Thomas Jefferson described the term liberty in the Declaration of Independence as “unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”
In modern day, liberty is defined as “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.”
Americans talk a lot about how to protect and preserve their liberty. People on both sides of the political aisle wish the same thing — for individuals to be endowed with all their natural rights. The challenge is over what the role of government should be in ensuring it.
For many, liberty means government keeping a light touch on how its citizens conduct their lives, businesses, and associations. Others argue that laws must be enacted to protect small groups of people who would otherwise be restricted to conduct their lives as they wish if left to conform to majority standards.
Self-determination is a key factor. So, is the role of government to ensure that all people are treated equally and free from societal encumbrances, or is the government’s role to guarantee that each individual has basic rights and it is up to the individual to exploit his or her own abilities to their fullest potential? Are these roles in contradiction, and why is it so difficult for the political left and right to agree on how to achieve liberty when they agree that it is a basic endowment?
TPOH explores the role and responsibility of government in ensuring liberty as it impacts Americans’ ability to work, express their faith, conform to regulations and policies, express their personal rights, experience physical security, explore opportunities, and pursue their mental and physical health.