Of Liberty and Citizenship

There is a lot of talk about liberty and freedom these days, and it is oft quoted that freedom is not free. It is not free, it is paid for with citizenship, it is defended by citizen soldiers and nurtured by citizen programs that serve and nurish our fellow Americans.

Citizenship is the reciprocity of rights and duty, liberty depends on a strong citizenry to maintain it and citizenship depends on liberty to strengthen its citizens. It is the give and take of society, where individual rights are ensured through the collective will, it is the Yin and Yang of self governance. To exalt one and deny the other leads to the collapse of both, where duty out weighs liberty we find fascism and the seeds of totalitarian states. Where individual liberty overshadows the duty of citizenship we find anarchy and feudalism.

What debt do we owe the individual or the collective? The collective, when tempered by individual liberties, creates an environment where individual initiative and hard work can prosper, regardless of one’s station of birth. When individual liberty is held in esteem the collective benefits from those who push the boundaries of industry and enlightenment. The one builds upon the other, constantly maintaining a tension that is expressive as it is impressive, through the co-operation of individuals we excel as a society.

It is citizenship that leads to service in our military by individuals, and individual initiative is what fuels our collective economies. One with out the other would leave us all wanton, where would industry be with out the protection of our citizen soldiers, what life could an individual serviceman expect if there is no industry to return home to?

The idea that we are on our own is flawed, there are too many inter-connections to each other to deny this, there is no capitalism without consumers, no production with out labor and no society without individuals. Individual liberties can only exist within a collective society, the great proponent of personal liberty Benjamin Franklin correctly noted, that which is beyond what one can fashion for themselves out of the wilderness is a product of a collective society.

All property, indeed, except the savage’s temporary cabin, his bow, his matchcoat and other little Acquisitions absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the creature of public Convention. Hence, the public has the rights of regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the quantity and uses of it. All the property that is necessary to a man is his natural Right, which none may justly deprive him of, but all Property superfluous to such Purposes is the property of the Public who, by their Laws have created it and who may, by other Laws dispose of it. -Benjamin Franklin

The Grand Experiment, that the United States represents, is predicated on the inalienable rights of the individual and their duties as citizens. A dichotomy, maintaining a tension between the two to the benefit of both, this is not a zero sum game of winner take all or the suppression of the individual by the collective. It is a balance of rights and responsibilities, one that must remain fluid and responsive but never abandoned. Holding an extreme position for either unbalances the whole, it is when we hold both concepts simultaneously that we thrive, both as individuals and as a society.

This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.-Theodore Roosevelt

We individuals, are all in this together.

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