For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others - Nelson Mandela


image by: National Civil Rights Museum

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Freedom Is a Right, Not a Gift from the Government

We use the term freedom in political, economic, social, and religious contexts. But what exactly does it mean to be free? The answer to this question is crucial because different conceptions of liberty entail different political ideals, and different models of government. A good starting point to explore what it means to be free is with the distinction introduced by the early 19th century intellectual Benjamin Constant.

In an 1819 work titled “The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns,” Constant offered two antagonistic ideas of what it means to be free. The Ancient conception of freedom centered on the collective, and the Modern focused on the individual. In…

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Last Updated : Monday, January 17, 2022