|Are we free?
Wat does freedom mean?
What is a right?
What role does the state have
in a free society?
the other side of the freedom coin
Free and responsible, can everybody
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
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
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
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
What role does
government have in a free society?
We have two models for a free society: minarchism
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
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.
-- 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
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
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
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
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
So we advocate more freedom through less
government, however inasmuch as there is
government, our view is that it should be