The Meaning of Freedom in Public Discourse

29 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2014

See all articles by Jesse Chanley

Jesse Chanley

Upper Iowa University

Sharon Chanley

Arizona State University

Date Written: November 9, 2014


A fundamental purpose of science and democracy is to enrich our lives by working together to achieve shared goals. To work together, we must be able to communicate with clear, shared definitions for the words we use. Freedom is one of the key words used in political science and public policy discussions. However, freedom is a nebulous term. This paper examines the meaning of freedom in public life in the United States. It is based on a sample of 200 mentions of freedom in newspapers around the country. In the paper, we argue that people erroneously use freedom when they actually are referring to other political values. We also suggest that the misuse of freedom undermines efforts to realize those other values.

Keywords: freedom, democracy, political theory

Suggested Citation

Chanley, Jesse and Chanley, Sharon, The Meaning of Freedom in Public Discourse (November 9, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Jesse Chanley (Contact Author)

Upper Iowa University ( email )

Fayette, IA 52142
United States

Sharon Chanley

Arizona State University ( email )

7271 E. Sonoran Arroyo Mall – MC 2780
Mesa, AZ AZ 85212-6415
United States
5704123085 (Phone)
5704123085 (Fax)

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