Such a society does not provide freedom for me or for others. “Historic experience,” as Laski has said, “has evolved for us rules of convenience which promote right living; and to compel obedience to them is a justifiable limitation of freedom.”
By liberty, therefore we mean freedom to do everything provided it does not injure the freedom of others. It implies necessary restraint on all in order to ensure the greatest possible amount of liberty for each. Liberty, in this sense, can be maximised only when there is mutual respect and goodwill and all follow a simple rule of social behaviour: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
This simple rule of man’s sociability tends to harmonise his liberty with that of his fellows and it entails such restraints as are reasonable and necessary to promote and ensure greatest possible extent of liberty to all.
Reasonable restrictions do not destroy liberty; it is destroyed only when such restraints are arbitrary and unjust. “If restrictions embody an experience I can follow and accept,” my liberty is not endangered.
It is really enhanced. If I am not allowed to rob another person, or commit murder or suicide, or drive on the wrong side and recklessly, or park my vehicle in the middle of the road, or prove to be a public nuisance by my actions, my creative impulses do not suffer a frustration.
Law is, accordingly, the condition of liberty provided the prohibitions it imposes are “built on the wills whom they affect” and are not arbritrary and capricious.
But liberty is not a mere negative condition. It has a positive aspect, too, which is, indeed, significant and important. Liberty can exist only when the State maintains those conditions which help the citizen to rise to the full stature of his personality.
It involves the opportunity for many-sided cumulative growth which consists in capacity to act, availability of an effective range of choices and spontaneity, that is, the ability to act in accordance with one’s own personality, “without having to make a great effort at self- denial or self-control and without being subjected to external constraints.”
According to Laski, liberty is “the eager maintenance of that atmosphere in which men have the opportunity to be their best selves.” It constitutes the enjoyment of those rights and the creation of such opportunities as help man to grow to be the best of himself, to develop his faculties, and to plan his life as he deems best.
The true test of liberty lies in the laws of the State and extent to which they help a citizen to develop all that is good in him. Liberty is, thus, a product of rights. It thrives best where rights are guaranteed to all without any distinction of sex, creed, caste, colour or status in society.