Limits on Freedom


Kairi Rice, guest writer

The possibilities for how one’s life can end up is limitless. Between each person on this earth, there are a plethora of differences in the components of their lives. Who they know, where they live, what they do, their preferences. Each of these components work together to develop the way a person thinks. Due to these differences, how one interprets things in life, like freedom, will never completely be the same from person to person. Some people may try to cater to each of the needs of all these different people’s freedoms, but it is a futile attempt. It is impossible to meet the requirements for everyone to be free due to the subjective nature of freedom and the interferences one person’s freedoms can cause anothers.

People’s interpretations of freedom have been and will always be different from each other in some way. According to Merriam Webster, the “true” definition of freedom is, “the quality or state of being free”. This is a very subjective definition. What is being free? What makes people feel free? There’s no way everyone can be given an equal amount of freedom because it is such a personal thing. An individual’s sense of being free is influenced by their experiences, and every second of a person’s life from birth to death is different from another’s in some way. Most people will experience the same archetypes of experiences, but they will all be unique in their own way. Depending on what someone was able or unable to do during their life, will cause a person to put more value on certain freedoms while another person who was brought up differently won’t care as much, or won’t see any value in those freedoms at all. For example, those who grew up in individualistic cultures versus collectivistic cultures. Individualistic societies put more value into people having independence while collectivistic societies put more value into people being a part of a cohesive group. Whichever society an individual grows up in will influence what freedoms they value. Those who favor individualism will most likely care more for freedoms that consider the personal preferences of people, while those who favor collectivism will probably care more for freedoms that consider the preferences of a group as a whole. These two groups already create a lot of difference of opinion between people. The smaller groups within those groups will cause even more of a divide, creating seemingly infinite possibilities for ways people can interpret freedom. With so many ways people can think of freedom or feel about freedom, there’s no way everyone can have each of their needs for freedom met.

One person’s freedoms will always hinder the ability for another to be free. Recent events like Roe v Wade is an example of this. It brought up a lot of debate on abortion and whether or not women should have the freedom to have one. Those who oppose abortion feel that it is a violation of the human rights of the fetus to abort it when it cannot voice its opinion on the matter. They refer to themselves as “pro life” and advocate for the rights of the fetus, trying to make sure its life gets considered in the discussion of abortion. While it is a considerate thought to try giving the fetus an equal amount of freedom as the women carrying it, there’s no way to provide one party freedom without withholding it from the other. The ability to view the thoughts of a fetus is as possible as it is to view the thoughts of people born and living in the world now. It will never be known whether or not a fetus has a consciousness or if it is even aware of the fact that it exists, and even if it was known, it wouldn’t matter. Even if a fetus did have a consciousness and was able to somehow communicate its opposition to being aborted, both parties won’t have an equal amount of freedom. If abortion is illegal, the woman will lose her freedom to choose whether or not she wants a child, but the fetus gains its chance to be born and experience freedom. If abortion is legal, the woman will keep her freedom of choice, but the fetus will no longer be given a chance to experience freedom if it is aborted. The best option would seem to be keeping abortion legal since the woman is the only party that is already born and can express her opinion, but at the end of the day, it’s a lose lose situation. This is the same for many other debates on freedoms, like freedoms relating to guns, freedoms relating to self expression, freedoms relating to religion, etc. These debates, however, are much harder to discuss since both parties are able to express their own differing opinions.

Living in a world with such different people with different opinions makes contrary interpretations of freedom inevitable. Even among one’s own family, those closest to a person since birth or childhood that influenced their development, clashing opinions and ideas are extremely common. If those closest to a person are capable of being so differently opinionated from each other, it’s obvious a complete stranger will be capable as well. People should learn to work together despite these differences of opinion and realize that in most situations, there will be one party gaining more than the other. In the beginning of humanity’s existence, life was probably like this, and life will most likely continue to be this way until humanity’s inevitable end. For as long as humanity exists, people can never appease everyone’s requirements for freedom, and that’s completely fine. People should be able to have and express differing opinions, as long as no one tries to insult or harm another person for it. Besides, life would be boring if everyone had the exact same thoughts.