Well to start with we don’t really possess a self in order to be free. Our self is a construct of our interactions so the very idea of freedom for such a construct is spurious.
But having said that a lot of us like the idea of freedom.
We don’t like things being imposed on us.
We like to be able to do what we want.
Those two aspects, basically, are the foundation of what we would consider freedom. However, even a cursory glance tells us that freedom is illusory. We cannot live in society without things being imposed on us (and we wouldn’t want to) and we can’t be allowed to do as we like (nor would we want to).
Imagine living in a big urban conurbation without rules. It would be impossible. The roads would not work. Public transport would not work. Walking down the street would not work. Getting goods would not work. Work would not work. Mixing with different people would not work.
Every day life has a set of laws and rules, from all driving on the right side of the road to not barging people out of the way on the pavements. Without those rules and social etiquette life does not work.
All those rules and etiquette impinge on our freedom.
Imagine if everybody was free to do just as they wanted – not to have to work, to just take what they wanted, to jump queues, attack people, rape, gorge and splurge. To drive through the city centre at 150 MPH and to murder whoever you liked. To berate someone and threaten them because they did not like the colour of their skin or religion.
All those restrictions impinge on our freedom but they protect the freedoms of others. It’s surely a question of balance isn’t it?
I think a lot of people have some idealistic view of what life could be like if they did not have petty bureaucrats or overbearing governments restricting them. But isn’t one man’s freedom another person’s loss of freedom?
Aren’t we confusing licence with freedom?
In practice freedom is a compromise isn’t it? If we live with one other person we have to consider them and restrict our own freedom accordingly. If we live in large communities we have to abide by the rules and further compromise our freedom in order to enable us all to get along.
When people bleat about their own rights and freedoms being compromised are they really just saying that they think the compromises are too great and that the laws are not right?
But then with billions of people it is not possible for everyone to be happy with where the lines are drawn is it?
For me freedom exists in the Rights as laid out in the United Nations Charter of Human Rights. That document gives me all the freedoms I could want. I’m happy to live within that set of rules and I’d consider myself a free man.