Creative Liberty

On this Independence Day weekend, I have been thinking about the relationship between creativity and liberty.

To begin, note that I am not focusing on the word independence, which on this day is concerned with the independence of the nation from its former rulers, not on the implications of that independence. (We could have become independent from England only to create another monarchy.) Nor am I focusing on freedom, which is often conflated with liberty. According to the Oxford American Dictionary, freedom “implies an absence of restraint or compulsion,” while “liberty implies the power to choose among alternatives rather than merely being unrestrained.”

Liberty, then, is the more important partner to creativity.

Creativity is a necessary ingredient for innovation, and therefore for capitalism itself. We often think of capitalism as a defining feature of this country, but capitalism is a by-product of liberty.  Consider the nations where people do not have the liberty to choose: for example, to create a business of whatever type one desires, to write what one wishes to write, or to paint what one wishes to paint, to name just three examples.

Our liberty, granted by our Constitution, allows us to express our creativity – that is, to create and express that which is original and valuable – in the way we choose. Certainly, there are hurdles (e.g., barriers to entry, educational inequalities, governmental regulation), but there are hurdles in most any worthwhile endeavor.

Without liberty, our natural tendency to creativity is taken from us, restricted to the creativeness required for survival itself. It is this country’s creative liberty, then, that defines us best.

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