9.2.3 Protecting Freedom

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at http://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/923.htm)

Governance can play a role in protecting both positive and negative freedom, which is to say that it can preserve individual liberty, provide people with the opportunity to flourish and protect them from harm in all the dimensions of power:

  • It can contribute to economic freedom and legitimacy (3.5.9).
  • It can help people to live in harmony with ethnically diverse neighbours – as summarised later (9.3).
  • It can use the law to protect people (5.2.5) in a manner that most find acceptable (5.4.3), avoiding unnecessary restraints on their moral freedom (5.4.4).
  • The law can protect freedom of speech(5.4.5), enabling political criticism to be expressed (, whilst people can urge self-restraint to avoid creating strife (
  • Governments might use military force to protect the population from external threats (7.2.7).

Conversely, governance can be a threat to freedom if it takes the form of domination, as described earlier (9.2.1).  Meaningful negotiation is a safeguard which prevents such domination:

  • Political systems offer varying degrees of control over how politicians are appointed (6.8.2). People then need to be able to influence those politicians (6.8.3) and to be able to negotiate governance changes (6.8.4).
  • The Legal Dimension has some negotiability if the legislature is a representative body (5.2.1).
  • Subsidiarity in local government (6.6.2) can counter the undue concentration of government power, so that power is distributed and services can be locally negotiated.
  • Political problems are somewhat mitigated if, in contrast to East Germany (, one has the freedom to leave, to live somewhere else with a preferable system.  Ideally, though, it should not be necessary to leave one’s country to escape oppression.

These freedoms would ideally be provided within each country, but an international guarantee might also be needed to protect populations from governments who infringe agreed rights.  The ‘responsibility to protect’ ( could be formalised, as suggested later (9.5.3).