January 8, 2010

Liberty & Liberties

Note: This entry is designed to gather into one place the aphorisms in which Gómez Dávila mentions liberty and liberties. Other relevant aphorisms may be found in other entries, such as the one on politics, law, and society.

Freedom is the term used most without knowing what it means. (#2,225)

“Liberties” are social precincts in which the individual can move without any coercion; “Liberty,” on the other hand, is a metaphysical principle in whose name a sect seeks to impose its ideals of conduct on everyone else. (#2,659)

Liberty is not an end, but a means. Whoever mistakes it for an end does not know what to do once he attains it. (#9)

Liberty is not the fruit of order alone; it is the fruit of mutual concessions between order and disorder. (#2,793)

The correct use of liberty can consist in adhering to a destiny, but my liberty consists in being able to refuse to do that.
The right to fail is an important right of man. (#591)

No one grants humanity certain extreme liberties except someone indifferent to its destiny. (#2,496)

Liberty is indispensable not because man knows what he wants and who he is, but so that he can find out who he is and what he wants. (#430)

If liberty is to last, it should be the goal of social organization and not the starting point. (#431)

To say that freedom consists of something other than doing what we want is a lie.
That it is proper, on the other hand, to limit freedom is an obvious fact.
But deceit begins when they seek to identify freedom with the limitations they impose on it. (#980)

Liberal parties never understand that the opposite of despotism is not stupidity, but authority. (#329)

To corrupt the individual it suffices to teach him to call his personal desires rights and the rights of others abuses. (#2,314)

Man conceals under the name of liberty his hunger for sovereignty. (#2,502)

The reactionary does not condemn the bourgeois mentality, but rather its predominance.
What we reactionaries deplore is the absorption of the aristocracy and the people by the bourgeoisie.
It is the emasculation of liberty or, alternatively, of equality. (#1,609)

Where equality allows freedom to enter, inequality slips in. (#2,724)

Without a hierarchical structure it is not possible to transform freedom from a fable into a fact.
The liberal always discovers too late that the price of equality is the omnipotent state. (#1,828)

They started out calling liberal institutions democratic, and they ended up calling democratic despotisms liberal. (#2,681)

Absolutism, whether intellectual or political, is the capital sin against the hierarchical method.
Usurpation, by one of the terms in the system, of the liberties of the others. (#1,701)

Where everyone believes he has a right to rule, everyone eventually prefers that one man alone rule.
The tyrant frees each individual from the tyranny of his neighbor. (#2,183)

Peace does not flourish except among moribund nations. Under the sun of iron hegemonies. (#449)

Several civilizations were plundered because freedom inadvertently opened the gate to the enemy. (#1,420)

We should not conclude that everything is permitted, if God does not exist, but that nothing matters.
Permission ends up being laughable when what is permitted loses its meaning. (#200)

Modern man does not escape the temptation to identify what is permitted with what is possible. (#301)

Man tends to exercise all his powers. The impossible seems to him the only legitimate limit.
A civilized man, however, is one who for various reasons refuses to do everything he can. (#372)

For the trunk of individuality to grow, one must prevent freedom from making the trunk spread out into branches. (#1,078)

Civilization is the sum total of internal and external repressions imposed on the amorphous expansion of an individual or a society. (#2,239)

Only liberty limits the abusive interventions of ignorance.
Politics is the science of social structures made suitable for the common life of ignorant beings. (#18)

Political science is the art of quantifying the amount of freedom man can handle and the amount of servitude he needs. (#1,376)

Democratic parliaments are not forums where debates take place, but rather where popular absolutism registers its decrees. (#21)

To find oneself at the mercy of the people’s whims, thanks to universal suffrage, is what liberalism calls the guarantee of freedom. (#1,014)

The percentage of eligible voters who abstain from voting measures the degree of concrete liberty in a democracy.
Where liberty is fictitious, or where it is threatened, the percentage tends toward zero. (#1,223)

The old despotisms limited themselves to locking man up in his private life; those of the new stamp prefer that he have nothing but a public life.
To domesticate man all one has to do is politicize all his gestures. (#912)

Liberty lasts only so long as the state functions amid the indifference of its citizens.
Despotism threatens when the citizen agitates for or against his government. (#659)

A man is called a liberal if he does not understand that he is sacrificing liberty except when it is too late to save it. (#462)

By the same measure that the state grows, the individual shrinks. (#27)

In order to oppress the people, it is necessary to suppress in the name of the people that which stands out from the people. (#2,031)

The necessary and sufficient condition of despotism is the disappearance of every kind of social authority not conferred by the State. (#1,945)

To be effective, the abuse of power presupposes the anonymity of the oppressor or the anonymity of the oppressed.
Despotisms fail when unmistakable faces confront each other. (#1,221)

Dictatorship is the technification of politics. (#1,979)

To hope that the growing vulnerability of a world increasingly integrated by technology will not demand a total despotism is mere foolishness. (#1,982)

The liberation promised by every invention ends with the growing submission of the man who adopts it to the man who manufactures it. (#2,531)

Where we imprudently tolerate agglomerations, order and tyranny in the end unfortunately coincide. (#2,371)

It is no longer enough for the citizen to submit—the modern state demands accomplices. (#574)

The state is totalitarian by its essence.
Total despotism is the form towards which it spontaneously tends. (#1,424)

Modern society tramples liberties underfoot, like a column of tanks tramples a procession of pious women. (#1,278)

The freer man believes he is, the easier it is to indoctrinate him. (#438)

When they define property as a social function, confiscation is near; when they define work as a social function, slavery is on its way. (#258)

Liberty’s remaining partisans in our time tend to forget that a certain old and trivial bourgeois thesis is the proof itself: the condition sine qua non of liberty, for the proletariat as well as for the owners, is the existence of private property.
Direct defense of liberty for the ones; indirect defense of liberty for the others. (#2,837)

Legislation that protects liberty down to the last detail strangles liberties. (#51)

To reform society through laws is the dream of the incautious citizen and the discrete preamble to every tyranny.
Law is the juridical form of custom or the trampling of liberty. (#383)

Law is the easiest method of exercising tyranny. (#2,616)

When the tyrant is the anonymous law, modern man believes he is free. (#2,660)

The increase in freedom on the one hand, and the increase in regulation on the other, work together perfectly to demoralize society. (#2,306)

Neither a declaration of human rights, nor the proclamation of a constitution, nor an appeal to natural law, protects against the arbitrary power of the state.
The only barrier to despotism is customary law. (#2,759)

In the incoherence of a political constitution resides the only authentic guarantee of liberty. (#123)

Our freedom has no other guarantee than the barricades which the anarchic countenance of the world throws up against the imperialism of reason. (#541)

The communist’s temptation is spiritual freedom. (#171)

The leftist screams that freedom is dying when his victims refuse to finance their own murders. (#375)

In every historical situation there always arises somebody to defend in the name of liberty, humanity, or justice, the stupid opinion. (#2,307)

The most execrable tyranny is that which adduces principles we respect. (#232)

The conscience discovers its freedom when it feels obliged to condemn what it approves. (#358)

To the masses what matters is not whether they are free, but whether they believe they are free.
Whatever cripples their freedom does not alarm them, unless they are told it should. (#367)

In order to distract the people while they exploit it, stupid despots choose circus fights, whereas the astute despot prefers electoral fights. (#756)

Freedom intoxicates man as a symbol of independence from God. (#2,652)

Freedom intoxicates, as the license to be another. (#1,704)

Man pays for the intoxication of liberation with the tedium of liberty. (#396)

Upon finding himself perfectly free, the individual discovers that he has not been relieved of everything, but despoiled. (#2,440)

Man can be granted all types of liberties, except that of dressing himself and of edifying his taste. (#2,425)

Those who remove man’s chains free only an animal. (#885)

To liberate man is to subject him to greed and sex. (#2,051)

“Sexual liberation” allows modern man to pretend to be ignorant of the multiple taboos of another kind that govern him. (#2,709)

The results of modern “liberation” make us remember with nostalgia the abolished “bourgeois hypocrisies.” (#2,870)

The people today does not feel free except when it feels authorized to respect nothing. (#2,903)

Humanity longs to free itself from poverty, from toil, from war—from everything which few escape without degrading themselves. (#2,227)

That liberation of humanity whose praises the 19th century sang ended up being nothing more than international tourism. (#1,098)

The standard-bearers of liberty celebrated by the 19th century ended up as the vanguard of industrial despotism. (#1,319)

Absolute monarchies disposed with less fickleness of the fortunes of one individual than popular absolutisms dispose of the destiny of entire social classes. (#1,501)

Being of “divine right” limited the monarch; the “representative of the people” is the representative of absolute Absolutism. (#2,141)

For two centuries the people has borne the burden not only of those who exploit it, but also of those who liberate it.
Its back is buckling under the double weight. (#737)

Reactionary thought breaks into history as concrete liberty’s shout of warning, as the spasm of anguish in the face of the unlimited despotism arrived at by the man intoxicated with abstract liberty. (#1,881)

Freedom, for the democrat, consists not in being able to say everything he thinks, but in not having to think about everything he says. (#688)

Legal freedom of expression has grown alongside the sociological enslavement of thought. (#1,375)

Modern man believes he lives amidst a pluralism of opinions, when what prevails today is a stifling unanimity. (#2,866)

In ages of complete freedom, indifference to the truth grows so much that nobody makes the effort to confirm a truth or to refute it. (#2,559)

Liberty is the right to be different; equality is a ban on being different. (#1,974)

The increasing freedom of customs in modern society has not suppressed domestic conflicts.
It has only taken away their dignity. (#1,412)

Nobody is ignorant of the fact that historical events are made up of four factors: necessity, coincidence, spontaneity, freedom.
Nevertheless, it is rare to find a historiographical school that does not seek to reduce them to a single factor. (#2,772)

Man’s freedom does not free him from necessity.
But twists it into unforeseeable consequences. (#2,781)

History is indeed the history of freedom—not of an essence “Freedom,” but of free human acts and their unforeseeable consequences. (#2,970)

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