Many people seem to believe that to be free to do something is to be free of any negative consequences of that action. This is a very juvenile (ignorant) perception of freedom. It ignores one of the most important aspects of freedom: it causes responsibility. Yes, it literally causes responsibility. As soon as you are free to do something, you are responsible (whether or not you or anyone else agrees) for either doing or not doing that thing.
For example: I am free to drink poison. I am therefore responsible for either drinking it or not drinking it. If I do not drink it, then I enjoy the positive consequence of not dying from drinking the poison. That was my responsibility, because that was my employment of my freedom.
If, on the other hand, I chose to drink the poison, I would suffer the consequence of employing my freedom accordingly. Death. Or, maybe I wouldn’t die. Maybe I would only suffer permanent extreme physical impairment. Would it then be right of me to object to my impairment? Could I reasonably rebuke my consequence by shouting, “But I’m free to drink the poison! This can’t happen to me! It was my unalienable right!”
Sounds ridiculous, and may be a bit of false equivalency to what follows, but I don’t believe it’s without logical merit.
Note: I am not arguing FOR legal consequences to certain behaviors. Allow me to clarify.
By the most liberal (meaning broadest) definition of free speech I am free to say what I want regardless of context. I could walk into a theater and yell, “Fire!”, when there is no fire – I am free to do so. I could board a plane and shout, “I have a bomb!” I am absolutely free to do either of those. However, it would not be without consequence. Another note: I’m still not talking about legal consequences. Even without legal consequences, I will still face negative consequences. For example, if I shout, “I have a bomb!”, I might get restrained by a pedestrian. If I shout, “Fire!”, when there is no fire, I run the risk of being shunned by fellow patrons and labeled as a liar and a disturber of the peace.
When I am attacked by a concerned citizen or alienated by society as a consequence of my employment of my freedom, can I reasonably object to such consequences? I wouldn’t think so (as an objective third party).
So, what is the point of this post? We all know that actions have consequences, good and bad. You must have just wasted your time reading this.
Well, what are the current hot debates about? What are the arguments being vomited around regarding gun control, hate crimes, and so on? Why have such “discussions” inspired me to write this post?
Often times, when I read vitriol among debaters regarding any such issue, I get embarrassed for all parties involved. You’ll see responses like, “Don’t you care about your freedom?” or “Don’t you care about our children?” or “If you don’t like it, why don’t you move to another country?” and so on. Such statements have NO PLACE in any reasonable discussion, disagreement, or argument. They have nothing to do with the quality of the opposing view, and only serve to alienate the opposition. They are an evil of themselves. They irrevocably and unfailing solely serve to degrade the net quality of any such debate. THAT is the consequence of employing your freedom to disagree in such a bastardized fashion. Cut it out! Respect one another, already!
Notice that I do not (may God correct me if I ever do) single out one particular side. This is an evil that does not discriminate. It will take what it can get, and right now it’s enjoying the greatest buffet no man has ever laid his eyes on. I am not immune.
Regardless of legislation, responsibility for consequences is an inevitable byproduct of freedom, whether we believe it or not. To think that legislation has any real impact on freedom is indicative of some level of ignorance of the nature of freedom. However, legislation can and does directly impact the consequences of the actions for which we are responsible due to our freedom. In this light, one might even say that legislation helps highlight our freedoms. After all, there can be no law without responsibility, and there can be no responsibility without freedom. Otherwise, law would truly be unjust if it penalized us for actions we had no control over (lacking the freedom (ability) to choose whether or not to act in such a way).
So, a law stating that there will be negative consequences if I threaten to bomb a plane presupposes that I am free to choose whether or not I will do such a thing. Likewise, all other laws specifying negative consequences to certain behaviors presuppose the freedom to behave such ways.
That isn’t too say that all laws are just, but that is not within the scope of this post.
This post really just serves as a backbone to my plea: please be respectful when arguing about such topics. I’ve overstepped such bounds far too often. It’s an embarrassing, painful process to learn the negative consequences first hand. Take my word for it. Your character and ability to reason are compromised with each such mistake.