What's the bare minimum of freedom needed?

A lot of frequently touted “essential” freedoms - such as the right to bear arms - aren’t in fact essential at all; plenty of thriving democracies enact severe restrictions on private gun ownership.

Some “essential” freedoms - such as anti-maskers demanding the freedom to not wear masks in a pandemic - are not only non-essential but in fact downright dangerous.

So - suppose that we had to take a pruning knife and pare a list of “freedoms” down to the absolute bare minimum needed, what would that list be?

I’ll throw this one in to see if it floats at all. Freedom not to harm others. As long as you are not harming anyone do as you please.

I’d add freedom to provide help to others, but not a forced help. Can’t force anyone to accept your help as that would be harming their freedom, thus violating the first freedom. The good Samaritan law is somewhat based on this.

Along this line freedom or religion and freedom of speech aren’t required and are limited in many first world democracies like the UK or Germany.

I would put freedom on movement on the indispensable list. If nothing else if you don’t like the situation you can leave but even that can be curtailed by jail.

Bodily autonomy is the closest to being absolute that I can think of. The only restriction that I can think of that would be reasonable would be abortion in the 3rd trimester. A right to trial by jury is another one that’s close to being absolute, with the only exception being people who have to be killed by law enforcement, like active shooters. The right to due process by law enforcement should also be close to being absolute, but there’s also exceptions there. If, for example, law enforcement searches a kidnappers house or office without a proper search warrant and discovers a paper showing the location of someone who has been kidnapped, they should still be allowed to rescue the victim.

Things like freedom of speech, religion, and the press are the next level down. Those should only be restricted when their expression hurts people in an unfair way. Threats of physical harm, knowingly spreading information that is both hurtful and false (libel), discrimination against minorities by citing religious objections, publishing things that are harmful to national security (that actually endanger the country and not merely embarrass the president) etc.

Which freedoms are or are not necessary depends a great deal on circumstances. In times of extreme hardship it may be necessary to curtail certain freedoms that might be deemed essential in normal times.

In theory I agree. In practice this leads to things like internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII or holding a draft during time periods when it’s not justified, like the Vietnam war era as opposed to WWII. In other words, the suspension of such rights is easily abused by the government.

I don’t think it’s a coherent question. “Essential” or “needed” is too ill-defined. Lots of things (epi-pens, for example) aren’t needed, until they are (or, unless you’re one of the people who needs them). And there are lots of things (like, say, indoor plumbing) that it is possible to survive, and maybe even thrive, without; but I sure wouldn’t want to have to.

If we’re talking about essential freedoms, are we talking about essential freedoms to operate in a liberal democracy? Because those are quite different than those for a oligarchy, dictatorship, or theocratic state.

Or are we talking about what we feel are the essential rights of human freedoms in a moral or civic sense? Or, in a similar but more specific sense, what if we had a functional world government, what we would require as essential freedoms in order to be a part of such of a body (say like a UN Human rights charter but with teeth)?

Personally, the one I would consider the most critical freedom of what we’ve already discussed is @Oredigger77 's ‘pedal franchise’ - the freedom to leave. Of course, from a rights POV that pre-supposes there’s a place you can go more in line with your needs or POV, and that such a place respects your right of entry.

I also can’t think of a way to approach the question. I don’t think it’s about freedoms, I think it’s about the rule of law. If I can’t drive above 45 on a road, that means no one can, not you, me or Bill Gates. If there are exceptions (emergency vehicles), these need to be explicitly defined. The punishments for breaking the law should be the same. (You might argue that a $100 fine affects you much more than Bill Gates, but that’s further into the weeds than I’d like to go.)

Also, I think it’s important that the people have some say in who’s deciding what is and isn’t allowed. Free and fair elections seem to be the best way to do this, which is one reason why the authoritarian drive in the Republican party is so disturbing.

bare minimum for what exactly? for human survival, to qualify as a free country, to have a working system?

North Korea is so oppressive that people who escape to China are amazed at how free China is by comparison, but North Korean society still functions more or less with no freedom.

Let’s say this - or ‘a good society.’ In other words, let’s say you took away right to guns, and enacted curbs on religion and speech. Not many people would say Germany or the UK are “unfree” or “bad societies,” as mentioned abovethread.

IMO something like that example, is often more strictly addressed not as an “essential freedom” but as a “fundamental right” – referring in this case to the fundamentals of this specific political/legal structure. That many Americans mix one with the other is a whole other story.

“Essential” as others have pointed out, raises the question of “essential to/for WHAT?”.

And in some people’s minds, taking away the right to guns means taking away the right to resist when the government tries to take away your other essential freedoms.

I write in the futile attempt to challenge the premise of the thread and (at least most of) the responses. What follows is a bare statement of my beliefs in this area, and not an attempt to argue them effectively.

First, rights are not granted, they exist. They can be recognized or not. The Bill of Rights does specifically recognizes many genuine rights, and possibly at least one made-up one. The rights would exist with or without that Bill, but they might not be so readily recognized by our government.

Second, every person at birth has the same rights. It is (in principle at least) possible, through one’s own behavior, to lose some of those rights. It is also possible, through other peoples’ behavior, to lose the ability to practice those rights, but that is not the same as not having the rights.

So the premise of this thread, that there are a lot of rights hanging around but that some of them might be pruned away without being missed, is fundamentally flawed. A particular right either exists and applies to everyone equally, or it doesn’t exist.

This might be viewed as a merely semantic difference, but there is a lot of nonsense talked about rights and much of it is because of the sorts of semantic confusion engendered by threads like this. No offense is intended by writing this, but I hope it might at least give one person pause to think about how they talk, and think, about rights.

Essential to whom or to what, exactly? There is a certain minimum amount of freedom necessary in order for there to be any hope of increasing it. There’s a massively larger amount that is necessary in order to make the planet worthy of habitation by such as us. There’s an amount far larger than that that’s necessary for widespreadh happiness and individual fulfillment.

I disagree. Rights are a social concept delineating restrictions “we” feel we should put on society with regards to legislate restrictions on us. They are codified because they have been historically been “violated” by government/laws. They practically all include various caveats, because making them completely general wouldn’t hamper enforcing laws to an extent considered unacceptable.

The problem with the OP is that in practice if you want to talk about freedom and rights it is very hard to define “this is needed” without it just being an enumeration of rights.

I disagree. Rights exist, and they are not granted by society, let alone the government.

I would say the UK is unfree in that sense. We don’t have any right to freedom of speech that the government can’t take away with a simple majority. Don’t know about the situation in Germany.

As for the right to leave that someone mentioned: it’s an empty one since for the majority there is nowhere to go.

“Freedoms” and “Rights” seem to be synonyms here so:

  1. The right to a fair trial.
  2. The right to receive medical treatment, free at the point of delivery
  3. The right to go about my lawful business without interference.
  4. The right to be treated equally, regardless of my race, gender or beliefs, so long as they don’t impinge on any of the above.

I am sure there are others like freedom of expression, the ability to change the government at reasonable intervals and the right to protest but I would be fairly happy with those four.

For this to be true, you must prove the existence of (for example) a right to trial by jury, without referring to any document produced by society or the government.

If you claim that rights come from God, then I’m going to ask to see the document where God described the right to trial by jury, and then I’m going to require you to prove that God exists.

If you can’t do that, you should have a seat.