Excerpt: 'Don't Vote It Just Encourages the Bastards,' By P.J. O'Rourke

We can survey the arts, where mankind is most blatant in its truths, and find artists taking the broadest liberties. (They are especially free with the use of fate as a plot device.) We can peruse philosophy, where mankind is less truthful, and not hear freedom denied by anything except free thinking. Theology makes sporadic arguments against free will, with which the devout are freely willing to concur. Science is deterministic and its special needs stepsister social science is more so. But people are free to pick and choose among the determinations of science until they find something they like. I give you Al Gore and you can have him. Perhaps there are scientists who make a sound case for the inevitabilities of biology and such. But we don't know what these geniuses are talking about and very likely neither do they. For example, the important biologist Richard Dawkins has written a book, The God Delusion, in which he uses predestinarian atheism to argue that Richard Dawkins is the closest thing to a superior being in the known universe.

The theoretical (as opposed to practical) enemies of freedom are feeble opponents. And we are all but overrun by theoretical allies in freedom's cause. We've got collaborators in the fight for freedom that we don't even want. "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains" is the penultimate sentence of the Communist Manifesto. And a creepy echo of it can be heard in the refrain of Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee." Mao announced, "Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy ..." Half a million people died in those ellipses.

If we were to give out the proverbial "a word to the wise," the sagacity-testing utterance with which to provide the sages would be "freedom." In the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary the noun has fifteen definitions and the adjective "free" has thirty-six. These definitions, along with their usage citations, occupy 189ΒΌ column inches of small and smaller type.

Peter Roget (1779-1869), of Roget's Thesaurus, was a physician, a scientist, the secretary of the Royal Society for more than twenty years, and an exhaustingly systematic thinker. He designed his thesaurus (Greek for "treasury") as a reverse dictionary. Instead of listing words and giving their meanings, he listed meanings and gave words for them. Under the heading "freedom" there are more than four hundred entries in twenty-one categories. And "freedom" is only one of the twenty-three headings in Roget's "Section I, General Intersocial Volition" of "Division II, Intersocial Volition" of "Class Five, Volition." It's hard to know whether or not to be thankful that Peter Roget's obsessive-compulsive disorder meds hadn't been invented.

Among the various types and kinds of general intersocial volition, about ten have something to do with political freedom.

freedom in the abstract

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