The Clare Spark Blog

March 17, 2016

What does “liberty” signify?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:50 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

freedom_by_hnde“…You know how I feel
Scent of the pine
You know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel….” (Volvo freedom commercial: complete lyrics here:

In this background lyric for a recent Volvo commercial, “freedom” is not a gesture or an attractive state of being, but an emotion, a possession, a perfume, or a sensation that presumably links the driver with wild Nature, which the car, the singer, and presumably a friend comprehend.

Many persons link the word “liberty” with freedom: it could be “free will” or liberation from oppression (as in the American Revolution—a statement critical of the former British boot), but in today’s irrationalist political argot, it may mean “religious liberty.”

But such “liberty” may not signify the separation of church and state (see but rather a view that the USA is a Christian Commonwealth that represents the most conservative wing of the Republican Party. To Cornell historian Isaac Kramnick, such a conception exists in tension with the secular state, the latter an innovation of Thomas Jefferson and the (rationalist) Enlightenment views that inspired him.

If there was ever an irreconcilable conflict between factions, this clashing notion of “liberty” is it. Yet few pundits ever identify it as such. In its stark opposition, it reminds me of a similar conflict: free will versus determinism. ( At least in the free will debate, a thoughtful person will do her best to recognize limited (moral) choices, given the state of our ignorance about all the forces that mold our “will.”

Not so in the super-safe Volvo that links safety with the “scent of pine.” And don’t we all pine for that sense of security and composure in our search for “liberty”?

“Liberty relies upon itself, invites no one, promises nothing,
sits in
calmness and light, is positive and composed,
and knows no discouragement.” – Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Illustration credit: Freedom by HNDE (Deviant Art)



  1. My Pop had a problem with FDR saying “Free from Want,” he explained you can never be Free from Want, but you can be content.

    Comment by hrwolfe — December 13, 2018 @ 3:35 pm | Reply

    • Good point. Going by that, your Pop was a wise man.

      Comment by Julie near Chicago — December 12, 2019 @ 7:07 am | Reply

  2. […] Where they go, goes liberty. (For the difficulties of defining “liberty” see […]

    Pingback by Fascism: what it is, what it is not | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — March 19, 2016 @ 3:02 pm | Reply

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