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August 31st, 2007, 10:02
Something Squeak said got me thinking. America is called the Land or Home of the Free ( I can't remember which at my age ), but this applies to many countries. In what ways are 'we' free? We don't really have freedom of speech, libel and slander laws, not to mention political correctness etc. destroy that. Plus where is freedom of speech when Americans can't pray in schools or read the Bible because of so called separation of church and state? There are many other examples of where people are not free, so what are your thoughts on the topic of freedom?!

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August 31st, 2007, 10:33
It's the "land of the free and home of the brave." (From the american national anthem)

We are free to do as we are told.
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August 31st, 2007, 10:56
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
Something Squeak said got me thinking. America is called the Land or Home of the Free ( I can't remember which at my age ), but this applies to many countries. In what ways are 'we' free? We don't really have freedom of speech, libel and slander laws, not to mention political correctness etc. destroy that.
"Land of the free, home of the brave" is the phrase you're looking for, I believe.

Freedom is not an absolute. It's relative. Freedom is always constrained, either by force or by social convention. However, the degree to which it is constrained varies greatly between countries, periods, and situations. For example, compare a Roman slave working the quarries of Mons Claudianus in Egypt, a "kolkhoznik" in Stalin's Soviet Union, a contemporary Saudi Arabian woman, a Parisian office worker, and a Montanan rancher. I think most people would agree that the Montanan is a lot freer than the Roman slave, even if they might disagree about whether the Parisian is freer than the Montanan, or vice versa.

I believe this is the best way I can answer your question of "in what sense are we free."

Plus where is freedom of speech when Americans can't pray in schools or read the Bible because of so called separation of church and state?
That's not true. Americans are perfectly free to pray in schools, in or out of class. However, schools are not allowed to organize prayers — for example, a teacher leading the Lord's Prayer in front of class.

Second, there are different restrictions to freedom in different contexts. For example, a pupil is not free to get up and leave class, and you're not free to start singing Waltzing Matilda at the top of your lungs at church during that Lord's Prayer. Moreover, children do not enjoy the same freedoms as adults.

IOW, there are two fallacies in your question: one, the premise is incorrect, and two, it equivocates between restrictions to freedom at school and restrictions to freedom in general. Therefore, I can't answer it.

There are many other examples of where people are not free, so what are your thoughts on the topic of freedom?!
That could fill a bunch of books, actually. I've thought about it a quite a lot. I don't know if anyone would want to read them, though.

In a small nutshell, I believe that a society should be as free as it can be without falling into anarchy. This is necessarily a quite a bit less free than "absolute freedom," because restrictions to freedom — the social contract — is what enables cooperation and the benefits of a society.

PS. Why not anarchy? Because it's not a stable system, at least not until we reach a level of production that totally eliminates all scarcity. Every anarchic society larger than a "band" unit to date has pretty quickly devolved into mob or strongman rule. Until someone convincingly demonstrates a way around this, I'm not buying that brand of Kool-Aid.

PPS. If someone brings up medieval Iceland, I would suggest they do a bit of research into how it really worked, rather than the romanticized depictions of anarchist writers. Like, slavery, whoever comes to the Allthing with the biggest group of armed men gets the vote, that sort of thing.
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August 31st, 2007, 10:57
Originally Posted by Korplem View Post
It's the "land of the free and home of the brave." (From the american national anthem)

We are free to do as we are told.
Or, as someone put it, free to stay at the Waldorf Astoria or sleep under a bridge.
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August 31st, 2007, 11:20
I think this is the first time I totally agree with you, PJ.
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August 31st, 2007, 12:16
Originally Posted by Korplem View Post
I think this is the first time I totally agree with you, PJ.
That's… worrying. If it goes on, I'll risk getting kicked out of the International Contrarian Fraternity…
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August 31st, 2007, 18:13
The issue about school prayer pertains solely to public schools, and that's because those are funded by taxes, Corwin. Everyone pays them, but not everyone shares the same religious views. It's an issue because it's a free society, not despite it. Courts have ruled against organized prayer, but kids are still free to pray when they want to or read books like the Bible.

I travel, and everywhere I go folks seem to have their own perceptions of the world and of the US in particular. I have to admit they always seem a little odd to me at first. Sometimes I end up finding them insightful and valuable. Other times I decide they really are just odd.

Once I was in Tokyo with a client and close friend, a wealthy businessman. He was being "wined and dined" by a pair of young Japanese, and I was along for the ride. I had never experienced anything like that. We could have had just about anything we wanted. All we had to do was ask.

We wound up in a Sushi bar late that night, and I made a comment about having to stop drinking or I'd end up in The Betty Ford Clinic. My friend cautioned me. "They think we do drugs every day," he said with total seriousness. That struck me as crazy, and I turned to them with a doubting expression on my face. "It's ok…it's ok,” they said over and over, nodding up and down vigorously, assuring me that they had no problem with our American drug addictions.

In the US, and especially here in California, folks visit from all over the world, including plenty from Japan. None have that particular perception. But they all tend to say the same thing: They don't understand the US back home. The perspective is different there. If they were to come here and experienced it for themselves, then they would understand.

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Last edited by Squeek; August 31st, 2007 at 18:23.
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September 1st, 2007, 01:32
I concur exactly with PJ, his thoughts echo mine on the matter of freedom. Freedom is not absolute by any means, and that is not what the term implies. If there were absolute freedom, it would very quickly disappear as the freedoms of some would utterly destroy (by fear, by persecution, etc) the freedoms of others.

To me, a free society essentially means the ability to live my life as I see fit as long as it is in accordance with the laws (what PJ nicely called the social contract). Largely, laws are there to balance freedoms, to make sure that such freedom is as wide spread across the population as is possible, while not tipping the scales into either anarchy or totalitarianism.

We absolutely have freedom of speech, just as people offended, insulted or damaged by that speech have the freedom to pursue legal recourse against you, just by way of one example.

I believe that we in North America, Europe, Australia and other democratic nations are extremely free. Boundaries are necessary and I'm very glad they are there, so I don't really have much to complain about in terms of my own freedoms.

You know the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.
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September 1st, 2007, 03:11
So what you're saying is we have limited freedom which is close to an oxymoron. Yes total freedom would be a frightening proposition, but who determines those limits and why should THEY have that right. Often it's not the 'so called' elected officials, but those with agendas behind them. I have 'freedom' of speech, so long as I don't offend anyone, but who decides what is offensive? What I find offensive might be 'normal' speech for someone else!!

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September 1st, 2007, 05:23
you are old, you certainly have the freedom to "offend" someone, but prepare to suffer the consequence, whatever that maybe. Just like you are "free" to steal, but once get cought… Freedom doesn't mean there is no consequence.

By this definition, almost everyone is a slave, not just kidding
A serious documentry done by Aaron Russo, a must-see
http://video.google.com/videoplay?do…arch&plindex=0

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September 1st, 2007, 05:54
It goes both ways. Freedom to choose those laws made it acceptable to kill Tutsis in Rwanda and Jews, Gypsies and Homosexuals in Europe. Total freedom leads to anarchy while no freedom leads to slavery. Almost every country is in there between, some closer to one side and some closer to another side.
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September 1st, 2007, 09:07
@corwin- yes and its why the "golden" rule in many ways is a good target but ultimately its nothing but pyrite. yet only when peoples/societies views and goals converge is freedom more than just a bumper sticker.
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September 1st, 2007, 14:56
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
So what you're saying is we have limited freedom which is close to an oxymoron. Yes total freedom would be a frightening proposition, but who determines those limits and why should THEY have that right. Often it's not the 'so called' elected officials, but those with agendas behind them. I have 'freedom' of speech, so long as I don't offend anyone, but who decides what is offensive? What I find offensive might be 'normal' speech for someone else!!
Who decides and writes the laws and how they get to that position differs depending on which country you live in. But people are either put there by elected officials, or by result of direct elections by the populace. So these people, elected or placed there by those elected, must serve the best interests of the general populace, and, in writing laws, their own interests as well. They must have demonstrated experience, knowledge, understanding, comprehension and so on in order to be given the trust placed in them.
Corrupt, less-free governments will of course be more manipulative and agenda-backed than those in a more democratic society.

You absolutely have freedom of speech and to offend. To paraphrase somebody who's name I cannot remember "I may not agree with what you say, but I'll fight for your right to say it.", this holds very true. You can say what you want, but others can respond accordingly. Being offended is unavoidable, many people offend me and those same people are often given money from perfectly legitimate sources to allow them to say what they want in bigger and far-reaching ways.

As for who decides what it offensive, it depends on the offense. If it's damaging, the courts decide and allow the proper course of actions to be taken. If it just pisses you off, well, that's part of life.

You know the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.
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September 1st, 2007, 16:37
There's a big debate in the local newspaper about freedom of speech for the moment. The trigger was an article about the Lars Viik cartoons where the writer claimed that freedom of religion goes hand in hand with freedom to insult that religion. The "controvercy" (once again) was that one of the cartoons (one where the prophet Muhammed was painted as a roundabout dog (a common thing to do in Sweden is for private persons to make a model of a dog and place it in the middle of a roundabout, hence the expression)). The local muslim comunity had a small demostration outside of the newspaper's main bulding demanding an apology. And somewhere in some far away muslim country some local yahoos burned a green and yellow swedish flag (note how… blue the real flag is ). The debate from the newspapers side after that was that they weren't backing down just because the muslims said they should, since they had the right to print the pictures (which they had).

The most usuall point made in the debate (IMO) though was made by a local polititian (from the major swedish party, the Social Democrats). I said that he didn't challenge their right to print the picture, but he still think they did wrong to post them. Because as a member of the Swedish society (and any society. Or as a human being if you like) you have a responsibility towards other pepole. That's too often lost in the debate, since pepole seem to whine a lot about their rights while forgetting their responsibilities (quite naturally, rights are often funnier than responsibilities ).

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September 1st, 2007, 20:48
Liberated people are free to say and do things they sometimes really shouldn't say or do, and that can cause problems. Thankfully, those situations tend to be obvious, and most people have the good sense to avoid them.

We all know that some folks are smarter than others and that we all make mistakes from time to time — no big deal. It becomes difficult, though, when ideologists take the wrong stands.

Ralph Nader is a perfect example of that. Bush was originally elected in 2000 after Nader insisted on running as a third-party candidate to promote his ideology. He was warned that his candidacy might draw enough supporters from the Democrats to hand Bush the election, but he insisted it was worth it.

Does anyone remember the ideology Nader was promoting? Does anyone think it was worth it?

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
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September 1st, 2007, 23:29
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post

Ralph Nader is a perfect example of that. Bush was originally elected in 2000 after Nader insisted on running as a third-party candidate to promote his ideology. He was warned that his candidacy might draw enough supporters from the Democrats to hand Bush the election, but he insisted it was worth it.

Does anyone remember the ideology Nader was promoting? Does anyone think it was worth it?
Well, it was worth it because it maintained the proper structure of a democratic voting system. Nader had every right to run, and every right to not listen to people saying don't run because Bush will get elected. It's up to the people who to vote for, after all.
What would happen if America were strictly limited to a two-party system, would that be considered free? I don't think so.
Unfortunately it's also true that in such a situation, the rights of those running for office to run do turn in counterproductive results, at least for the short term.

In Canada, we have three main political parties - Conservatives (currently in power as a minority government), Liberals and New Democratic Party. Quebec has the Parti Quebecois added into the mix, and there's a "fringe" party gaining momentum, The Green Party.
Now, what's happened is that the Conservatives are in with a minority government because they did not get enough votes to form a majority. However, because they are the only right-of-centre party, they attract all those votes (save for the loons who vote for the hardcore Christian parties). The left-of-centre vote is split between Liberal and NDP, and now the Greens are siphoning votes from there. We had similar claims last election that the NDP would hand the Conservatives leadership - collectively Canada votes more towards the left, but that vote is split. If you look at the numbers, a vast majority of the left-of-centre vote outweighs the smaller right, yet here we are with a Conservative government. But that's no reason to say they cannot and should not present themselves as a valid political choice.
Parties and their ideologies last longer than one politician, so those parties have every right to build themselves up. In the long run it's better to have choices than no choice at all.

You know the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.
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September 2nd, 2007, 01:26
I'm not questioning Nader's rights — I'm questioning his judgement. His reasons for staying in the race were purely ideological, by his own admission. In hindsight, I think he was foolish to have taken that particular stand.

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
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September 2nd, 2007, 01:29
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
So what you're saying is we have limited freedom which is close to an oxymoron.
No more so than for any characteristic. There are precious few things in this world that are absolutes, and most of those live in the realm of concepts rather than concrete objects. Consider "power," for example: most people would agree that the Emperor Hadrian was more powerful than my hypothetical slave in Mons Claudianus, yet Hadrian's power was limited as well — he could not prevent the suicide of Antinous, nor thoroughly defeat the Picts, for example. Is "limited power" an oxymoron too?

Yes total freedom would be a frightening proposition, but who determines those limits and why should THEY have that right. Often it's not the 'so called' elected officials, but those with agendas behind them. I have 'freedom' of speech, so long as I don't offend anyone, but who decides what is offensive? What I find offensive might be 'normal' speech for someone else!!
Are you familiar with the term "intersubjectivity?" It describes a process of arriving at a (dynamic) consensus over whatever is being discussed. It doesn't presuppose perfect agreement about everything; the idea is that if people bang heads together about hairy topics like this one, they can find areas where most of them agree enough about some fuzzy concept to turn it into a social norm. Because the discussion is continuous, the norms end up being fluid — things that were acceptable before may turn out not to be, and vice versa.

Of course, different people have varying amounts of influence in this intersubjective process; finding out these details is a big part of sociological study.

In a nutshell, "they" don't make the rules: we all do. We're making them now, in a small way, as we're discussing the topic.
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September 2nd, 2007, 05:03
Except that our influence is too small to be noticed by anyone outside this forum, I could even say just this topic.
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September 2nd, 2007, 08:09
Perhaps, but really so called democracy is a farce. Parties pre-select potential politicians and then offer us a limited alternative; vote for one of these 3+ political hacks, whoever gets elected will do precisely what the party tells them to, and you mug voters can believe that they are actually 'representing' your wishes!! Ha!!!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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