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December 24, 2016 / Congau

Free Not to Care

What should a free society demand from its citizens? Nothing! Any demand is a reduction of freedom. But since no society can exist without laws, complete freedom is impossible; there has to be a compromise and that is the liberal state. The question would then be: What should a liberal state demand from its citizens while still calling itself liberal? As little as possible.

The demands would have to be of a negative nature only. Thou shalt abstain from this and that, don’t steal and don’t kill, but if the state is to be truly liberal it cannot require any specific services from its members let alone any particular belief or attitude.

Some talk about a republican spirit that ought to pervade the minds of the citizens, some civic virtue that fosters loyalty to the state. Well, that might be a social advantage, but it is not liberal. The liberal state cannot actively encourage one set of attitude and still claim to be fundamentally different from authoritarian systems. If liberalism is to be honest it needs to include itself in its freedom of belief, that is, a liberal state cannot require people to believe in a liberal state.

Most people have not chosen the state in which they live and therefore it is unfair to ask for any particular devotion to it. If that puts the state itself at risk, nothing can be done. Freedom cannot be saved by giving up freedom.

 

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