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MrGrimm888's avatar

Are laws a requirement for freedom, or an obstacle? (Details)

Asked by MrGrimm888 (16517points) May 13th, 2017

Do laws protect people, so they can be “free?”

Do laws prevent people from being “free?”

In the US, people are “free,” but really just in regards to religion. Otherwise, people are NOT “free,” to do whatever they want. Laws prohibit many actions.

Laws also protect people. Allowing them to pursue as much happiness as possible, within the confines of the law.

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9 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

It isn’t an either/or.

Some laws are necessary. Some are not.

Patty_Melt's avatar

I think it is the word freedom which is subjective.
I have the freedom to eat whatever I want, but a diet of only waffles and vinegar would be a bad idea.
Freedom and reckless are not the same. To restrain someone with chains would be wrong (unless they are into that) but restraining or containing a harmful situation is not wrong; seatbelts being a good example.
People are constantly concerned with seeking freedom. What we should be most concerned with is joy, and safety.

marinelife's avatar

I don’t think that the premise of your question is valid. Laws are necessary for human societies to function. They can validate or limit freedoms, but perfect freedom is not really a possibility within a society.

CWOTUS's avatar

Written, codified and formalized laws – and penalties – are in my mind a measure of how far we have strayed from real civilization.

If you think of your own family, for example, you probably have unwritten rules of conduct, same as every other family I’ve ever known or been part of. You know within pretty narrow bands what kinds of behaviors you can get away with, what you can do without discussion or repercussion, and where the lines are that you had better not cross. And – again, if you’re like most reasonably well-behaved and civilized people – you generally act within those bounds.

But as the family structure starts to break down, and as people in the family start to unfairly take advantage of one another, then the rules have to be written down: formalized schedules for various chores, for example, and written tally sheets and records of who-got-what and when so that wealth distribution can be made more equitable.

Laws do that on a more formal basis. I don’t need laws in my neighborhood that tell me to not blithely walk onto my neighbor’s property, break into his house and take what isn’t mine. I don’t need a law that prevents me from shooting obnoxious drivers in the face. I doubt that you need those, either. If the law didn’t exist, would you shoot your neighbor over a dispute about, say, an unmowed lawn or leaves blowing onto your property?

Truly “civilized” people don’t really have a lot of need for laws and the penalties that come with them. We know the difference between right and wrong, and stay on the right side of the unwritten rules that we already know.

This is not an entirely original idea that I have. I got it from Robert A. Heinlein, and he got it from earlier writers and thinkers.

So, as to “freedom” … laws are written by governments, which are necessary limitations on freedom, because even the best among us aren’t perfect enough to live with absolutely no restraint or constraint on behavior. Even the best get angry and do things that they shouldn’t have done, or make mistakes that they would rather not own up to, and try to avoid taking responsibility for. Laws in general are the way we codify our civilization, and as that civilization gets more complex, more laws are needed to help us decide where “most of us” have set our priorities.

Laws are what we need to preserve the maximum amount of freedom among other people who don’t always think the way we do.

Soubresaut's avatar

Well, how are we defining freedom?

I have the freedom to travel almost anywhere in the world with relative ease, safety, and speed. But that freedom of mine is tied to the laws and regulations that govern the creation of transportation vehicles, transportation pathways, and the coordination of all the different people coming and going along those pathways in all their different vehicles. That freedom of mine is tied to my ability to pay—some of it going to taxes, some of it going to private companies.

I guess what I’m trying to say… I don’t see freedom as some magical entity. It’s something we have to work to create. It’s something we have to work to maintain and refine… and maybe distribute. It’s something many people disagree about, and argue about, and fight each other about. But insofar as “freedom” means the most options for the most number of people, while avoiding as much harm as possible, I don’t think it’s necessarily something separate from laws.

(And of course laws can impinge on freedom… we’ve seen that throughout history…. But maybe that ability suggests laws’ complex relationship with freedom, rather than there being a necessary dichotomy? And maybe it speaks to our responsibility to create and defend the societal structures that allow freedom. Well anyway, I’m probably getting too… I can’t think of the word… something between flowery/abstract/vague.)

kritiper's avatar

They are a requirement for freedom since society has to take into consideration all of the idiots/douchebags who can’t/won’t abide peacefully and fairly with others of the community.

Strauss's avatar

It depends on the point of view. Certain supporters of business would have you believe that “free enterprise” or “free capitalism“should mean there should be no regulations of any kind on any business.

MrGrimm888's avatar

As most have pointed out, it depends on a person’s definition of “freedom.”

rojo's avatar

Perhaps laws are what help us define freedom.

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