Then does it impinge on their freedom?

Continuing our theme of America this week I feel it’s time to look at one of the most delicate subjects around “Freedom”.

Freedom is one of those things that seems completely simple until you try and explain it. But fear not because here’s a really handy way of explaining it that actually works.

You see the problem is that freedom in a society can’t mean the freedom to do whatever you want. That wouldn’t make any sense. Because if it meant I was free to do anything I could decide to go and blow somebody’s head off (with a gun or just by blowing – you see when you can do anything things can start to get silly). But here’s the problem what about that guy’s right to breathe? Well you could argue that you don’t care about him. But what about your right to breathe?

In the end you’re left with a nice simple workable system. We should be free to do anything as long as it doesn’t impinge on somebody else’s freedom. So freedom of speech should be supported for example as saying something about someone in a way that doesn’t impinge on their right to reply.

But the problem is the grey areas. And this is where a lot of the problems lie. We know the old rhyme, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But we also know that this isn’t really true. What if, to take the last example, someone was to say so many hurtful things to someone else that the other person is then unable to function because they are so depressed. Then does it impinge on their freedom? What about celebrities being linked to illegal acts? Have their rights been impinged? Of course they have.

The thing is that, as they say, the devil is in the detail. It’s a perfectly good theory. But it becomes very complicated once real life gets in the way.

You know I think I’ll wait until tomorrow before I tackle the kind of freedom that America wants to impose on Iraq.

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