Freedom in America
A 200-year PerspectiveBook - 1977
Freedom! Freedom! The word "rings" with meaning to each of us! Yet, what does it really mean? Only the tyrant, living in a secure environment and operating above the law, is theoretically free to do as he chooses. For the remainder of society freedom is an elusive condition, circumscribed by a wide spectrum of personal, social, economic, and governmental restraints. Freedom is bounded most fundamentally by the nature of man and the physical universe. Merely to remain alive human beings must accept a myriad of restrictions on individual appetites, actions, and desires. Personal choices are limited by levels of intelligence and the capacity to think. Effective propaganda or advertising can affect the freedom of those unable to analyze or resist it. Poor health and poverty can set serious limits to choice. No less significant are the intellectual and moral limitations which society imposes on those whom it intends to respect and honor. Social customs and mores, and the restraints they impose, set limits of necessity and respectability and thus, for most, the limits of free choice. Freedom is boundless for none. Those are most free who accept personal and social restraints as the necessary price which they and society must pay for minimum of order, decorum, security, and satisfaction. Freedom with restraint for none creates chaos; freedom with restraint for some creates injustice. Thus restraints must be public no less than private, for freedom, in practice, must be limited by regard for the freedom and welfare of others.
This book brings together fourteen outstanding and concerned scholars to acquaint readers with the history, nature, and significance of freedom in America since the Declaration of Independence. Its publication should cause the reader to reflect on the meaning of freedom for the future. Following a "stage-setting" introduction, the chapters are organized to cover four essential areas of concern: Foundations of Freedom, Freedom and Governmental Processes, Freedom and the Human Condition, and Freedom and the Physical Environment.
As would be expected, various points of view are presented. However, the differences are not over the facts, but over their meanings and their significance for the future. Certainly this is one of the better efforts to capture the meaning of democratic thought in American history.