"Freedom isn't free."

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Fri Aug 22 15:55:24 UTC 2008

Google Books tells me that the popularity of this phrase may owe plenty to the title of a 1954 book, _Freedom is Not Free: A Study of Dynamic Democracy_, by Wellington J. Griffith.  But it also tells me that the phrase was used, not as a slogan, but as an example of a logical absurdity as long ago as 1864:

1864 Rowland G. Hazard _Freedom of Mind in Willing_ (N.Y.: D. Appleton, 1865) 316: It is like saying, freedom is not free, because it cannot be otherwise than free; and hence, is subject to the necessity, or is constrained to be free ; and this is asserting that, what is, is not ; and that it is not for the very reason that it is ; than which, I apprehend, it would be difficult to involve more absurdity and contradiction.
My feeling is that once thought of, this must have become a philosophy-class standard PDQ, long before it became the most often quoted nationalist cliche' in America, powerful enough to quash any nonmilitarist argument that anybody on TV is likely to advance.
Bartlett's doesn't include the proverb, and I haven't saved enough for Fred's book (or discovered how to remedy this suddenly boldface font). So maybe this info is useful and maybe it ain't.
A legal scholar I know recently said: "Freedom isn't free. _And_ freedom isn't dumb." Which is twice as profound as the original.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list