Isaiah BerlinIsaiah Berlin, (1909-1997) Russian-British social and political theorist, philosopher, historian

Isaiah Berlin Quote

“Those who have ever valued liberty for its own sake believed that to be free to choose, and not to be chosen for, is an unalienable ingredient in what makes human beings human.”

Isaiah BerlinIsaiah Berlin
~ Isaiah Berlin

Five Essays on Liberty, 1969

Ratings and Comments

helen, chambersburg

the complete truth

  • Reply
gdgca    9/2/08
Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

A great joy is to watch a young child go to a restaurant and experience choosing for himself what he will eat rather than it being chosen for him. He/she feels so "grown up", independent and free. Not unlike the Iraq's and Afghans who were able to vote for the first time in their lives. Those who advocate not voting are really missing something.

E Archer, NYC

And thus monopolistic policies abound within the Nanny-state which treats the people as perpetual children who should be grateful that they are 'permitted' to pick off 'the menu' of pre-approved choices. 'Free choice' regarding what we may put in our mouths/bodies, what sexual activities we may consent to, who we may marry, how we may raise our children, what we may learn or teach, what we may 'see' or 'know,' where we may go, what government 'services' we may accept or refuse, what religious beliefs we may entertain, what we may keep private, what we may make public, etc., etc. has been under attack since time immemorial. Whether priest, officer, banker, or teacher, every effort has been made to condition us from cradle to grave to 'choose' from a set of predetermined 'choices,' to be the 'intermediary' or 'agent' between us and our necessities -- in fact to monopolize personal choice altogether so that we actually 'feel' like we are choosing when in fact we are doing exactly what we were prescribed to do. And yet there is always some guy who asks for something not on the menu -- and how do we treat him? ;-)

Ken, Allyn, WA

Those who are not free to choose are not truly moral beings. There is no morality to being charitable if it is at the point of a gun. It is neither charitable for your neighbor or you if you hire someone to force your neighbor to give to the poor at the point of a gun. It is not moral to create children out of men. Men, truly moral beings, have to have the ability to choose between right and wrong, justice and injustice, and to gain the benefit of good choices and suffer the consequences of the bad to really be human. When government takes all choice from you, you can neither be moral or immoral. You are an amoral being and just another animal in the jungle.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Archer should meet Jim K. The child moving from mommy choosing his dinner to him choosing from a menu is not good enough for Archer, you must present the child with an unlimited number of menus with apparently an unlimited number of items. Economically and pragmatically that is ridiculous. Archer and these unlimited liberty enthusiasts are so naive about how life really is. One must often make choices from the limited field in front of him. We are born on this planet we cannot choose our planet. Maybe that day will arrive but now we have to make choices everyday not from an unlimited set of options but generally from several.

Logan, Memphis, TN

"Unlimited Liberty"? That phrase is an oxymoron. I do not have the "liberty" of murdering, raping, pillaging, or plundering -- although I may have the forceful ability. Liberty is a reasoned state of existence that those who came out of the age of the Enlightenment believed was a natural endowment upon the individual simply because they existed. I have the "liberty" of everything wherein I can express my life, liberty, and property so long as I do not infringe upon the rights of another. That is the absolute and most basic fundamental building block of the great American experiment: can man be left alone, without coercion, regulation, or license to be self-governing? Can man be trusted? This brings up the most basic question known in the philosophical world: Is man basically evil or good? Depending on how you answer this question, depends on how you would respond to man's basic goodness or evilness -- but how many of us want to only "live that which is life" and find out the goodness and evilness of life for ourselves? Absolute stupidity among some of these bloggers to redefine the way things only appear today to conclude a concrete sentiment on what yesterday's ideas were -- such a basic flaw amidst the ignorant who have never studied any of the social sciences. Take a different approach -- disagree with us "unlimited liberty enthusiasts" (whatever this is supposed to mean) who are so "naive about how life really is" -- but don't be so damn foolish in expressing utter stupidity by rewriting history and yesterday's thoughts and language to support your theories of how today IS or SHOULD be. Reject the philosophy of America's foundations, but don't rewrite it -- let it stand boldly and nobly for what is was, and then educate and express yourself to build a better tomorrow (even if you completely reject their philosophy -- that's FINE!). Such a rejection of history is saddening, especially since it is very well accepted in scholastic circles to be happening at an alarming pace in this country. Government is simply a conglomerate of men who make decisions for the rest -- it is not an abstract power entity that can do whatever it wants so long as it gets approval by the majority. If a government is supposedly derived from the people, wherein the people delegate their right of representation to a delegated person -- that person cannot assume a power over what the people can individually grant him (such would be usurpation and tyranny). Though this happens (representatives assuming a right wherein their constituents had no ability of granting him powers to act), this does not mean that such actions of usurpation constitute legitimacy in government. In a Democracy, where does the legitimacy/right of the individual come from (the founding fathers for example) to stand up against the army/government/supporter majority to say "no, you cannot do this to me... I do not care who you are or what you think you are entitled to! I am a freeman, and this violates my inalienable, Creator given, rights"? There is none, because if the majority had anything to say about it they would simply vote away any perceived right. As has been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote". Although we DO act according to the voice of the people, the inalienable rights of the one outweigh the overreaching grasp of a usurping majority. Freedom to move and act exists in nature -- it is a natural coinsurance that takes man's overreaching despotism to seek to hinder.

E Archer, NYC
  • Reply
E Archer, NYC Logan, Memphis, TN 8/16/22

Hear, hear!  Excellent, Logan.

E Archer, NYC

Logan, it seems that you can always find a fresh and eloquent way to restate the same argument for Liberty. Good stuff (again). Another example of being forced to pick from column 'A' or 'B,' we get so caught up in party politics that people forget that they can vote for anyone -- even Hillary Clinton instead of Obama. The parties-that-be have laid claim to our ballot box to force us to pick from their list, not ours. There is no reason in the world why we couldn't have dozens of choices for President made up from all those that qualify. We could have Clinton, Obama, McCain, Ron Paul, Huckabee, Nader, etc.. The reason why is that the 2 monopolizing political parties are run by the same people and as long as we elect one of the 2, they still win -- it is the same fraternity with different 'useful idiots' that appeal to a mass of voters. Yeah, thank goodness that we have a choice, right? The day may soon come when these parties are seen for the monopolists they are, but as long as we keep filling up Congress with them, they will do what they do best: make promises with our money/labors/property to get re-elected. Some choice...

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

By the phrase ":unlimited liberty" I meant that we often have a choice between this or that. Often we can choose between one of two paths then go a little further and choose between our current or another new path. We do not have unlimited choices at the beginning of our journey. Archer bitched about the prospect of only having one menu to choose from. If a person wishes to buy a used 2004 Mercury Marquis he generally will not have the opportunity, time or ability to looka the entire universe of used Mercury Marquis although that prospect is much greater today with computers than it would be years ago. That is what I meant by "unlimited liberty" or unlimited choice.

Ken, Milford Pa.

Liberty is something that is granted to you, and as such it can be revoked, or limited. This is why I always speak about freedom and not liberty. Freedom is like death. You are either dead or not. You cannot be a little dead, nor can you be a little free. You are either free or you are not. We have to show the responsibility of exercising those freedoms without infringing on the freedoms of others. If we all learn how to balance this, then all will be fine.

Logan, Memphis, TN

Who grants liberty? Does government grant liberty? You can believe this, but the consequences of such belief have been shown historically to be disastrous to liberty. As I stated, government is merely a conglomerate of men and women acting in a specified office. Are these few men and women the "givers" of liberty? How did they get such a universal deified title? Our Declaration of Independence (the founding document OF personal independence) states that rights stem from a "Creator". Are we then to suppose that our government is that Creator? That men and women, once they have the "approval" of the masses, they assume a godly role to dole out privilege, license, liberty, freedom, or self-accountability? There are stories of holocaust victims who accepted that the German's force over them took away their liberty -- while there are a handful of stories that have come through of men who took an individually independent stand in how they looked at their captors. These few men realized that there was one basic fundamental portion of existence the German's could not attack: the way they choose to think and feel in any given circumstance. These heroes of the Holocaust understood what our founders did -- that liberty is not a thing to be granted or taken away by men, but is a natural entity that exists within the heart of any man or women willing to accept it. While man may use coercion and limit the movement of the individual, man cannot take away what nature has given by way of a Creator. We fight for liberty and freedom, because we acknowledge that there are some basic fundamental aspects of our existence as Creatures of nature that are worth more than our life -- and that limitations in expression of these liberties will not be accepted or tolerated -- by our lives, they are not.

Ken, Milford Pa.

See what I mean. This is why freedom is more important than liberty. When I was in the Marines, when we wanted to go off base, we were given liberty, a pass that allowed us to leave. It was understood that this was granted and could be revoked. Government grants liberty, ie, permission to drive a car, hunt, fish etc. This will continue to be a liberty as long as we allow it to be so. Freedom is granted by God. We are freemoral agents. We make our own decisions and reap the fruit, or suffer the consequences. Government cannot revoke that which they did not grant. We have, and need freedom, as aposed to liberty. It is important to understand the difference. Believe me, they do.

E Archer, NYC

Waffler ever confuses freedom with democracy. For him, freedom is getting to pick from the menu himself (somehow Waffler segues into the joy of voting -- so the kid gets to order, but the others still get to vote on what he will eat too). For me, it is to not have a menu put in my face and pressured to pick from those choices. Some days I just do not want to be 'sold' something pre-packaged -- usually crap. Where is the self-discovery? Where is the self-direction? I don't like the scripts being given to me, I'll write my own, thank you. ;-)

Patrick Henry, Red Hill

The Creator ordained right to Life and Liberty long preceded the evolvement of political philosophies and ideologies.

Lamentably, ideological zealots, who are sanctimonious religionists in everything but name, who are, in actuality, latter day Pharisees, in their power/control/weaith mongering quests, are prepared to sacrifice on the altar of their illusive ideological idols and agendas every right that is intrinsic to Life and Liberty.

Mike, Norwalk

AGAIN ! ! ! Liberty is: The power of acting as one thinks fit, without any restraint or control, except from the laws of nature. (Bouviers Law Dictionary) Liberty is the exemption from extraneous control. The power of the will, in its moral freedom, to follow the dictates of its unrestricted choice, and to direct the external acts of the individual without restraint, coercion, or control from other persons. Liberty is the right which nature gives to all mankind of disposing of their persons and property after the manner they judge most consistent with their happiness, on condition of their acting within the limits of the law of nature, and so as not to interfere with an equal exercise of the same rights by other men. (Blacks Law Dictionary 1st ed.) Liberty: "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual." (Thomas Jefferson) WAFFLER, liberty does not so much have to do with a quantity of choices but rather, a lack of restraint. A similar situation in the reverse is - the Constitution does not a list of limitations per se - but rather a limited list of what can be authoritatively / lawfully done (if the Constitution doesn't allude to an issue, the government can't do it.


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