Individual freedom as a value and a right was generally taken for granted in both the individual interviews and the discussion groups, and recognized as a fundamental part of our American heritage. It was also understood, however, that interpretations of individual freedom or applications of it as a principle of human relations vary under changing conditions. A perennial problem is involved in the questions: freedom of whom, from whom or what, and for what? Various aspects of that problem entered especially into the discussions.
The attitudes of the 503 persons interviewed, in regard to incentives to work, plans for the future, choice of housing, possible change of occupation, education of children, etc. indicate obviously the assumption of a wide range of individual freedom. If this range has narrowed in some respects during the past fifty years -- as for example, in exploitation of virgin lands, in unregulated economic enterprise, in lightness of taxation -- yet in more respects, and for a vast majority of our people, the range of freedom has been immensely widened. We have freedom of a far greater portion of our population, from destitution, unrelieved incidence of misfortune, oppression, and lack of opportunity, and for development and use of one's potential abilities. Perhaps nowhere else in the world does freedom, thus broadly interpreted, prevail so widely through a whole nation.
In some of these groups, while a wide range of freedom was tacitly assumed, some flaws were noted, indicating an ideal society had not yet been attained (if it ever could be), and that progress in human relations (which is possible) is a never-ending road, with many byways and obstacles.