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Harry Liivrand
Estonia
Does it make sense to restrict freedom?

To me, freedom means recognising responsibility and the ability to grasp that freedom is not anarchy.

By Harry Liivrand

Freedom in Europe

When the protagonists of the Enlightenment proclaimed the slogan "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" during the period of the French Revolution, they infected every intellectual in Europe (and the newly-formed USA) of that time - the educated citizens of the "republic of letters". 

Porträtfoto des Autors Harry Liivrand Photo: Arvo Wichmann © Goethe-Institut These three words are still relevant in today's Europe; in particular the treatment of freedom as an ethical category and the understanding of freedom have gained extraordinary importance in the face of Islamistic terrorists, manipulative fake news and the so called post-factual age. To me, freedom means recognising responsibility and the ability to grasp that freedom is not anarchy. The realisation of freedom presupposes logical thinking and requires the respect to listen to one's opponents, to argue with them in a worthy manner and frequently to reach compromises. By the same token, freedom is always linked to democracy and liberalism, but this also has its limits.

In this sense, freedom is a paradox. Freedom does not mean murdering the opposite party - as if the incident of 1819 - when a German student killed the famous playwright August von Kotzebue, who had made fun of the students' national romanticism - were a solution. The notion that freedom permits everything is therefore nonsense.  Does a universal principle of freedom exist, or should each state base its definition of freedom on directives from Brussels or its own traditions?

Harry Liivrand is an art historian and former cultural attaché

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