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Freedom

In three words the Humanist ethical tradition consists of freedom, happiness and virtue.

Included in the word 'freedom' is freethought, free speech and expression, free publication and, many people would say, free trade.

Humanists have worked for the emancipation of slaves and of women and lesbians and gay men. Support has been given to independence of peoples and countries and to liberty in all its forms.

Freedom is not the same as licence, and should not be had at the expense of the liberty of others. It applies primarily to the freedom of the individual and is often expressed in terms of human rights. Political freedom is, like peace, essentially a negative concept. Freedom in all its forms is abhorrent to authoritarians.

The French philosopher Claude-Adien Helvetius wrote in 1758 in his book De l'esprit, "The free person is one who is not in irons, nor imprisoned in a gaol, nor terrorised like a slave by fear of punishment."

Epicurus wrote, "A free life cannot acquire great wealth, because the task is not easy without slavery to the mob or those in power; rather it already possesses everything in constant abundance. And if one did somehow achieve great wealth, one could easily share this out in order to obtain the good will of one's neighbours." He also wrote, "The greatest fruit of self-sufficiency is freedom".

As human society changes, freedom requires 'eternal vigilance'. It has been described in terms of 'the open mind, in the open society'. It is the environment in which we can lead happy lives. More information on this is given under
Happiness.