Monday, June 15, 2009

A definition of 'liberty' from THE SPIRIT OF THE LAWS (1748) by Montesquieu

"As in democracies the people seem to act almost as they please, this sort of government has been deemed the most free, and the power of the people has been confounded with their liberty. . . But political liberty does not consist in an unlimited freedom. In governments, that is, in societies directed by laws, liberty can consist only in the power of doing what we ought to will, and in not being constrained to do what we ought not to will.

"We must have continually present to our minds the difference between independence and liberty. Liberty is a right of doing whatever the laws permit, and if a citizen could do what they forbid he would be no longer possessed of liberty, because all his fellow citizens would have the same power."

In other words, don't make laws for others that you would not accept for yourself. That has always been a hard lesson. It's getting harder all the time.

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