In 1690 John Locke wrote the Second Treatise of Government in which he philosophizes about the nature of freedom and the necessity of law. What follows is a summary of part of what I have read thus far.
He proposes that the, “law, in it’s true notion is not so much the limitation as the direction of a free and intelligent agent to his proper interest, and prescribes no farther than is for the general good of those under that law.” He elaborates further to say, “the end of the law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.”
Locke argues that true freedom is not that which allows everyman do to whatever he wants to do by whatever means he wants to do it, but rather it is that freedom to not be restrained by the limitations of things that would harm or usurp our free use of our own will.
For instance, a person who needs another to govern them so that they abide by the law that enables them to be free is not truly free to their own proper use of their volition. However, the person who is able to self-govern themselves within the bounds of freedom is truly free to follow his will in a manner that will not harm him or anyone else.
The law then, in its proper use, whether we are speaking of the laws of Nature common to all men, or to the particular laws of a society are to be in place not to bind man, but to free man.
The people of a society have the right of their own freedom to self-govern themselves in a manner that enables their freedom and the freedom of their neighbor. However, it is self-evident that people are not perfect at self-governing, nor are they always desirous to self-govern themselves and thus the society agrees to put into place a structure of governmental authority with a balance of power to enforce the agreed upon law of the land. This is done not to usurp the freedom of the people, but to protect this freedom as a valued asset to the nation.
When people violate the laws of nature or of the society they become enemies of that society and the law is met out to protect those who are governing themselves and the freedom of the violator is temporarily or permanently taken and replaced by external governing.
It is fascinating to read the foundational philosophy behind the formation of the American government and be reminded of the reasons things are set up the way they are in our nation. A remembrance of our roots can help the modern generation value the principals the Founders believed were indispensable to the health of this nation.