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Feats of freedom

By Luis Enrique Pérez

Freedom is not a mere abstract attribute of the human being. It is a powerful acting force. It is the primary driving energy of humanity's progress. And it is, in the Universe, the cause of beneficent effects that no other cause can cause. What star, or what galactic set of stars, could have produced the works that flowed from the free creative torrent of Michelangelo Buonarroti?

Freedom is the true heart of the human being. It can be repressed but never annihilated. It can be prohibited but never abolished. It is a celestial spiritual impulse that can become an unstoppable material impulse that defeats oppressive armies and tears down intimidating walls. And the fathers of servitude, tyranny or despotism die, and the egregious sons of freedom advance gloriously.

And perhaps the slave himself does not sacrifice freedom in exchange for life, as if life were more valuable, but is willing to endure the slave life because he has the hope of a free life. I mean that perhaps slavery is not tolerated because life is ultimately preserved, as if one also had to be a slave to biological life, but because there is hope for freedom, which gives value to that purely zoological vitality.

Philosophy is the work of freedom. With it, humanity has tried to have knowledge of a supreme absolute truth, or has tried to demonstrate that such knowledge is impossible, even if there were such truth. The vast meditations of Plato and Aristotle on being have emerged, then; the bold conjectures of Thomas Aquinas about a necessary first principle of all beings, the discoveries of René Descartes in the uncompromising search for certainty, and the luminous warning of Immanuel Kant about the limits of pure reason, and his energetic proclamation of the innate right to freedom.

Science is the work of freedom. With it, humanity has acquired the provisionally most reliable knowledge about physical, chemical or biological phenomena. And to the extent that knowledge is power, humanity, endowed with scientific knowledge, has come to exercise an astonishing dominion over Nature, from which the human race has benefited. Disease, for example, has found an enemy in the powerful knowledge that chemistry and biology has generated. And if any disease refuses to be defeated, the only hope to defeat it is science.

Freedom has been the great mother of the highest artistic works of the human race, creators of new worlds that gloriously expand the infinite life of the spirit. They are, in literature, the worlds of Homer, Dante, Cervantes, Tolstoy, Goethe, Shakespeare, Kafka, Proust, Darío and Borges. They are, in painting and sculpture, the worlds of Phidias, Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo. They are, in music, the worlds of Handel, Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

The works of those great philosophers, scientists and artists of literature, painting, sculpture and music are authentic works of freedom; and without them the world would be like a year without the most beautiful spring flowers.

Political freedom has contributed to the improvement of State institutions. One of its most precious products has been the division of powers of the State, to precisely avoid the annihilation of freedom. That monarchical unity of legislator, judge, and executor of the law, fit for ominous despotism or bloody tyranny, has been dissolved; and residual monarchs are obligated subjects of constitutional mandates.

Freedom of communication has contributed to the progress of science, and with it, the progress of humanity, because the freedom that a scientist has to communicate his findings makes it possible for other scientists to take advantage of them to continue an investigation, to perfect a theory, or to inspire beneficent technology. For example, for freedom of communication Newton took advantage of the uselessly repressed work of Galileo, and the work of Kepler. In general, freedom of communication turns scientists around the world into an immense cooperative community, for the benefit of humanity.

The freedom to publicly express one's thoughts has had extraordinary value. How much humanity would have lost if Adam Smith, John Locke, David Hume, Voltaire or Immanuel Kant had not been able to freely and publicly express their thoughts! Additionally, this free and public expression of thought has contributed to avoiding the abusive exercise of government power, or to correcting the decisions of those in power.

Economic freedom has been the most obvious necessary condition for the progress of people, in all periods of history; and the most prosperous societies have been those closest to economic freedom.

In our time the effect of economic freedom on the well-being of humanity has been more evident. That effect has been propagated through the promising progress of science, the astonishing development of technology, the greater efficiency of capital, and the increasing productivity of human resources.

There are tens of millions of poor people in the world; but it is not because of economic freedom. There are also tens of millions of sick people in the world; but it is not because of medical science. And just as because of medicine there are people who are not sick, because of economic freedom there are people who are not poor.

Freedom is the most reliable promise that there will ever be no poor in the world, or the promise that the poor of the future will be like the rich of the present. There is no other promise for the poor. Perhaps there will be more seductive promises from the enemies of freedom; but that does not mean there will be fewer poor people.

Post scriptum . Freedom requires justice among the free. And the alliance of freedom and justice can be a cause of peace. And the union of freedom, justice and peace is destined to be an irresistible force to achieve the greatest and permanent prosperity of the society of precisely free, just and peaceful human beings.

Luis Enrique Pérez is an Honorary Doctor from the Olga and Manuel Ayau Cordón University. He has been a professor of philosophy in the bachelor's and master's degrees at the Francisco Marroquín University, and a professor of philosophy in the bachelor's degree at the Rafael Landívar University. He has authored at least 3,000 articles. He is co-founder and member of the Pro-Reforma civil association.

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