I have just been reading Harold Demsetz' paper "The Meaning of Liberty," contained in his "Ownership, Control, and the Firm - The Organization of Economic Activity, Volume I. Basil Blackwell, 1988"
In this paper, Demsetz addresses a feature of liberty that I find especially intriguing -- namely, the fact that liberty empowers people to generate different visions of freedom. In other words: liberty generates her own indeterminacy and serial and parallel renewal. In which way she remains a living concept, and roots herself in the discourse of an open society. (p.281)
This important condition is insufficiently dealt with in the libertarian literature, whose contributors tend to be more inclined to set out a certain dogmatic conception of freedom and defend it, often with acrimony, outrage and despair, against a world daring to proffer deviant attitudes toward liberty.
Against this Demsetz notes (emphases added by me):
For some libertarians, a free society bars restrictions that others may place on the use of legitimate private rights, counting among such restrictions not only state-imposed limitations but also privately imposed limitations, such as the "invasion" of private air space with smoke and soot from distant private factories. Defining legitimacy, of course, is part of the problem of defining freedom.
On this latter issue see my Why Worry About Inequality? A Reflection on Self-Ownership, where I explain that the famous non-aggression principle amounts to a rather unhelpful position begging the question as to what is to count as aggression and what not.
For conservatives, a free society bars prostitution, narcotics consumption, and commerce on Sunday, because they view such activities in the same way as libertarians view smoke and soot, as restrictions to which they are legitimately entitled. [...]
Notions of legitimate rights are as varied as are the origins of restrictions to such rights, and the costs of reducing restrictions are as varied as the shades of meanings that different peoples seem tp attach to freedom. This casual empirical observation seems at odds with the belief ... that freedom can be given a precise meaning. (p.281)
For certain purposes, I believe, it is possible and useful to give freedom a precise meaning. However, giving freedom a precise meaning is not the way in which freedom is achieved. She is much rather attained by a complex play of cultural-intellectual exchange and political negotiations among a democratic public, each member of which being entitled to her own position regarding the meaning and implications of freedom.
In fact, a certain openness, incompleteness, and indeterminacy of the meaning of freedom is an essential requirement for liberty to work as best as possible, otherwise she would depend on the prevalence of an intellectual and political elite and the dropping out of the vast majority of free citizens from the level at which admissible freedom is being defined.
The debate about freedom has taken place as if a constitution of liberty could be written on the basis of abstract principles relating to coercion, private property, and so forth. [But this is insufficient, for:] Scarcity implies cost, and cost implies subjective values, and not everyone shares a common set of values. It is therefore possible for different persons to disagree as to whether a course of action promotes or diminishes freedom, and certainly, to disagree about whether it is "worth" its "cost." (p. 291)
So, when you are "free to choose," as your are in historically unprecedented measure in a modern free society, you are free to choose views, values and trade-off-strategies that establish political scarcity in the sense of disagreement concerning admissible forms of liberty, dissonant patterns of (restrictions and rights defining) freedom.
In the measure that liberty promotes freedom of thought, expression, and choice she is required to incorporate institutions and practices that are capable of avoiding conflict-overload and creating a level of social reconciliation (institutions of violence prevention, political compromise, and trust) that compensates for the level on which social reconciliation cannot be expected (personal belief systems).
So, one of the functions of the political system of liberty is to sustain incentives and institutions that make it worthwhile for everyone to tolerate unpalatable ideological commitments and value preferences in others.
See also Why It Is Not True That Politics Makes Us Worse ... (1/3), and Trust and Democracy.