Ed Team

It's about liberty, stupid!

Filed By Ed Team | July 14, 2005 10:07 AM | comments

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At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities...If hostile interests have wrought much injury, false ideas have wrought still more; and [true liberty's] advance is recorded in the increase of knowledge as much as in the improvement of laws. Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity
I have always been fascinated by the history of liberty in human civilization. In college, I concentrated on studying how the Reformation prepared the ground for the seeding of American liberty, and then how liberty developed, in thought and in practice, in the United States. At that time, I never envisioned that I would one day be involved in a struggle to expand the definition of liberty, but here we are fighting for the full inclusion of gays in that definition. I am optimistic about our prospects because in our nation's history, at least so far, those outside demanding to be included always prevail, thought it may require a long, bloody, costly battle.

One of the great minds of the past, considered the most astute historian of liberty and its development, was Lord Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton (1834-1902).

When we get weary of the battle, just consider what Lord Acton tells us from his learned perspective of history's march....

At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its
triumphs have been due to minorities...

It's our turn to do the heavy lifting.

***

Some other gems from The History of Freedom in Antiquity. Keep in mind, this was written in 1877.

In every age [freedom's] progress has been beset by its natural enemies, by
ignorance and superstition...

By liberty I mean the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty, against the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion. The state is competent to assign duties and draw the line between good and evil only in its own immediate sphere.

The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities.

Now Liberty and good government do not exclude each other; and there are excellent reasons why they should go together; but they do not necessarily go together. Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end. It is not for the sake of a good public administration that it is required, but for security in the pursuit of the highest objects of civil society, and of private life.


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AUTHOR: Marla R. Stevens

DATE: 8/11/2005 02:20:02 PM

While I was raised from infancy to expect to be involved in a constant struggle to define, expand, and defend the boundaries of liberty -- a Jefferson-Randolph family thing, " 'eternal vigilence', what ho!" -- and am thus not surprised by the need to do it in this or any regard, I share your optimism even if I don't necessarily see that it will make personal sense to continue the work from within the country's boundaries.The next thing to ask, however, is what the fight is. Is it the one of connected liberation where the means become part of the ends that I see it as or do you have a different goal and process in mind?