Freedom of Association – Simply Philosophy

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This post is part of the series What is Freedom?

Other posts in this series:

  1. Freedom and the Good – Simply Philosophy
  2. Freedom of Association – Simply Philosophy (Current)
  3. Freedom of Religion – Simply Philosophy

I have already discussed the freedom of speech. I claimed that the freedom of speech is the freedom of choice aimed at knowledge. Freedom of association is an important freedom. We like to do things together with other people. By choosing to do things with whomever we want, we are taking advantage of this particular freedom. Freedom of association is all about choosing to have our friends share in our lives. Therefore, freedom of association is the freedom of choice aimed at friendship.

Freedom of choice, as you might remember, is all about getting something good from life. So what sort of good thing can the freedom of association get? There are many things we get from the freedom to associate freely with others. Business is easier and better, we can participate in more activities, we can learn more things and we can have the friends we want to have. Of these things, all can be obtained in conditions in which we lack significant freedoms. However, one of them has to do with freedom of association directly. Freedom of association is all about the freedom to associate with people. So any good that comes most directly from people is what that freedom preserves. Friendship comes directly from freedom of association because friendship just is knowing other people. Just as much as freedom of association increases, by that same amount does the capacity for friendship. This is true for no other thing. Therefore, freedom of association results in a freedom of friendship.

A freedom in friendship also results in the other benefits of freedom of association. If you are free to be friends with someone else, then you are free to buy and sell with them. If you are free to be friends with someone, you can participate in activities with them, learn from them, teach them, and do anything else with them that freedom of association gives you. Therefore, freedom of association is that freedom of choice that is aimed at friendship.

Now someone might object to this in a couple of ways. First, someone might claim that freedom of association hardly permits criminals to freely associate with each other in criminal activities. I agree. But a distinction must be made. The problem with criminals associating with each other is not their association, but their criminal activities. There is nothing wrong with criminals having friends any more than anyone else. Committing criminal activities together is not an act of friendship at all, and criminals who do commit crimes together are damaging their friendships. Second, one might claim that freedom of association should not be confused with business activities because friendships are not contracts. Once again, I agree. Business contacts are not friends, but the freedom allowed by friendship also allows business to occur. Any regulation of contracts is just enough to safeguard against criminals, not something to prevent the formation of friendships or business contacts.

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