To many people, this will come as a surprise. For the modern definition of liberty has been smeared, distorted and twisted into meaning the exact opposite.
"We can't have liberty, for that would mean people can do whatever they want, even if it's violent."
"We can't have liberty, for then selfishness would dominate, and people would gain at the expense of others; thinking only about themselves."
Of course, these smears do not describe liberty at all; they describe tyranny!
One very old and constantly used authoritarian tactic is to project onto your opponents that which you are, and that which you do. So it is no surprise that authoritarians have "taught" the people to believe that liberty = tyranny.
But if both tyranny = tyranny and liberty = tyranny, one has no choice but to live in a tyrannical society. How convenient for the tyrants!
Of course, liberty is the exact opposite of tyranny.
Living by the ideas of liberty means you are living unselfishly. Your primary concern is peaceful and voluntary interactions with others; cooperation with others.
After all, every individual acts with purpose; all-day, every-day. We are constantly choosing our own ends, as well as the means that we believe will achieve those ends.
These means/ends can be extremely simple and almost instant, such as using fingernails (means) to scratch an itch for relief (end).
Or the means/ends can be complex and time-consuming, like using building materials (means) to construct a house (end).
In a society where liberty is the highest value, this process of continuous and purposeful action is rooted in peaceful and voluntary interactions between individuals.
One may not use force or commit fraud to accomplish one's own ends. To do so would be to choose to act as a tyrant.
Since man is endowed with free will, he may always choose whether or not he will act peacefully, or as a tyrant.
The proper role of government then would be to protect against tyranny. Government's role would be to keep the peace and bring justice for acts of tyranny.
Man has free will, and can choose to act as a tyrant. Some will make such a mistake. Government is there to punish the mistake.
Now, let's look at the obverse of a society of liberty. Let's look at an authoritarian society.
In an authoritarian society, power is the highest value. Not liberty. Power.
In this society, selfishness dominates. Those in power dictate to others, and the others are expected to obey, under the threat of violent force. In this society, the ends of the authoritarians justify the means. Any individual can and will be sacrificed in the attempt to accomplish the ends that those in power have chosen.
Individual ends are disposable and mean nothing. The ends chosen by authoritarians mean everything. Voluntary cooperation means nothing. Getting in control of the levers of power means everything.
The ends chosen by authoritarians are almost always illogical and impossible. So the destruction of individual life and liberty takes place on a massive scale in order to accomplish ends that can never (ever) be accomplished in the first place.
Today, instead of keeping the peace, the role of government is believed to be a vehicle to get what you want through force. Government has become the primary tool for tyranny.
Instead of keeping the peace, government is used to destroy the peace.
Now, there's good news and bad news in the human life scenario.
First, the bad news. As long as people continue to believe that liberty = tyranny, society will continue its downward spiral until it reaches the ultimate destination of mass poverty and mass death.
There is nothing new under the Sun. Tyranny leads to death. Liberty leads to life.
The good news is that we all have free will, and the ability to choose the opposite. A society of liberty is always an option. It's always just a choice away.
Individually, we must each make that choice, and then let others know that the true definition of liberty is:
"Anything That's Peaceful."
Download a free copy of Leonard Read's Anything That's Peaceful here.