Freedom for me and all of us.

The ideas of personal freedom must from time to time be reconsidered and viewed in light of what is happening around us. The old books of philosophy are gradually becoming outdated, the terms used do not fit any more. But that is as it should be.

In a free society we see no random use of power or extended use of power, or surprising use of power or powers used outside the law. We know what happens and we basically consent to it. This concept of freedom is vital, the transparent and accepted role of the community or state likewise. The concept of freedom is important: no dominance, no dependencies, random use of power must not be allowed. This also goes for economic power. Among countries the same should apply: Equality, balanced treaties of all kinds.

The pressures on individual freedom are increasing: rules and regulations are growing, security is increasing, economic concentration is huge, the influence of the state seems to be growing. From time to time there are outlets of frustration, real or imagined, that also add to the tightening.

Traditionally we say that people tend to maximize their rights. We need a state for many purposes: as a check on individual activity, to handle day to day business, law and order, to deal with common practicalities like school, health, infrastructure etc.

Historically this is also a power game –  how many people can you manage to push under your rule. There are many words for this: republic, liberal, libertarian, socialist, fascist. We have also had city states, republics, kingdoms, empires.

So if we go back to basics: We need individual freedom and we need a common function. The term state should perhaps be changed altogether so as to help new thinking. We need an expression of community that is widely accepted, preferably fully accepted by all. May be we should simply call it the Commons. The state need not do it all as many functions can be set up outside a state: e.g. road administration, health, education.

In most countries now the state function is growing all the time. The number of laws are increasing, the bureaucrats and officials are everywhere, new areas of activity is added. People are starting to complain about interference with basic principles of individual freedom.

Ideally you should be able to do freely what you want. But the obvious golden rule is there – do unto others what you would want others to do unto you. We can imagine that this is possible and we can all have a good society. You restrain yourself, you know what to expect, you feel safe, and you can then do what you want. This is the principle of anarchism.

The state is historically a power instrument in local, national and international terms. We have never thought of the common function otherwise – as a handler of practicalities only. States handle the power game, the foreign policy, the wars.

Now the size, power and influence of the state is an important element in a society. Some say that a big state reduces freedom. This is not necessarily so if you like and accept what is going on. It is more about having an open society where personal freedom is more important than security. We are now in troubled waters with the perceived increase of terrorism, global coordination, increased surveillance.

If the dealings of state or community becomes contrary to what we like and think, processes of change or conflict may follow. We may lose our sense of community and develop a resistance to the state. This may be temporary or it may develop into a more critical situation. The state must not become an external agent robbing or restricting you. If many people feel an alienation, there is a problem and stability may be in danger.

We can not use the old phrases of politics forever, we need new thinking. A major challenge is how to allow for great diversity and at the same time have consensus. A modern man must balance his own needs and that of society – there is a common good that we must all help build. We must also leave out the old thinking and create a modern world based on what we deeply know to be right. New concepts and new thinking are needed, and the theories need not be detailed or rigid as we work our way to a realization of full freedom and a proper sustainable common function. And as we do at home we should also do abroad.

There will be changes and variations and people will commit shameful deeds, but the big picture of freedom must be upheld and practiced. And surely this is what we all want?

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