It is useful to think of two kinds of freedom:
- freedom-from—freedom from barriers, oppression, and harm—what most people think of when they think of freedom, being unhampered by unreasonable limits.
- freedom-to—freedom to take effective action—having both fair opportunity and realistic possibility to be, do or have what we want.
The fact that our freedom exists in the context of other people’s freedom means that freedom can never be absolute. As the saying goes, "Your freedom to swing your arm stops where my nose begins."
However, freedom can be optimized: that is, it can be made as broad and full as possible for everyone involved, given the limitations of the circumstances.
Working that out is—or should be—one of the great ongoing projects of our democratic life. It helps a lot if we respect and listen to each other. It makes a difference if we then use what we learn to search together for good answers that benefit us all.
Freedom and power are linked at the hip. You will never find one without the other.