Liberty Quotes

“Throughout history orators and poets have extolled liberty, but no one has told us why liberty is so important. Our attitude towards such matters should depend on whether we consider civilization as fixed or as advancing. . . In an advancing society, any restriction on liberty reduces the number of things tried and so reduces the rate of progress. In such a society freedom of action is granted to the individual, not because it gives him greater satisfaction but because if allowed to go his own way he will on the average serve the rest of us better than under any orders we know how to give.” (HB Phillips)

“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” (L. Brandeis)

“Man never mounts higher than when he knows not where he is going.” (Oliver Cromwell)

“No doubt there is no liberty when people cannot do all that the laws allow them to do; but laws could forbid so many things as to abolish liberty altogether.” (Benjamin Constant)

“Nothing is more fertile in prodigies then the art of being free; but there is nothing more arduous than the apprenticeship of liberty. . . Liberty is generally established with difficulty in the midst of storms; it is perfected by civil discords; and its benefit cannot be appreciated until it is already old.” (Alexis de Tocqueville)

“At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs being due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has sometimes been disastrous, by giving to opponents just grounds of opposition.” (Lord Acton)

“A man is free as far as he can live and get on without being at the mercy of arbitrary decisions on the part of other people.” (Ludwig von Mises, Human Action)

“A man has freedom as far as he shapes his life according to his own plans. A man whose fate is determined by the plans of a superior authority, in which the exclusive power to plan is vested, is not free in the sense in which the term “free” was used and understood by all people until the semantic revolution of our day brought about a confusion of tongues.” (Ludwig von Mises, Human Action)

“The treatment of this problem of freedom and bondage has been muddled by confounding it with the issues of the nature-given conditions of man’s existence. In nature there is nothing that could be called freedom. Nature is inexorable necessity. It is the state of affairs into which all created beings are placed and with which they have to cope. Man has to adjust his conduct to the world as it is. He lacks the power to rise in rebellion against the “laws of nature.” If he wants to substitute more satisfactory conditions for less satisfactory, he has to comply with them.

The concept of freedom and its antithesis makes sense only in referring to the conditions of social cooperation among men. Social cooperation, the basis of any really humane and civilized existence, can be achieved by two different methods. It can be cooperation by virtue of contract and voluntary coordination on the part of all individuals, or it can be cooperation by virtue of command on the part of a Fuhrer and compulsory subordination of the many. The latter system is authoritarian.” (Ludwig von Mises, Planning for Freedom)

“In short, is not liberty the freedom of every person to make full use of his faculties, so long as he does not harm other persons while doing so?” (Bastiat)

“If we are free, does it follow that we shall then cease to associate with each other, to help each other, to love and succor our unfortunate brothers, to study the secrets of nature, and to strive to improve ourselves to the best of our abilities?” (Bastiat)

“But we [individualists] assure the socialists that we repudiate only forced organization. We repudiate the forms of association that are forced upon us, not free association. We repudiate forced fraternity, not true fraternity. We repudiate artificial unity that does nothing more than deprive persons of individual responsibility.” (Bastiat)

“. . . the case for individual freedom rests chiefly on the recognition of the inevitable ignorance of all of us concerning a great many of the factors on which the achievement of our ends and welfare depends.

If there were omniscient men, if we could know not only all that affects the attainment of our present wishes but also our future wants and desires, there would be little case for liberty. And, in turn, liberty of the individual would, of course, make complete foresight impossible. Liberty is essential in order to leave room for the unforeseeable and unpredictable; we want it because we have learned to expect from it the opportunity of realizing many of our aims. It is because every individual knows so little and, in particular, because we rarely know which of us knows best that we trust the independent and competitive efforts of many to induce the emergence of what we shall want when we see it.” (Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty)

“From this foundation of the argument for liberty it follows that we shall not achieve its ends if we confine liberty to the particular instances where we know it will do good. Freedom granted only when it is known beforehand that its effects will be beneficial is not freedom. If we knew how freedom would be used, the case for it would largely disappear. We shall never get the benefits of freedom, never obtained those unforeseeable new developments for which it provides the opportunity, if it is not also granted where the uses made of it by some do not seem desirable. It is therefore no argument against individual freedom that it is frequently abused. Freedom necessarily means that many things will be done which we do not like. Our faith in freedom does not rest on the foreseeable results in particular circumstances but on the belief that it will, on balance, release more forces for the good than for the bad.” (Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty)

“It might even be said that the less likely the opportunity to make use of freedom to do a particular thing, the more precious it will be for society as a whole. The less likely the opportunity, the more serious will it be to miss it when it arises, for the experience that it offers will be nearly unique. It is also probably true that the majority are not directly interested in most of the important things that any one person should be free to do. It is because we do not know how individuals will use their freedom that it is so important. If it were otherwise, the results of freedom could also be achieved by the majority’s deciding what should be done by the individuals. But majority action is, of necessity, confined to the already tried and ascertained, to issues on which agreement has already been reached in that process of discussion that must be preceded by different experiences and actions on the part of different individuals.” (Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty)

“The benefits of freedom are therefore not confined to the free – or, at least, a man does not benefit mainly from those aspects of freedom which he himself takes advantage of. There can be no doubt that in history unfree majorities have benefited from the existence of free minorities and that today unfree societies benefit from what they obtain and learn from free societies. Of course the benefits we derive from freedom of others become greater as the number of those who can exercise freedom increases. The argument for the freedom of some therefore applies to the freedom of all. But it is still better for all that some should be free than none and also that many enjoy full freedom than that all have a restrictive freedom. The significant point is that the importance of freedom to do a particular thing has nothing to do with the number of people who want to do it: it might almost be in inverse proportion. One consequence of this is that a society may be hamstrung by controls, although the great majority may be aware that their freedom has been significantly curtailed. If we proceed on the assumption that only the exercises of freedom that the majority will practice are important, we would be certain to create a stagnant society with all the characteristic of unfreedom.” (Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty)

“Though freedom is not a state of nature but an artifact of civilization, it did not arise from design. The institutions of freedom, like everything freedom has created, were not established because people foresaw the benefits they would bring. But, once its advantages were recognized, men began to perfect and extend the reign of freedom and, for that purpose, to inquire how a free society worked.” (Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty)

“We have seen that the opportunities of learning about new possibilities that the growth of civilization constantly offers provide one of the main arguments for freedom; it would therefore make nonsense of the whole case for freedom if, because of the envy of others or because of their dislike of anything that disturbs their ingrained habits of thought, we should be restrained from pursuing certain activities. ” (Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty)

“Nowhere is freedom more important than where our ignorance is greatest – at the boundaries of knowledge, in other words, where nobody can predict what lies a step ahead. Though freedom has been threatened even there, it is still the field where we can count on most men rallying to its defense when they recognize the threat. If in this book we have been concerned mainly with freedom in other fields, it is because we so often forget today that intellectual freedom rests on a much wider foundation of freedom and cannot exist without it. But the ultimate aim of freedom is the enlargement of those capacities in which man surpasses his ancestors and to which each generation must endeavor to add its share – its share of the growth of knowledge and the gradual advance of moral and aesthetic beliefs, where no superior must be allowed to enforce one set of views of what is right or good and where only further experience can decide what should prevail.” (Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty)

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