What does freedom mean to you?

I suspect different people have different definitions. For me, freedom is about choice.  If I don’t have a choice, I don’t have freedom. Because while I may not be actively oppressed, I also don’t have the ability to change things either.

Humanism, to me, is a life philosophy aimed at the reduction of unnecessary suffering. Accept the things you can’t change, change the things you can. It seems to me that in any given life, there are things we can change and things we can’t.

The freedom that is of most concern to me is where I am restricted in my choices arbitrarily for no good purpose.  So – for instance - women not having access to birth control. That restricts freedom unnecessarily, because it restricts choice, unnecessarily.

Money is another thing that restricts freedom. Sure, I am free to travel, but right now I don’t have the ability to – so I can’t exercise that freedom.  Which is why poverty is so devastating to freedom.  Poverty restricts choices because it restricts access to options. It restricts access to education in places where education is not paid for by the state. It restricts access to health care, where health care is not guaranteed by the state. Poverty even restricts access to clean water in most places in the world.

If you do not have the means to secure the basics of life, you aren’t free to do anything but subsist.  Freedom, at that point, is a meaningless concept.

I’m not saying we should set up a welfare state, or that we need equality of outcome to be fair. What I am saying is that ensuring that everyone has access to the basic necessities of life is an essential first step to ensuring freedom for individuals to pursue whatever it is they want to pursue in life.

  • At a minimum, children should have access to a free secular education everywhere. Without an education, they’re life choices are severely restricted and their freedom diminished. 
  • People should have access to free clean water, at no cost (aside from the taxes that pay for this service). This means privatizing the water supply is not acceptable. Allowing private industry to pollute our common water supply is also not acceptable.
  • People must have access to a basic level of health care necessary to ensure their survival and minimum level of health so that they can pursue whatever goals in life they have. And this must be affordable to everyone.
  • Living wages – people, who work, should receive a minimum wage that is sufficient to ensure they have enough money to survive.  Whether they can earn more to be able to thrive is another matter. 
  • Open immigration and migration.  We must stop restricting the movement of people over national borders.  Yes, states have a right to keep out criminals, but people looking for work, should be allowed to move to where there is work.  Keeping people locked into an arbitrary geographic area to the benefit of the rulers of those geographic areas is not my idea of freedom. People should be free to seek a better life wherever and however, they choose. 

What do you think are the necessary minimal support people need to be free?

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