One word that sums up succinctly the American ideal of our country is “Freedom.” American citizens and politicians routinely refer to the United States as “the land of the free.” As such one of the most important aspects of American democracy are that the freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness continue to be protected. Yet freedom exists in different forms and there are different ways that it plays out in people’s life depending on the perspective from where you are looking at and how you are choosing to understand freedom. In my view, there are five characteristics of freedom that I see playing out in my every day life and each of these has it’s own unique set of features that will be expounded upon in the course of this essay. The five types of freedoms are, personal freedom, economic freedom, political freedom, religious freedom, and mental freedom. As will be seen, each one shares a part of an overall essence of freedom, but each is applied to different areas of life.
Personal freedom is being able to do what one chooses, but so long as this freedom does not interfere with other’s right to freedom. Personal freedom in one sense is being able to do what one chooses. But there are obvious restrictions to being able to do this and one of its features is that there are limits given the context that a person appears in. Personal identities are inextricably linked to our family identities. People are products of their cultures and environments, and outside of the individual, it is the family that is the smallest unit of the community of a society. Therefore it is not a freedom to steal something from someone in your family and your community because this personal freedom would be compromising someone else’s freedom and right to ownership of property. Personal freedom is being able to choose what a person wants to do for a career, who a person wants to marry, where a person wants to live and how a person chooses to spend there time. Looking back in history there were many instances when personal freedom was denied individuals. There were cultures in which a person was not free to marry but instead had to marry someone who their parents had arranged for them to marry from the time that they were very young. There are also instances where a person was not able to choose what they wanted to do for a living since they were first to follow in their father’s footsteps. Today in the Western world many of us have this personal freedom and complete ownership of our life to do with it what we please.
Economic freedom is having enough income in order to get by. Very poor people do not have this freedom, and specifically homeless and unemployed people are denied this right since they do not have the freedom to choose what and when to eat and often are left with no place to sleep but on the street. Housing is a basic human right. Every person has a basic right to have a to a decent standard of living. When there is a shortage of something, it is the poor who pay. Be it iPhones or home, those with the adequate means will always procure their needs and fulfill their desires. Freedom is about being able to make choices, and a certain level of financial security is necessary to be able to make many choices from whether or not to have a phone, what kind of phone to have and where to live. Our government is based on principles of freedom, and the resources necessary for that freedom to not be inhibited. Houses, the homes we inhabit, should not be left up to the winds of economic tides. The government should have a system in place that prevents people from losing their houses and becoming homeless or sliding further into poverty. This leads into the third form characteristic of freedom, political freedom.
Political freedom is having a government that does not prevent people from having life, liberty and their pursuit of happiness. Society, in one simple definition, is a set of conventions existing between a group of people that serves the general welfare of the people. This is a country where freedom is enshrined in our constitution. In this country people can choose who they meet with, who their friends are, and are able to choose what religion to practice, how to raise their kids, etc. For freedom to exist within a society People must be able to exercise it at their own peril to the risks a misguided opinion could result in. This does not mean that the government should not place any restrictions on people. One feature of political freedom is that people can choose to harm themselves, such as choosing to smoke cigarettes, but there are limits to what freedom the government should allow. The government, for example, should not allow people to drink and drive since this choice made by one person could put into risk the freedom of another person to have a life since an accident could kill another person. Governments also restrict certain freedom by making illegal drugs that they have deemed harm people. This is certainly a restriction to freedom, but one that the government makes in good conscience. Part of political freedom is a right to having to have the freedom of speech, to be able to believe what a person wants and also being able to express that belief.
Religious freedom is related to political freedom, since it is the government that is in place in order to ensure that people are being given religious freedom, but it is also up to religious leaders. Freedom in the religious sphere is being able to choose one’s own worldview and then practicing it without interference or being forced to believe something. Belief, at the end of the day, is not something that we freely choose necessarily. Rather it is what we admit to ourselves that we think is true when we are honest with ourselves. We can certainly do things to affect our belief, but freedom of belief is not being able to believe whatever one wants. A person can decide that her believes that he can fly, but this is not freedom, this is delusion. Deluding oneself into believing something is not a freedom of belief. There are culture sin the world today and historical societies where people were actually killed for having a difference of opinion on religious matters. Thankfully, the world has changed and is continuing to change and people now are able to believe what they choose to believe freely and in many countries are not forced to believe a particular thing.
Mental freedom is being free of psychological ailments, which prevents a person from seeing reality as it is. Someone, for example, with schizophrenia does not has the same freedom that someone without it does since this ailment will prevent them from seeing reality as they are. There are people in the world who have other psychological problems that cause them to twist reality into the way they see it. One feature of mental freedom is peace of mind. A person can go through life lying to one’s self, but the consequence will be they will lose their mental tranquility. Mental freedom is having the maturity to accept the difficult things in life without denying them. It is about seeing oneselves not as you want to see yourself, but as you are—as others in the world see you.
Freedom is an essential part of being human. In the US constitution it establishes the given that people have certain “inalienable” freedoms to live their life as they wish. In order for this to be carried out as the framers of the constitution intended it required an individual person choosing their own personal and mental freedom, a society where they are granted mental freedom, a government which gives them political freedom, and a religion that does not persecute and force others to believe as they do but gives the individual choice of what to believe. These in my opinion are the five characteristic of freedom and their features.