Freedom Essay, Research Paper
In 1995, Jacob Hornberger, leader of the Future of Freedom Foundation, said, ?If you are not free to choose wrongly and irresponsibly, you are not free at all.? Many Americans would agree with that statement. However, it is doubtful that the Greeks or Romans would have. The meaning of freedom was much more specific in those societies. Throughout time, the meaning of the word ?freedom? has become more encompassing and more broad in its meaning.
From about 4000 B.C. until 1000 B.C., the word ?freedom? meant very little. Freedom simply meant that a person was not entirely owned by another person. All persons were definitely not guaranteed the right to travel anywhere they pleased, speak their mind, or own property. The meaning of freedom changed in the Greek and Roman civilizations. The word became synonymous with participating in the decision-making process of the community, a privilege bestowed on a very small portion of the men who lived in the civilization. The usage of ?freedom? (obviously in a different language) was nonetheless very specific: you were free if you were part of the government.
The British were next to add more meaning to the word ?freedom.? In 1215, King John drafted and issued the Magna Carta. While King John?s motivations are up for debate, it is agreed that the Magna Carta is the first document to guarantee some rights to citizens. The Magna Carta gave most of the people freedom of religion, freedom of customs, and laws to protect citizens. Included were laws that the King himself must follow. Future generations interpreted sections of the Magna Carta to guarantee the right to fair trial by a jury. The British played an important role in expanding the definition of freedom to include rights that other cultures had never considered.
The United States continually and swiftly broadened the meaning of ?freedom.? The U.S. was founded on the idea of freedom and focused on freedom in the constitution and amendments. The constitution and amendments specifically mention several ?rights? such as the right to free speech and fair trial. In addition, U.S. citizens expect the government to provide many services. Citizens of the U.S. believe that they are entitled to certain governmental services and many people consider this a freedom. This is fundamentally different from the freedom that the British had granted just a short while ago. Freedom now includes the ideas of government-provided services such as education and health care.
Equal rights for all was added to the American consciousness as a freedom in the 20th century. People began to consider the battle for civil rights as an issue over freedom. This idea was relatively new, for it had been considered for only a few decades. A good example from the end of the 19th century is a quote by Lord Acton, a historian, as he says ?The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities.?
The unfortunate situation of today is the word ?freedom? means so many different things to the people of the U.S. Politicians are successfully able to twist the word to fit the desired meaning, while having the pleasant effect of conjuring up ideas of American pride. An excellent example from the relatively recent past is Jack Kemp, republican vice-presidential nominee in 1996, and his usage of the word freedom. He vigorously asserted that lower taxes equal more freedom. He told the listeners of his campaigning that if they have more money, they will have more freedom. Jack Kemp has unfortunately attempted to reshape the meaning of the word. In his attempt, he makes ?freedom? a commodity, which it is not. He attempts to associate the idea of lower taxes to freedom in order to gain votes in the election. This is an action that can only be attempted in today?s society. You could never attempt to associate lower taxes with freedom in previous societies in history: the word was too specific in meaning to be manipulated in that way.
The meaning of ?freedom? has developed from not being a slave to being able to say what you want, live where you please, receive health care, and so many other ideas. Unfortunately, this has opened the opportunity for persons to bend and shape the meaning of the word freedom to fit their purpose. It is probable that the meaning of the word freedom will continue to expand as the continual struggle over what humans deserve carries on.