Active Thinking Topic 37 -  The Price of Freedom

Tuesday 02 August 2022, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: ZOOM online

Focus Questions

1. So what is 'freedom' in your view? What other ideas of 'freedom' might other people have? How far should responsibilities check 'freedoms'?

2. What freedoms should a person surrender to live in a society or work for an employer? Any group of men, women and children are unequal in many ways. They vary in abilities, dispositions and resources. Some are generous, some are selfish. Some will do anything to get what they want, even kill.

3. What powers and what independence should a judge have to decide the future freedom of defendants?

4. What authority should parents exercise over children? When should the state have a right to intervene?

5. Should education be compulsory? What kind of education? Should education be free?

6. Should a woman have freedom to decide to abort? Why or why not?

7. What should you be required to have a licence to own or to use or to do? Justify?

8. Voting in Australia is compulsory. Failure to vote attracts a $20 fine. What are some arguments for and against compulsory voting.

9. Worldwide, many new laws seek to manage the environment and sources of energy. These laws impinge upon earlier freedoms of individuals, companies and governments to act independently (often ignoring the environment). What is a workable balance of interests in this situation?

10. With the end of the Cold War (1991) USA administrations felt that America was 'exceptional', virtuous, and free to tell other countries how to behave. How did that work out? Lessons?


Extra Reading


Julie Szego (July 20, 2022) "Here’s how to cheer-up school-leavers: compulsory national service". The Age @  [Quote: "There are worthy arguments for and against conscription. But in advocating for national service I’m not talking about compulsory army service. Nor am I the only one talking about national service as one path out of pandemic-induced malaise. In April 2020 researchers from Australia’s top Group of Eight universities recommended a “funded national service” be established to engage young people in the process of social reconstruction".]

Julian Ryall (15 July 2022) "In Japan, online insults punishable by up to a year in prison" The Age @  [Quote: "Japan has seen a sharp increase in incidents of online abuse and cyberbullying, with experts suggesting that people find it easier to criticise and insult behind the anonymity of social media posts".]

David French (April 11, 2022) "Free Speech for Me but Not for Thee ". The Atlantic @  [Quote: "The American right has lost the plot on free speech. The passage of Florida’s House Bill 1557, which bans “classroom instruction” on “sexual orientation and gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade and in a manner that isn’t “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate” in all grades, K–12, is merely the latest in a string of what the free-speech-advocacy organization PEN America has called “education gag orders” that have been proposed by Republicans and passed by red-state legislatures from coast to coast".]

Benjamin Mazer (February 17, 2022) "COVID Won’t End Up Like the Flu. It Will Be Like Smoking. Hundreds of thousands of deaths, from either tobacco or the pandemic, could be prevented with a single behavioral change". The Atlantic @  [Quote: "The pandemic’s greatest source of danger has transformed from a pathogen into a behavior. Choosing not to get vaccinated against COVID is, right now, a modifiable health risk on par with smoking, which kills more than 400,000 people each year in the United States. Andrew Noymer, a public-health professor at UC Irvine, told me that if COVID continues to account for a few hundred thousand American deaths every year—“a realistic worst-case scenario,” he calls it—that would wipe out all of the life-expectancy gains we’ve accrued from the past two decades’ worth of smoking-prevention efforts. The COVID vaccines are, without exaggeration, among the safest and most effective therapies in all of modern medicine. An unvaccinated adult is an astonishing 68 times more likely to die from COVID than a boosted one. Yet widespread vaccine hesitancy in the United States has caused more than 163,000 preventable deaths and counting].

Nataliya Gumenyuk (July 16, 2022) "Russia’s Invasion Is Making Ukraine More Democratic. What were once perceived to be weaknesses are turning out to be advantages". The Atlantic @  [Thor, comment: An inspiring article explaining that when push comes to shove (which it moslty hasn't in Australia) working democracy is spontaneous amongst ordinary people, at least in some cultures][Quote: "As a Kyiv-based journalist working for Ukrainian and international media, I am very much a representative of the professional class, what many may call my country’s “liberal elite.” My circle of friends and I discuss democracy, accountability, and the rule of law, but we long believed we were a minority in Ukraine, that the majority of our compatriots did not care about these abstract terms. Yet in reporting on Putin’s invasion, in traveling through my country, I have heard fellow Ukrainians, without any prompting, explain these enormous concepts better than many academics. I listened as those frontline fighters spoke of the freedom to choose who governed them and change course if need be, and the freedom to chart one’s own path in life. I heard a mayor say that his town near the Russian border was defending civilization and fighting on behalf of a world where laws mattered. A window installer in Odesa, on the Black Sea coast, told me he had learned how to fire a gun to ensure that he did not have to “live in a country where Moscow tells me whom to elect.” This started happening so often—in bombed-out villages as well as bustling cities—that I began to understand that something deeper was under way. I watched as Ukrainians articulated their values and, more and more, I started paying attention to how they exercised them, how they interacted with the state, and how representatives of the state interacted with them. Ordinary people have been confronted with autocracy and opted against it. They have not simply taken up arms, but made demands of their leaders. Officials have addressed citizens’ needs and requests with creative and responsive government."]

Lisa Visentin (July 18, 2022) "Don’t trust in governments’: Scott Morrison delivers Pentecostal church sermon - In a sermon to Perth’s Victory Life Centre, the Pentecostal church run by controversial former tennis champion Margaret Court, Morrison encouraged the congregation to put their faith in God rather than the government". The Age @ 

Thor May (1984) "The Price of Freedom- The True Story of a Vietnamese Military Officer's Escape from Vietnam". The Passionate Skeptic website @  OR (PDF) @

George Brandis (July 21, 2022) "Rishy is dishy but Truss is the true-blue choice for British PM". The Age @  [Thor, comment: I have included this article since "freedom" (as they interpret it) is usually carried high on the banner of tory/conservative/Liberal Party (Aust.) members, and conservative personalities worldwide. In power history shows they tend to be enthusiastic about restricting or locking up anyone who exercises a freedom to threaten their power. Note that neo-liberalism (see Truss below) is the economic theory/ideology which says that unemployment must be kept at a high enough level to make workers feel insecure and compliant] [Quote: "Although Truss is the preferred candidate of the Tory right, she is not a social conservative. .. Truss is the member of Boris Johnson’s cabinet (and of Theresa May’s before him) who most consciously identifies with Thatcher’s brand of Tory neoliberalism. ... Although Truss is the preferred candidate of the Tory right, she is not a social conservative ... Once, when we were talking about her political beliefs, she compared the two issues (which are not often bracketed together). “Freedom is what I believe in, George. Freedom to love. Freedom to trade.” She even named one of her daughters Liberty . ... Having spent most of my life among Liberal Party branch members and much of the last four years mixing with the Tory rank and file, believe me: they are the same people. Exactly. Same demographic, same political values, same attitudes, same prejudices. They look the same, talk the same, even dress the same ... Liz Truss is a favourite among those people ... Just like them. She is the girl next door ... Rishi Sunak is the clever person’s choice. He’s no doubt the smartest person in the race, the most polished, the most glamorous. Every Oxford common room and every city boardroom will unite in willing him to succeed. But Liz Truss is the true believers’ favourite. She is defined by her values, and her values are their values. She is one of them ..."]

Thor May (2015) "Probing the limits of tolerance?
Can we reconcile “live and let live” with “drawing a line in the sand”?". The Passionate Skeptic website @ 

Thor May (2015) "Fuzzy Degrees of Freedom – When is the Law a Burden? - “Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men” [Douglas Bader]". The Passionate Skeptic website @ 

Thor May (2014) "Crime without Punishment - the journey from means to ends". The Passionate Skeptic website @ 

Maeve Higgins (27 July 2022) "The right in the US has a new bogeyman: libraries - Neo-Nazis and Proud Boys are targeting libraries, as legislators and conservative lobby groups are trying to remove books from shelves and change how library board members are appointed". The Guardian @  [Thor, comment: "Freedom" huh? The Republican Party's shock troops at work as what passes for American democracy rolls on. Democracy is not just about a performative vote now and again. It is about freedom of information and informed citizens.]



The Price of Freedom   (c) Thor May 2022

return to Ddiscussion