History. According to Arendt, from the 5th century CE, the term of freedom became connected with the Christian conception of freedom of the will, or inner freedom, and since then, freedom as a form of political activity has been overlooked, despite the fact that freedom is "the raison d'être of politics."
For Aristotle, by contrast, freedom was a quality of action, not of being. He used the word eleos, which can be translated as "freedom," but it also can mean "liberty." Freedom was a moral virtue for Aristotle, one that required effort, discipline, and practice if it were to be achieved. Without such efforts, no one could be called free. For him, freedom was not something that anyone could give to another person; rather, it was an achievement that only someone who was capable of acting wisely in response to reason could possibly achieve.
In Europe, the idea of freedom as a universal value began to take shape around the time of Christ's death. In his speech before the Roman Senate in 50 BCE, Julius Caesar declared that all men are created equal by God and are thus deserving of certain unalienable rights, one of which is freedom. This idea later was developed by Plato and Aristotle, among others.
In America, the concept of freedom as a universal value emerged during the Revolutionary War.
Political freedom was defined as freedom from oppression or coercion, the absence of disabling conditions for an individual and the fulfillment of enabling requirements, or the lack of compulsion-related life conditions in a community, such as economic compulsion. It also includes the right to participate in the management of one's government. Political freedom is therefore a broad concept that includes both negative and positive rights.
Negative rights protect people against actions of the state or other governmental bodies. For example, negative rights include the right to be free from torture, the right to trial by jury, and the right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law. Negative rights can only be violated if someone has the legal authority to do so. For example, no one can be held responsible for acts done by others within the scope of their employment. Police officers, soldiers, and prison guards are examples of individuals who have the legal authority to use force against others.
Positive rights guarantee individuals opportunities to achieve certain goals. For example, the right to education ensures that students have access to education, while the right to health care means that patients can receive necessary medical treatments. Positive rights can be limited by circumstances such as age, gender, religion, wealth, etc. For example, older people may be given less educational opportunity than younger people because they are assumed to need this opportunity less.
The current idea of political liberty derives from the Greek conceptions of liberty and slavery. To the Greeks, freedom meant not having a master but being independent of one (to live as one likes). That was the original Greek definition of liberty.
In modern usage, the term "liberty" means freedom or immunity from restraint or coercion. The words "political liberty" have their origin in the English and French revolutions of the 18th century. Before that time, people took for granted the notion that there is such a thing as absolute power and therefore felt no need to define it. But the founders of modern democracy wanted to provide safeguards against tyranny so they created many powers that can be used by governments to restrain individual freedom. Among these powers are the power to arrest, detain, or exile citizens; the right to search and seize persons or property without prior authorization from a judge; the authority to censor public discourse; and more.
These are just some of the many powers that governments possess. And while some of them are necessary to protect us from violent criminals and foreign agents, others go too far. For example, government surveillance programs such as NSA's PRISM program violate privacy rights because individuals have a right to control what information about them gets collected and stored by the government. These rights exist independently of any duty or responsibility we may have toward our government or other people.