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Freedom

The Gargantuan Arm

Let us remember liberty was not popular,
six years it took Laboulaye to convince
Bartholdi a gigantic statue was 
what New York harbor needed. Eleven
years later

<i>What is Democracy?</i>. Directed by Astra Taylor. Zeitgeist Films, 2018. 108 minutes.

How Free Is Too Free?

After a fallow period of about fifteen years, in 2014 I returned to driving. Having let my license expire out of pure indolence, I embarked on a process that ended with a road test in deepest Brooklyn. I had no car and no plans to buy one, but within a couple years I was doing more driving than anyone I knew. A needy dog five pounds too big to fly and a sick parent five hundred miles away sent me again and again to the closest rental depot, where I would be handed keys to a compact car of limited but occasionally stark variation. For the same price, I might settle into a vehicle loaded with sixty-seven computers and a heated steering wheel, or a shitbox with no USB port and a tire set to blow on a major Ontario highway. I would study the rental agent’s face as she clacked in the relevant data, looking for some sign of my fate.

Boundaries of Utopia

“Mediaeval liberty,” said Lord Acton, “differs from modern in this, that it depended on property.” But the difference is surely a difference oniy in degree, not in kind. Money may have less influence in a modern than in a mediaeval court of law. But outside the court of law? Outside, it is true, I am legally free to work or not to work, as I choose; for I am not a serf. I am legally free to live here rather than there; for I am not bound to the land. I am free, within reasonable limits, to amuse myself as I like; archdeacons do not fine me for indulging in what they consider unseemly diversions. I am legally free to marry anyone (with the possible exception of a member of the royal family,) from my first cousin to the daughter of a duke; no lord compels me to marry a girl or widow from the manor, no priest forbids the banns within the seventh degree of consanguinity. The list of all my legal freedoms would run to pages of type. Nobody in all history has been so free as I am now.