Guest Blog by Michael Bertsch

Freedom is untidy; Liberty: less so.

Rather than to establish “freedom,” The US Constitution secures for us and our posterity the “Blessings of Liberty.” I prefer liberty to freedom, and I’ll tell you why.

My freedom to swing my fist in the air stops at the end of someone else’s nose. That is, I must consider “the Other” when I choose to do things. Were I to exercise “freedom”, I could swing my fist with no thought of consequences. Therein lies the actual problem with respect to freedom and liberty.

Liberty requires an understanding that everyone’s judgment differs about what is and is not desirable.

Embracing liberty does not mean allowing The Stupid freely to run rampant. Rather, liberty requires that we understand the existence of The Stupid, and mitigate against its effects upon The Common Wealth. The Stupid blindly pursues freedom whether or not it sullies The Common Wealth.

Liberty is the check on freedom when the exercise of freedom infringes upon the Common Wealth.

Liberty allows us to regulate corporations whose wastes sully the Common Wealth. Liberty allows us to regulate predatory lenders who create nefarious financial instruments. Reducing regulations, for example, increased the freedom for Wall Street, and we still perceive the results nearly ten years later.

Liberty also requires a thicker skin, so as not to feel too offended too soon. Yes: suck it up sometimes. Ain’t no thang, as it were.

Before the Mulford Act, any Californian could carry any weapon openly. In fact, when I was a high school freshman in 1967, we had Miss Campbell’s World History Class. We were studying World War One―the Great War, as if any war could be “great.” I told her I had a WWI rifle, a gift from my dad several years before in response to my wanting a .22 rifle. He wanted me to respect The Rifle, so instead he got me a 1917 Budapest m95 carbine in 8x50r. Back then, ammo was easy to get. Now? Nah. I wish I still had a few hundred rounds. I’d sell ’em and make a mint. Now I have to reload for it. Luckily, I have the skillz. Where was I, oh yeah, History class…

So in World History, Miss Campbell said, “Bring it in so we can see what rifles from that time looked like.” At 15, I just slung the rifle over my shoulder and rode my bike to school like always, and I got to find out what the side sling swivel was for. No one batted an eye. Not so today. I’d probably be shot by a SWAT team, by two SWAT teams, possibly more likely if I were Black.

In 1967 I could carry my rifle over my shoulder on my bike with no troubles because I was exercising liberty properly. That is, I knew not to point it at folks to intimidate them and so on. And since “a gun is always loaded,” I frequently opened the bolt to ensure this was so. Plus, none of my school mates had ever seen a straight-pull bolt-action rifle. Neat-o.

There’s the essence of liberty: pay attention to your actions and decide whether someone’s liberty might be infringed by what you do. Then, act accordingly.

Liberty bids us ask, “Should I say it?” Freedom lets us say any old thing–up to the point of inciting riots and shooting up abortion clinics. There’s no free speech or free assembly there. That is as it should be. When one understands liberty, we guess about the cumulative effect of decades of this kind of violent rhetoric. We see the connections between that speech and those violent acts.

Liberty is a quality whose exercise requires presence of mind and an empathy for the human condition. Freedom? Untidy. Liberty? Less so, requiring more awareness for proper use.

The views presented here do not necessarily reflect the views of The Liberal Gun Club, Inc.

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