Here in the wonderful country of the United States we place heavy emphasis on our freedom. We are “the land of the free” and speak it proudly. But what is freedom? Is all freedom a good thing? Is liberty and license the same?
One is the “freedom of/for” and the other is “freedom from”.
License is the form of freedom that most people think about. When they envision freedom they look at it as a state of being free from all restraints. One of the most notable pioneers of this form of freedom was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau was an enlightenment era thinker of Swiss birth in the 1700s. His most notable work was the Social Contract in which he praised the return of man to the state of nature. He believed that the state and society created a less free man and that he could not be completely free as long as property ownership and laws existed. This led to the, at the time, radical notion that man must return to a state of nature so that he can have the freedom to do as he pleased. Basically a state of anarchy.
License is the “freedom from” something. It is a form of absolute freedom from any form of law, code or restraint. License is a form of false freedom, lacking a guide to morals and order, which in turn leads to anarchic chaos. However, complete license is not something that most people would go for. Majority of people support some form of laws to keep things held together, but what you do get is a moral license which relates heavily to moral relativism (Click Here). Moral License is the view that morally one can do as he/she pleases. People think that this gives them freedom but in reality all it does is make you a slave to your own desires. Take a look at society. Illegitimate births, high std rate, high abortion rate, divorce and family structure breakdown. The breakdown of family structure alone creates a self perpetuating system of broken homes and psychologically damaged kids. Moral License is NOT freedom. It is enslavement to carnal pleasures and habitual desires.
Liberty is the “freedom for”. It means you have the freedom to carry out the virtues and to do the good without restraint. If you take a look at our foundation we see that we are bestowed many liberties. For example we have the Freedom of Speech. This means we are able to speak out on issues and let our voices be heard. This, however, does not mean you have the license to slander other people, print lies, use hate and violence or be destructive to society. Liberties must be taken within context of moral order and the common good.
It is said that the virtuous man is the most free. Why? Look at it like this. If you have a desire to kill someone and the law says you cannot kill me then you are not free to do so. However, if you were a virtuous man you would have no desire to kill me so the law would not be restraining you.
Liberty, when put in a Christian context, is the most free someone can be. License is enslavement to sin.