In addition to the conception of Liberty as collective freedom, the founding fathers conception of liberty had an additional aspect, which was that of personal freedom. This was usually defined not in positive terms such as the right to free speech, and so forth, but in negative terms, for example the freedom of free citizens from coercion in matters like personal faith and political views, from the government (Greene).
In addition there was the idea that liberty was something with which power and government had a constant battle and that government was constantly looking to erode on people’s liberty. This obligated the ‘defenders of liberty’ to be on constant watch against the governmental abuses of power. William Livingstone, one of the signers of the constitution, wrote:
“Public Abuses are, in their own Nature, progressive; and tho’ easily removed in their Origin, acquire Strength by their Duration, and at last become too potent to be subdued” (Livingston)
Another aspect of liberty was the idea that in the independent United States, the citizen would be free from the shackles of the class system that afflicted the societies of Britain and continental Europe. According to this definition, liberty means the rise of meritocracy, whereby the person appointed to a public office is the one whom the authorities find to be the one that is most suitable for the office. In addition, being from the class of ‘commoners’ does not prevent a man from using his ingenuity and God-given talent to gain wealth or education and reach a high position in society.
This conception of liberty can be adduced from the phrase, ‘the pursuit of happiness’. The idea is that social structures of the English society prevented men from realizing their full potential in terms of wealth, in the independent United States; people would be free to achieve what they could by using their inherent abilities and hard work.
Is the concept of liberty as professed by the founding fathers, still current today? The likely answer is; no. Most people today would consider the idea that citizenship should be confined to a particular ethnic group to be contrary to their conception of freedom (Citrin and Sears).
In addition the presence of rich lobbies representing varied interests, from industries to foreign countries, prevents direct participation of the citizen in the governance.
Also, in order to have an informed opinion about an issue, the public needs to know the facts, when the citizenry is bombarded everyday with opinions disguised as facts through the mass media, it is impossible for them to make an informed decision with their own self-interest in mind, instead they are merely led on to having whatever opinions that powers that be want them to have.
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