What does it mean to live in a free society?

The word freedom is thrown around  a fair bit these days.  So I decided to ask myself, can we come up with a workable definition of a free society?  Let's not go to extremes like anarchy.  Let us acknowledge that there will be a government and it will infringe on people's freedoms.  Let's also not go the extremes like communism where just because we infringe on some rights doesn't mean we should infringe on all rights.

So here's what I came with as a reasonable state of a free society.

A free society is one in which the default position is freedom.  It is up to the government to prove the harm caused by individual freedom in any area is so great that the government must intervene.
Now naturally what is 'harm' and how do you define 'great'?  I'm not going to attempt to give any kind of quantifiable definition to those questions.  However just rephrase your thought process around this statement.  It is up to the government to prove the harm is so great.  It is not up to you to prove you should have the right.

So let's see how it applies to common questions in life.  Should we have school choice?  The position taken today is often counter to the statement.  People ask charter and other independent schools to prove they are better than public schools.  Rather the question should be are public school so significantly better and independent schools so harmful, that the government must be in charge and monopolize this entire part of life?  Then you look at the data and independent schools are on par if not better than public schools.  You look at issues like social stratification and what not and you find that societies with school choice are not anymore divided.  Ontario is no less divided than British Columbia or Alberta or Sweden...

Or you look at the issue of drugs.  Is the harm so great that the government must ban the substance? 

In a free society one should be able to go to court with the only argument being 'I want to do this'.  Let the government prove what I want to do is so harmful that they must deny me that right.

That would be a good definition of a free society.


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