freedom, liberty, license
These nouns refer to the power to
act, speak, or think without externally imposed restraints.
Freedom is the most
general term: “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free”
Liberty implies a condition of previous servitude, from which a person or persons are now freed*. The word is most frequently used to stress the power of free choice: “liberty, perfect
liberty; to think, feel, do just as one pleases” (William Hazlitt).
sometimes denotes deliberate deviation from normally applicable rules or
practices to achieve a desired effect: poetic license.
Frequently, though, it
denotes undue freedom: “the intolerable license with which the newspapers
break... the rules of decorum” (Edmund Burke).