Liberty or Justice? Sometimes we have to choose.

Liberty or Justice? Sometimes we have to choose.

The pledge of allegiance to the United States ends with a promise of Liberty and Justice for all, a promise that resonates with people throughout the world who are living in more oppressive circumstances. To our nation’s founders, liberty was expressed as freedom from arbitrary rule by a hereditary or religious autocrat, from taxation without representation, and a radical proposal that government should be of, by and for the people.

Today, there are many that define liberty as the right to personal autonomy. To do as they please with minimal interference from government or community. Although this is a reasonable request, in many cases one person’s expression of liberty may infringe on another’s.

Communities have traditionally addressed these conflicts via regulation and the court system. Examples include contract law, labor laws, building codes, environmental regulations, and product safety regulations, among others.

This conflict between individual liberty (freedom) and justice (fairness) is a constant dilemma in civil society, and one with no simple solution. But in a representative government, citizens agree to abide by the will of the people and contest decisions that are perceived to be in error through debate and elections. And most citizens recognize that, in any civil society, they will be asked to sacrifice some portion of their individual autonomy for the greater good.

This shirt is a recognition of the inherent conflict between individual liberty and justice, and the challenge of maximizing both.

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