivation of freedom. An ideal world in which everyone is wealthy and happy is not realistically attainable.

What is a right?

The foundation of freedom is that every person has the right to his life, liberty of movement, body, and property. But what is meant by "the right"?

Often the word "right" evokes an image of something granted by the government. That's not correct. The government cannot grant life. "Right" means that no other person or party, including the government, may deprive, violate, prohibit or otherwise interfere.

A right is not granted by law. On the contrary, law limits rights. For example, does one have the right to wear a blue shirt in the Netherlands? Of course. Where is that written? Nowhere. Not in the constitution, not in criminal law, not in civil law, not in provincial directives or city ordinances. That is precisely why we have the right to wear a blue shirt in the Netherlands! If there were a law establishing the right to wear a blue shirt, it would indicate that the right to dress as one pleases was first limited, and subsequently the blue shirt was exempt.

So real rights are attained not by making laws, but by repealing laws. The "right to one's life, liberty of movement, body, and property" means that the government makes no laws that interfere with these.

Individuals may also not murder, assault, kidnap, or steal. A person who has violated another's right to life, liberty of movement, body, or property, has thereby waived his own right in comparable measure.

What role does government have in a free society?

We have two models for a free society: minarchism and anarchism.

Minarchism means a tiny government. It is also called the night watchman state. As soon as we speak of small government as opposed to no government, the question arises: What does and does not belong to the government's jurisdiction? Briefly, all matters pertaining to private lives and/or matters that the individual can organize for him/herself fall outside of the minarchy. Which exactly are those? Philosophers will debate that until kingdom come. In general most people consider defense and justice as belonging to the minarchy's jurisdiction. These two realms are to protect people's freedoms. Some minarchists also accord to government a role in building up and maintaining infrasctruture. Examples are roads, water, and power. In any case, protecting the individual against him/herself or against making bad personal choices never falls under the government's jurisdiction in a minarchy.

Anarchism means that there is no government. This condition is rather clear even though most people have trouble imagining it. In our society, the word anarchy has acquired a negative connotation. Anarchy is thought to mean chaos, however, this is not the true meaning of the word. Anarchy is possible without chaos, for instance when people organize themselves into voluntary groups.

Our overgrown super-sized maxi-government (the Britains call it a nanny state) was not formed only since the most recent elections. It has been formed over a century and a half, rising out of other forms of government which did not prioritize freedom. Practically speaking, it would not be possible to dismantle our maxi-government in one governing period. Even if there were massive support for a minarchy, government power would have to be reduced gradually while private social institutions grow and develop. The Freedom List does not want social disruption. We are peace-loving.

So the choice between minarchy and anarchy is not relevant at this time. Only when after several generations the minarchy has been achieved, will come the time to decide about further dismantling of the night watchman state, in consideration of the conditions of that period.

Responsibility -- the other side of the freedom coin

The concept of freedom cannot be unlinked from the concept of responsibility. Freedom and responsibility are not opposite poles but two sides of the same coin. Whoever is free, is also responsible. Whoever is responsible, is also free.

Someone who isn't free cannot be responsible for himself. An extreme example would be the slave. The slave has to be provided for by his owner, because he is not free to to provide for himself. So he cannot be responsible for his own provision.

On the other hand, someone who is not responsible, cannot be free. A child, for instance, is not considered responsible for his own upbringing. At the same time, he is not free to choose his upbringing.

In practice, in the Netherlands we are free and responsible for some aspects of our lives but not for other aspects of our lives. In a political vein, the freedom of adults is limited by governments, from the European Union through state and provincial governments to local municipalities. The government makes rules which the people within its borders and sometimes even citizens abroad have to observe. These are our limitations on freedom.

Government hereby takes responsibility for certain aspects of our lives. For instance, it guarantees every citizen health care and every child an education. It does this by making rules about health care and education. These rules strongly limit people's freedom to determine their own health care and their own (children's) education.

The more rules the government makes to regulate matters such as health care and education, the more people complain about these services. The government never completely reaches all of its stated goals. Hence it has limited freedom but not totally fulfilled its responsibilities. It cannot do this, because government deals with the masses, while each of us is an individual with his/her own needs and wishes. "One-size" solutions fit nobody well.

Freedom means that people are responsible for themselves, and not the government is responsible for them. At most the government is obligated to protect their freedom so that individuals can carry out their responsibilities. To achieve that government itself must abstain from limiting freedom. It violates freedom by making laws and rules. Those should be repealed. Subsequently a large body of politicians and civil servants will not be necessary, nor will the astronomical sums of money currently needed to finance them.

Free and responsible -- can everybody be that?

The most frequent argument proffered against freedom is that not everybody is capable of being responsible for him/herself. Most people feel that they themselves are capable, but that other people are not. They want freedom for themselves but wish the freedoms of others to be limited.

They overlook the obvious that if people are not up to being responsible for themselves, they are even less up to being responsible for others. Politicians and civil servants that comprise public bodies are themselves also people. They are not endowed with special wisdom, but have achieved a social position in which they can impose their views on others. They have attained power. Whoever appeals to government to limit the freedoms of others, is automatically also appealing to government to limit his own freedoms. It is not possible to reserve freedom for only a certain part of the population.

Of course there is a small minority of adults who due to a variety of reasons are incapable of being (completely) responsible for themselves, and thus cannot be (completely) free. Limiting the freedoms of everybody because of a tiny minority which needs guardianship is not logical. Such worry or excuse to limit everybody's freedoms is misguided.

Is freedom democratic?

One of the difficulties in answering this question is the image most people have of democracy. We are persuaded to believe that democracy is a Great Good. The alternatives to democracy are perceived to be terrible regimes such as fascism and tyranny.

In practice the word "democracy" means the rule of the majority. We are told that a democracy takes account of its minorities, but "taking account of minorities" is a favor, not a freedom. On the countrary, only the unfree need such a favor. Where there is freedom, every minority automatically counts, as the smallest minority is the individual. In a free society each individual is his own master. Furthermore, democracy is no guarantor of freedom. Many a despotic leader was democratically chosen.

Freedom and democracy go together fine insofar as there is a government. But the goal of freedom is that each individual governs him/herself. We cannot call this "autocracy" because this word today has a connotation which differs from its true meaning. Therefore let's just call it in plain English: self-rule. Lovers of liberty aim to replace majority rule by self-rule. This means among other things that elected representatives are less or not necessary. At the same time there is no better way to elect such officials as are deemed still necessary than democratically.

So we advocate more freedom through less government, however inasmuch as there is government, our view is that it should be democratically chosen.