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Home > Liberal Moments(SM)
#7. Freedom! What's that mean?
by Bob Powell, 8/16/06
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This Liberal Moment (SM) draws from "Whose Idea of Freedom Will Shape America's Future?" by George Lakoff and from the systems thinking concept of freedom. See Handout.

There's an uncontested core on which there's agreement about freedom:

  • physical freedom - government protects ability to move freely
  • economic freedom - protects pursuit of "happiness," reach goals
  • political freedom - of expression, to choose the government

What is contested:
The definition of what's an imposition on the freedom of others.

Lakoff argues that the conservative notion of what's an imposition derives from their "strict father" worldview.





"Strict father"

"Nuturing parent"


Giving people things they haven’t earned creates dependency and robs people of their freedom. And it robs resources from others.

Social security, a minimum wage, universal health care, & college for all are ways to guarantee freedom from want.


Economic liberty comes through the free market; government works against economic liberty in four ways: regulation, workers’ rights, taxes, & class action lawsuits

Protect freedom from want. Health of 45M workers without health insurance, freedom to earn a decent wage.


Freedom to practice religion for fundamentalist evangelicals means spreading the truth of the gospel ... implies school prayer, "under God" in the Pledge, Ten Commandments in courthouses, and teaching Intelligent Design.

Freedom of religion includes freedom from having a religion imposed on you and favored by government.

Civil Liberties

Bush’s spying on citizens without a warrant is protecting the freedom of citizens.

Bush’s spying on citizens without a warrant is a violation of freedom.


"Freely elected" government officials determine who can marry whom. That’s what a "free country" means.

There should be a freedom to marry. The government should not decide who can marry whom.

And conservatives see government as an interference in the ability to make money and therefore a restriction of freedom. Then again, this neglects the need for support of the "commons" and that no one makes money without it. And it's also a matter of who's to be protected.





Restricts freedom to make money.

Public protection;
freedom from harm

Workers’ rights

Takes money out of employers pockets. Imposes costs on the market.

Worker Protection of current & future worker security & income: safety, OT, pensions, workmen's comp


Restrict freedom to keep money earned and to earn more. Undermines economic incentive.

Protect individual freedom to earn by protecting and providing the commons (infrastructure: roads, courts, police, fire protection, banking, SEC for stock market)

Class action lawsuits

Frivolous lawsuits are theft of freedom of action and to retain earnings

Protect groups of individual from harm


Regulations restrict businesses' freedom to use property, private and public for profit.

Protects the freedom to enjoy the commons that's vital to us all and health from water & air pollution

Trade protectionism

Restricts freedom to trade for profit. Protecting intellectual property protects freedom to earn from invention.

Secures national economic independence & freedom. Protects worker freedom to earn a decent wage.

An important , I think overriding, difference between conservatives and liberals is how they see causality.

View of Causation - Traditional vs. Systems

Our most pressing problems: systems problems. "Messes" that require systems solutions: poverty, health care, trade, farming, growth, etc.

Systems view: Freedom is more than the ability to move and to act.
Being free is about the ability to take effective action, that is, about taking action that can actually accomplish stated goals.

System as effect is "blaming others" for what's happening. It's shirking responsibility. Though "system as cause" is cast by conservatives as absolving individuals of responsibility, it's more fundamentally about taking responsibility for how the system we've created and adopted is the cause of behavior (behavior is a result of system structure). In addition, in systems thinking, it's not a matter of either/or, it's both/and.



System as effect - looking for external causes for what's happening

System as cause - looking for internal factors to understand system behavior

Look for someone to blame for failures

Look for how the system sets people up to fail

We're being preyed upon!

How do we make ourselves look like prey?

Predict & prepare, react & defend

Proactive, take initiative to prevent

We need the ability to take effective, pragmatic action ... but conservatives would rather have someone who wants to exit a room be free to run into walls than be truly free and able to find the door.

See also, On Freedom.

URL: http://www.exponentialimprovement.com/cms/freedomrvsl.shtml

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