Freedom, the right to do what the laws allow – Montesquieu

Freedom does not consist in the possibility of doing everything and anything.

This is what Montesquieu tries to explain in his work De l’Esprit des lois, II, in book XI.

Indeed, for Montesquieu, it is difficult to find a word as overused as that of freedom.

“There isno word which has received more different meanings, and which has struck the spirits in so many ways, than that of liberty”(Chapter 2)

It is true that, in democracies, the people seem to do what they want; but political freedom does not consist in doing what one wants. In a State, that is, in a society where there are laws, freedom can only consist in being able to do what one ought to want, and in not being forced to do what one ought not to want.

This means that freedom “is the right to do whatever the laws allow“because these laws are supposed to be just.