Freedom through Law: Public Control of Private Governing Power

Freedom through Law: Public Control of Private Governing Power

Freedom through Law: Public Control of Private Governing Power

Freedom through Law: Public Control of Private Governing Power

Excerpt

Most of us Americans are as strongly in favor of individual liberty as Calvin Coolidge's preacher was opposed to sin, but we are not always any clearer as to what we mean specifically by liberty than the preacher was as to sin. No reasonable person demands for himself freedom from all control whatsoever. We all recognize that government must exist, with power to make us pay damages if we fail to observe certain obligations which we owe to our neighbors and with power to denounce certain activities as crimes and to punish the perpetrators by fine, imprisonment, or even death. But because government alone may legally impose such powerful sanctions as these for the coercive control of individual conduct, we are apt to think of liberty narrowly in terms of freedom from restrictions imposed by those official bodies (national, state, or local) which are conventionally regarded as "governmental" and to overlook the existence of private government, which, unless restrained by law, is as capable in some circumstances of destroying individual liberty as is public government itself. Though private persons are not permitted to impose their will by making death, imprisonment, or the seizure of property alternatives to obedience, there are other sanctions which they . . .

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