July Fourth Ethics: On Liberty And Freedom


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

—-The Declaration of Independence

“It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment, independence now and independence forever. “

—-Daniel Webster, U.S. politician and orator

“Liberty is the soul’s right to breathe, and when it cannot take a long breath, laws are girdled too tight.”

—-Henry Ward Beecher, abolitionist.

“Without an unfettered press, without liberty of speech, all of the outward forms and structures of free institutions are a sham, a pretense – the sheerest mockery. If the press is not free; if speech is not independent and untrammeled; if the mind is shackled or made impotent through fear, it makes no difference under what form of government you live, you are a subject and not a citizen.”

—- Senator William Borah (R-ID), 1917

 “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

—-George Orwell

“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

—- Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, 1927

“The Republic may not give wealth or happiness, she has not promised these. It is the freedom to pursue these, not their realization, which the Declaration of Independence claims.”

—-Andrew Carnegie, American industrialist, 1886

 “There is no rest for free people; rest is a monarchical idea.”

—-Georges Clemenceau, Premier of France, 1883

“The freedom of America is the freedom to live your own life and take your own chances.”

—Thomas Sowell, scholar and social scientist, 1986

“The American people have a stake in non-conformity, for they know the American genius is non-conformist.”

—-Henry Steele Commager, U.S. historian, 1947

“Why is my opinion judged by another man’s conscience?”

—-New Testament, 1 Corinthians 10:29

“The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”

— John Philpot Curra, Irish barrister, 1790.

“You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can only be free if I am free.”

Clarence Darrow, American lawyer and orator, 1920

“Advocacy and belief go hand in hand. For there can be no true freedom of mind if thoughts are secure only when they are pent up.”

—-US Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

“I have made the great discovery that liberty is s product of order”

—-Will Durant, U.S. historian, 1968

“If none were to have Liberty but those who understand what it is, there would not be many freed Men in the world.”

—George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax, 1750

“The Constitution is a delusion and a snare if the weakest and humblest man in the land cannot be defended in his right to speak and his right to think as much as the strongest in the land.”

Clarence Darrow, American lawyer and orator, 1920

“I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon law and upon courts. These are false hopes, believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.”

—- Judge Learned Hand

“The greatest right in the world is the right to be wrong.”

—Henry Weinberger, William Randolph, William Randolph Hearst, or someone else.

“Liberty belongs only to those who have the gift of reason,”

—Pope Leo XIII, 1888

“Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

—-James Madison, 1788

For a previous selection of quotes on the same topic, go here.

Happy Independence Day


Ethics Alarms!






39 thoughts on “July Fourth Ethics: On Liberty And Freedom

    • The stupid Will Smith/Jeff Goldblume movie ruined that for me forever.
      And I STILL think it would have been better to have Randy Quaid fly the crop duster into the mother ship as originally filmed.

      • But then, wouldn’t someone have to have figured out how to disable the mother ship’s defenses – against a crop duster – after those defenses already proved invulnerable to the best air forces in the world? The aliens might have had a fatal flaw somewhere, but it would not have made sense for it to be that easy to exploit.

        Happy celebration of liberation from a dead, white English king day!

      • Perhaps. But I think we’re forgetting something about this day as a culture.

        “Happy Independence Day” is a small way to try to remind people.

        As for revenge on a massively advanced alien species-

        Do we really have something to worry about? These aliens seem less interested in our world as a whole and more interested in practicing some creepy butt fetish on alcoholic rubes

      • I LOVED this movie — but, I thought it was a satire. I laughed out loud during the entire movie — I truly was in hysterics. Finally, somebody at the Uptown asked me to shut the hell up.

        I mean, Jeff Goldblum has technology that is compatible with the alien mother ship? (We couldn’t even get Windows Vista to work.) Will Smith punches out an alien? The impassioned, patriotic speeches? Everything that involved Randy Quaid?

        This movie is a satire — no one can convince me otherwise. We can’t be that dumb as a society (yet) that we are supposed to think this movie is to be taken seriously.

        • You forgot Boomer the dog and Judd Hirsch’s Borscht Belt parody of a Jewish father.

          If it’s a satire, it’s Ed Wood brilliant. I knew when Starship Troopers was being satiric, and I love Mars Attacks, but ID just seemed to me to be the most insultingly stupid big budget disaster movie ever.

          • There are certain movies which I’ve learned I have to shut most of my brain down to properly enjoy. Most action movies fall into this category. Independence day would be one, but I can’t shut down my brain quite far enough…

          • [reply to Jack’s July 4 11:27 am]
            Yesterday I was Lucky enough to be able to follow up on Beth’s notion about the movie. It so happened that one cable channel played the movie over and over all day.

            In between watching programs I had recorded, and a less-than-interesting baseball game, I caught a few moments of one of the showings of Independence Day, starting at a most Lucky moment: When “President” Bill Pullman cuddles with his elementary school-aged, only-child daughter, after seeing his wife die from injuries sustained in a helicopter crash.

            I am sure that was the moment when Beth was laughing most hysterically. Because, after all, we know what the President’s facial expression was REALLY about, as he hugged his daughter and looked over her shoulder. He was SMILING, not grieving! He was anticipating: “Oh GOODY! Now I get to be First Chick Magnet!” – and the hiring of a crony’s daughter for an intern. HilLARYOUS!

            (The updated version of the movie, of course, would show the ex-President and his wife in a jello bath, suffused with currencies from all over the world, getting news of the helicopter crash and the resulting death of a certain U.S. ambassador, high-fiving each other, and her saying, “Better he than ME! Yuck-yuck-yuck!” Absolutely side-splittingly funny!)

            But Beth redeemed herself, as I watched onward to the scene where Jewish Dad upbraids his drunken Jeff Goldblum scientist-son: “I haven’t spoken to God since your mother died.” (Hirsch made me think he was doing his impression of Jackie Mason.) At that point, Dad gave son the inspiration that was key to victory: warning about “catching a cold.” (I won’t ruin the rest of the movie hilarity by saying any more.) Satire, indeed. Thanks, Beth! Now I can laugh all the way through future Obamaphile movies, too. Joke’s on us, yuck-yuck-yuck.

  1. ““Why is my opinion judged by another man’s conscience?”

    —-New Testament, 1 Corinthians 10:29”

    What translation is that from?

    The greek word: ἐλευθερία – eleutheria can be loosely translated as “opinion” or “speak”, but more often renderings of this verse say “freedom”, that is to say:

    Why is my freedom judged by another man’s conscience?

      • THAT would be fascinating. How could the press possibly cover it? How could it be a ‘hate-crime’ to burn a flag? Would their heads simply explode?

      • You’d have to buy one first, Lucky. G’wan, walk into a store that selIs ’em, I dare ya. … On second thought, if you took Steve-O along for protection … but then they’d think you were a couple and … oh, ne-ver mind.

        • I have to save-up a little cash, but I will take your dare. I will reserve the right to stomp and burn the rainbow flag sometime next year – an election year…a whole month of pride parades certain to march next June…lots of happy, privileged couples marching all in a bunch…this is gonna be fun.

          • If you’re going to San Francisco be sure to wear some flow…. uh … oops, wrong decade. Nobody pays much attention to stompers (there are at least three square dance groups and another three clog dancing groups in the city and the Irish one is prone to that sort of inebriated enthusiasm) nor to demonstrations, for that matter, especially not in an eight block crush of nearly 1.5 million, but do be careful, the following is strictly enforced: Smoke-Free Ordinance San Francisco Health
            Code (SFHC19F)

            [That was not a slur on the men of Eire; when well fueled, they are far and away the best dancers]

  2. Trivia: Clemenceau’s political career peaked around the time of the First World War. If I recall correctly, he was only a journalist at the date of the quotation (though I may be confusing him with someone else – many French politicians followed that path).

    • I didn’t know that!
      The quotes I used this time come from one of my favorite books, but one that has a few…probably many…misattributed quotes. That first one from Daniel Webster was assigned to John Adams on his deathbed. Come on.

  3. The Carnegie quote is right on!! Unfortunately, too many people living in this country today believe the opposite and are willing to sell their souls for the security of the nanny state.

  4. Don’t know who said it, but it’s one of my favorites:
    “You can have liberty or you can have equality. You cannot have both.”

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