Furthest Right

Freedom: root of conservatism? (Part one in a series)

We use the same words to mean different things, which can send us straight to hell. Shout “fire” in a crowded theatre, or change an exit sign to point into a wood-chipper, and you’ve used words as a weapon. In politics, the biggest words are these:

  • Freedom
  • Justice
  • Liberty
  • Equality

These are magic words because they suggest positive outcomes that the person hearing the word doesn’t have to lift a finger to make happen. Here are their equivalents in product advertising:

  • Free
  • Guarantee
  • No obligation
  • New low price

Just buy this and it’s all taken care of. Did you have a problem? Our product cures it — guaranteed! New low price to make everyone happy. There’s one for the whole family.

As our mainstream conservatives, or neocons, struggle to find a reason to exist, the Tea Party in USA and New Right in Europe is going to slam them hard. They will claim they offer more freedom, liberty and justice. Then the liberal parties will chime in. Whoah, total surprise! — they’re claiming the same thing.

In the midst of it all, the talking heads on the right are going to talk about how the essence of Conservatism is Freedom. Ron Paul will talk about Freedom. Then someone will pipe up that Marx, Engels, Mao, Clinton, etc. promised freedom too.

And this whole time, no one will have bothered to give a working definition of “freedom”!

One reason for this is that freedom is impossible to define without an object. Freedom from — mosquitoes? exhaustion? bad smells? jobs? — well, we don’t know. If you’re free you just know you are, I guess. Freedom requires an oppressor to be freed from, otherwise you weren’t unfree in the first place. Who’s trying to stop you from doing what? No one is going to open that can of worms.

Even more, freedom is a vernacular term for feeling like you could do anything. I feel free to do what the heck ever. But because all terms decay to the lowest common denominator through use, the most common meaning of the word freedom is this: no one telling me what to do. Of course, since those telling you what to do could be in some cases right, what we mean when we say “freedom” is “no oversight.”

What’s your definition of freedom?

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