1. Freiheitlich - freedom-regarding
I prick up my ears when I hear of claims that certain expressions in one language cannot be rendered in another language. Often there is merely self-important half-knowledge behind such insinuations. English-speaking academics like to puff themselves up by claiming that German terms such as Realpolitik ("politics in reality," as opposed to some ideal political vision) or Ersatz ("substitute") or Schadenfreude (enjoying pain and other harm affecting others) have no equivalent in English. They do. Perhaps it takes a sentence or two to make the meaning clear, but translation is no problem. Sure, it may be more handy to use one word instead of a sentence, and occasionally that one word may be more readily available in German than in English. And such is the case, I presume, with the German word "freiheitlich" - "freedomly."
"Freiheitlich" might be translated as "freedom-regarding."
The term's charm: it does not ascribe concern for freedom to one party, political school or ideological trend. And, indeed, freedom is not the prerogative of its self-appointed libertarian trustees.
2. Freedom as Blueprint - the Illiberal Ambition in Liberalism
The key misconstruing of freedom that is common to libertarians and anarcho-capitalists lies in their tendency to think of liberty as a predefined set of principles that is capable of orienting those in the know infallibly about all issues that might turn up to be decided along the line: good or bad for liberty. Put differently: these doctrinaires of liberty feel equipped to decide at any moment and under any circumstances what is conducive to and compatible with freedom and what is averse to her. This approach I call freedom as model or better, perhaps, freedom as blueprint.
This approach is fundamentally illiberal. It is authoritarian and paternalistic. Only an elite, the select few in the know, are entitled to decide what liberty is. Of course, liberty just does not work that way, and, hence, the doctrinaires of liberty are always a tiny moping minority that is politically ineffective and rather given to the intolerant bigot's passion for sectarianism.
3. Freedom as Method - Democracy, Law, and Freedom, a Cross-fertilising Dependency
By contrast, freedom is an evolved and powerful, yet imperfect method adapted to
improving society by expanding personal freedom so as to include every citizen in the ameliorative project.
Freedom as method applies the critical method to the concerns of the human being in his capacity as a social actor in a large, populous society.
Democracy is one method of building freedom to trace and try social amelioration and progress. The other method is law.
Thus, freedom is indispensably a democratic project, a bulwark of protection against the cartelisation or monopolisation of political competition in favour of an elite-minority characteristic of the limited access society that has dominated human history until very recently. Freedom presupposes the possibility of political participation by every citizen, i.e. every adult person.
Helpfully, the German constitution - das Grundgesetz ("the basic law") - is referred to as "die freiheitlich-demokratische Grundordnung" - Germany's "freedom-regarding-democratic basic order."
Freedom is a public affair, not just a matter of first principles and their implications, but one concerned with what we may achieve by both rivalrous and cooperative human encounters; hence the pivotal station of democracy, which invites all citizens to speak up at society's open fora, where we vent and negotiate our concerns and ambitions, and from where democracy sends impulses for change and shifting power.
Law and Democracy
The law helps define what the public is and what its organs are allowed to do to the citizens, and what these, in turn, are allowed to do to the public and its organs. The law informs, filters and collates democracy's impulses for change and shifting power.
Together, democracy and law form institutions designed to improve the search for societal amelioration and progress without admitting inordinate negative repercussions from efforts at improvement.
- space for movement (democratic demands for change and shifting power), and she needs
- brakes and channels (legal guidelines and restrictions) to ensure that the overall system is not damaged by the (intended) changes in its vital working parts.
If freedom is to thrive, emphasising the mutually dependent and cross-fertilising connection between freedom, democracy, and law is of the essence. In denying and even fighting this vital triple linkage, the doctrinaires of liberty are actually working against freedom.
Continued at Why Law? (2/2)
Of interest too: Freedom as Method, Freedom Limits Liberalism, and Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm.