Splitting Hairs? ‘Freedom’ and ‘Liberty’: Not the Same Thing

Published on July 11, 2014

by Michael A. Cummings
Clash Daily Guest Contributor

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” — Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 [emphasis mine

Yes, Clashers, I used the same phrase from the Declaration as last week’s column. I did this to highlight an important aspect of our American culture I believe is missing in far too many Americans. 

First, a clarification. 

Did you know “freedom” is not in the Declaration? Why not? We often used these words interchangeably and, generally speaking, that’s okay. Dig deeper, however, and you’ll find these two words carry an important distinction. 

A quick Google search shows that “freedom” means: the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint;

and “liberty”: the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views. 

You could accuse me of splitting hairs, but I like to think of the difference this way:  
Animals are free, Americans have liberty, and with our liberty comes a large responsibility to guard it for the next generation.  

Or did you think you are an American at this place in history strictly to pursue your own happiness? Those of you incensed at me calling you narcissistic, stand fast. 

In a way, freedom is free. As with free will, to me we are born free whether we’re Afghans, Iranians, Canadians, or Americans. We can act any way we want, even though the consequences are wildly different throughout most of the world. Liberty, however, is freedom while under the protection of the Constitution.  

Liberty and the pursuit of happiness require payment.  

It’s troubling that there are too many Americans who don’t believe this.

In our country’s short history, we’ve enjoyed the benefits brought to us by the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Patton, Audie Murphy (look him up), Pat Tillman, Danny Dietz, Marcus Luttrell, my father, and, coming November, one of my godsons.  

What have you done to preserve our country?  I don’t ask you this lightly, nor would I ask this if I haven’t put forth my own effort. 

I’ve worked on a US Senatorial campaign (Trevor Drown, AR), a US Congressional campaign (Joe Coors, CO), served as a county delegate, walked neighborhoods for a state representative (Ken Summers), and I’m privileged to have a large Clash Daily audience to write to on a weekly basis to inform and inspire. I’ve taken seriously Mark Levin’s recommendation to be the most knowledgeable person I know regarding history and politics. On that last point, I have a ways to go. 

It isn’t enough.

We are all busy (frankly, it’s long been my belief the Left is so successful at what they do because conservatives are the ones doing the actual work required to keep our economy going, but that for another time). Working a full-time job and raising a family is already difficult. How about adding higher taxes, higher debt, inflation, and uncertainty to the mix? 

You don’t have to be a politician or talk show host. You don’t have to walk neighborhoods, or protest at abortion clinics. Do you realize how many things you can do to ensure our country survives? 

Teach, preach, and learn. Most of all, if you do nothing else, reach out and talk politics with as many as you can. If you use Dennis Prager’s adage of preferring clarity to agreement, you can speak with a Leftist without going to blows. It is possible. If you hear “Oh I don’t get into politics” engage those people. Ask them about their lives, and show them how there isn’t a facet of our existence in American today that isn’t impeded by big government. See what they think about that.  

To quote Walt Whitman, 1819 – 1892 [edits mine] 

O Me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring…of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me; Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined; The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life? 


That you are here—that life exists [that we are Americans], and identity; That the powerful play [of the wonderful American experience] goes on, and you will [you must] contribute a verse. 

My friends, contribute that American verse. 

Image: http://opinion-forum.com/index/2011/01/give-me-your-tired-your-poor-your-pirates/

Michael CummingsMichael A. Cummings has a Bachelors in Business Management from St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN, and a Masters in Rhetoric & Composition from Northern Arizona University. He was worked as a department store Loss Prevention Officer, bank auditor, textbook store manager, Chinese food delivery man, and technology salesman. Cummings wrote position pieces for the 2010 Trevor Drown for US Senate (AR) and 2012 Joe Coors for Congress (CO) campaigns. See more at www.cummingsamerica.com and https://twitter.com/ cummingsamerica