"Liberty is not just an idea, an abstract principle.
It is power, effective power to do specific things.
There is no such thing as liberty in general;
liberty, so to speak, at large."
John Dewey
(1859-1952) American philosopher, psychologist, professor, and progressive educational reformer.
The Social Frontier, November 1935
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Reader comments about this quote:
Nicely put.
 -- David L Rosenthal     
     -- Mike, Norwalk      
    Absolutely. Liberty is the pulse of unrealized potential in search of manifestation. A positive power without form.The stretching of conciousness as it awakens from unawareness. Liberty is all these and more. It is the womb of free will.
     -- Me Again     
    King George has "effective power" and with it he is "doing specific things"... primarilly killing the liberty of the American people while bringing unjust war to the world... this quote seems way off the mark, mostly telling us what something isn't, and then not telling us what it is except by a statement which could be just as untrue as true.
     -- Anonymous, Reston, VA US     
    Hey, Me Again, pretty deep stuff -- nice.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
    Reston: All liberty is power, but not all power is liberty.
     -- David L Rosenthal     
    It may be said there is no absolute liberty, or lack of it. There can be no unrestrained freedom for anyone, to the expense of others. There have to be SOME limits. Nor can there be total lack of liberty, as even someone in shackles can still think, for example. It has to be a measured quantity.
     -- Jack, Green, OH     
    Yes, there IS absolute liberty. It's a misperception that liberty is synonymous with ability. I do not possess the liberty of harming another individual. I do, however, have the ability to prohibit the exercise, justly or unjustly, of another's inalienable liberty. If I were to exercise my ability in assuming an unnatural liberty (that was not my own) in harming another person, I would negate the protection of natural law in behalf of my own liberty. The principle thus applies: I cannot prohibit another's "expression" of liberty and freedom without prohibiting the exercise or expression of my own (notice that "expression" of liberty is not actually "liberty" itself, just the application of an absolute). Absolute liberty does not equal anarchy or tyranny. A society that denies natural law and establishes de facto law in its stead creates anarchy and tyranny. Natural law establishes that there must be natural and universal absolutes; that is, cause and effect. De facto law states that the government can do whatever it wants, regardless of universal absolutes and protections. I have the absolute, unrestrained ability of unjustly striking another human being; however, based on natural law, the consequence, or effect, of forcing my own unjust force upon someone else is that I have abdicated my protection against the same threat... I will be punished to the equal amount of my offense. I still retain my absolute liberty, except that my ability of expression has been limited (punishment). If liberty could be naturally alienated from an individual (limited, reduced, etc.), based on his or her actions (crimes) and/or location (jail, incarceration, etc.), then it wouldn't be "inalienable". Such a perception of liberty goes against the very foundational principles upon which our government was founded. According to natural law, liberty cannot be alienated; however, according to de facto law (going against the principle of inalienable liberty), government can treat the individual as though they have no liberty, regardless of universal reality.
     -- Logan, Memphis, TN     
    WOW Logan, stated very well but probably lost on most of the conservative and liberal readers of this blog.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    The Constitution is very specific, listing what our government may do. Yet, our government ignores it in favor of increasing their personal power (i.e. Kennedy).
     -- Joe, Rochester, MI     
    Logan and Mike, Logan wrote: "De facto law states that the government can do whatever it wants, regardless of universal absolutes and protections." How and where does de facto law state this?
     -- David L. Rosenthal     
    De facto, by definition, means that something exists, but without authority or without reality (source: dictionary.com, wikipedia.org). The Declaration of Independence stated that government was created to protect unalienable rights that were naturally inherent in every living being, given by a Creator, from any encroachment. The founding fathers defined these unalienable rights by the “laws of nature and of nature’s God”, or, in other words, “natural laws”. Natural law (laws of universal nature) existed before any man or government came into existence—hence, natural law simply defined the expression of the way things were (rights) in a state of natural living. They even defined a few of these rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property). Now, speaking of de facto-ism (taking the natural right of life, for example), and speaking hypothetically: We all have a right to our life by any means we need to extend it (breathing, for example), so long as we do not infringe upon another’s right to do the same. Now, imagine if the federal government made a Constitutional Amendment saying that it was against the law for every child under the age of two to breathe. If every law the government enacted was de jure (the opposite of de facto), and in accordance with the “laws of nature”, every child under the age of two would instantly fall dead from asphyxiation. In order for such a law to be effective, the federal government would have to physically send out policeman to personally choke every child to death. So, even though the law could be physically enforced, it is still not in accordance with natural law. It is obvious that such a scenario is absurd; however, it clearly exemplifies the dangers of de facto law. Just because a group of men get together to make and enforce a law, it does not mean that such is in accordance with “natural law”. When our Republic no longer wishes to remain true to the natural rights and laws which this nation was built upon, there is no longer any protection against the encroachments of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness.
     -- Logan, Memphis, TN     
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