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4: Liberty and Justice

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  • Liberty39 is distinctly differentiated from freedom in that freedom is primarily, if not exclusively, the ability to do as one wills and what one has the power to do; whereas liberty concerns the absence of arbitrary restraints and takes into account the rights of all involved. As such, the exercise of liberty is subject to capability and limited by the rights of others.

    The modern concept of political liberty has its origins in the Greek concepts of freedom and slavery. To be free, to the Greeks, was to not have a master, to be independent from a master (to live like one likes). That was the original Greek concept of freedom. It is closely linked with the concept of democracy, as Aristotle put it:

    "This, then, is one note of liberty which all democrats affirm to be the principle of their state. Another is that a man should live as he likes. This, they say, is the privilege of a freeman, since, on the other hand, not to live as a man likes is the mark of a slave. This is the second characteristic of democracy, whence has arisen the claim of men to be ruled by none, if possible, or, if this is impossible, to rule and be ruled in turns; and so it contributes to the freedom based upon equality."

    This applied only to free men. In Athens, for instance, women could not vote or hold office and were legally and socially dependent on a male relative.

    The populations of the Persian Empire enjoyed some degree of freedom. Citizens of all religions and ethnic groups were given the same rights and had the same freedom of religion, women had the same rights as men, and slavery was abolished (550 BC). All the palaces of the kings of Persia were built by paid workers in an era when slaves typically did such work.

    In the Buddhist Maurya Empire of ancient India, citizens of all religions and ethnic groups had some rights to freedom, tolerance, and equality. The need for tolerance on an egalitarian basis can be found in the Edicts of Ashoka the Great, which emphasize the importance of tolerance in public policy by the government. The slaughter or capture of prisoners of war also appears to have been condemned by Ashoka. Slavery also appears to have been non-existent in the Maurya Empire. However, according to Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, "Ashoka's orders seem to have been resisted right from the beginning."

    Roman law also embraced certain limited forms of liberty, even under the rule of the Roman Emperors. However, these liberties were accorded only to Roman citizens. Many of the liberties enjoyed under Roman law endured through the Middle Ages, but were enjoyed solely by the nobility, rarely by the common man. The idea of inalienable and universal liberties had to wait until the Age of Enlightenment.

    The social contract theory, most influentially formulated by Hobbes, John Locke and Rousseau (though first suggested by Plato in The Republic), was among the first to provide a political classification of rights, in particular through the notion of sovereignty and of natural rights. The thinkers of the Enlightenment reasoned that law governed both heavenly and human affairs, and that law gave the king his power, rather than the king's power giving force to law. This conception of law would find its culmination in the ideas of Montesquieu. The conception of law as a relationship between individuals, rather than families, came to the fore, and with it the increasing focus on individual liberty as a fundamental reality, given by "Nature and Nature's God," which, in the ideal state, would be as universal as possible.

    In On Liberty, John Stuart Mill sought to define the "...nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual," and as such, he describes an inherent and continuous antagonism between liberty and authority and thus, the prevailing question becomes "how to make the fitting adjustment between individual independence and social control".

    According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics, liberalism is "the belief that it is the aim of politics to preserve individual rights and to maximize freedom of choice". But they point out that there is considerable discussion about how to achieve those goals. Every discussion of freedom depends of three key components: who is free, what are they free to do, and what forces restrict their freedom. John Gray argues that the core belief of liberalism is toleration. Liberals allow others freedom to do what they want, in exchange for having the same freedom in return. This idea of freedom is personal rather than political. William Safire points out that liberalism is attacked by both the Right and the Left: by the Right for defending such practices as abortion, homosexuality, and atheism, by the Left for defending free enterprise and the rights of the individual over the collective.

    According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, Libertarians hold liberty as their primary political value. Their approach to implementing liberty involves opposing any governmental coercion, aside from that which is necessary to prevent individuals from coercing each other.

    According to republican theorists of freedom, like the historian Quentin Skinner or the philosopher Philip Pettit, one's liberty should not be viewed as the absence of interference in one's actions, but as non-domination. According to this view, which originates in the Roman Digest, to be a liber homo, a free man, means not being subject to another's arbitrary will, that is to say, dominated by another. They also cite Machiavelli who asserted that you must be a member of a free self-governing civil association, a republic, if you are to enjoy individual liberty.

    The predominance of this view of liberty among parliamentarians during the English Civil War resulted in the creation of the liberal concept of freedom as non-interference in Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan.

    Socialists view freedom as a concrete situation as opposed to a purely abstract ideal. Freedom involves agency to pursue one's creative interests unhindered by coercive social relationships that one is forced to engage in in order to survive under a given social system. From this perspective, freedom requires both the material economic conditions that make freedom possible alongside the social relationships and institutions conducive to freedom. As such, the socialist concept of freedom is a specific interpretation of the liberal concept of freedom.

    The socialist conception of freedom is closely related to the socialist view of creativity and individuality. Influenced by Karl Marx's concept of alienated labor, socialists understand freedom to be the ability for an individual to engage in creative work in the absence of alienation, where alienated labor refers to work people are forced to perform and un-alienated work refers to individuals pursuing their own creative interests.

    For Karl Marx, meaningful freedom is only attainable in a communist society characterized by superabundance and free access, would eliminate the need for alienated labor and enable individuals to pursue their own creative interests, leaving them to develop their full potentialities. This goes alongside Marx's emphasis on the reduction of the average length of the workday to expand the "realm of freedom" for each person. Marx's notion of communist society and human freedom is thus radically individualistic.

    Some authors have suggested that a virtuous culture must exist as a prerequisite for liberty. Benjamin Franklin stated that "only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." Madison likewise declared: "To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea." John Adams acknowledged: "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

    Justice40 is the legal or philosophical theory by which fairness is administered. The concept of justice differs in every culture. An early theory of justice was set out by the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato in his work The Republic. Advocates of divine command theory argue that justice issues from God. In the 17th century, theorists like John Locke argued for the theory of natural law. Thinkers in the social contract tradition argued that justice is derived from the mutual agreement of everyone concerned. In the 19th century, utilitarian thinkers including John Stuart Mill argued that justice is what has the best consequences. Theories of distributive justice concern what is distributed, between whom they are to be distributed, and what is the proper distribution. Egalitarians argued that justice can only exist within the coordinates of equality. John Rawls used a social contract argument to show that justice, and especially distributive justice, is a form of fairness. Property rights theorists (like Robert Nozick) take a deontological view of distributive justice and argue that property rights-based justice maximizes the overall wealth of an economic system. Theories of retributive justice are concerned with punishment for wrongdoing. Restorative justice (also sometimes called "reparative justice") is an approach to justice that focuses on restoring what is good, and necessarily focuses on the needs of victims and offenders.

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