“”Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
|—Benjamin Franklin, November 11, 1755|
“”They take away our freedom
In the name of liberty.
|—"Suspect Device" by Stiff Little Fingers|
Liberty is the state of being free. In most Western societies, liberty is considered a good thing, and something that is to be preserved. Writing in 1917, John Dewey echoed Leo Tolstoy's critique of the conception of liberty in classical philosophy as freedom that is protected but also constrained by the rule of law, dismissing it as resignation in the face of oppression. He argued that philosophy should be more than apology for established order and that liberty should be conceived as the freedom necessary as individuals strive for full self-actualization.
The Swiss canton of Vaud has enshrined the word Liberté on its flag since 1803. Nevertheless, the United States considered itself the defender of liberty for a long time. However, despite the rather large statue devoted to Liberty (given to the US in 1886 by France), the US government backslid considerably after 9/11 by denying the due process that keeps its long-suffering citizens liberated. (Some people would have you believe that giving people guns is the answer to that problem; this ignores the fact that the government can always bring bigger and better guns.) That's not even getting into the things that the NSA and TSA have been doing since 2001. Then there is the whole matter of slavery being legal for the first 89 years of the country's independent existence.
"Liberty, equality, and fraternity" was the slogan of a revolution that ended up going very badly. Too often, people promise liberty just in order to switch out the boot that's doing the oppressing. (See also the Russian Revolution). They may also deploy a conception of liberty that demands a privileged status for themselves and the subordination of others, as is the case with the contemporary American Tea Party movement.
"Liberty" is also a word used for periods of time off for military types, especially sailors being given shore leave.
Nearly half of all US states contain at least one city or town named "Liberty".
- John Dewey. "The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy," in Larry A. Hickman and Thomas M. Alexander, ed.s, The Essential Dewey. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. P. 76.
- Liberty's Website