• America, eagle, equality
  • America, Rights, Privilege
  • America, Statue of Liberty
  • bald eagle, freedom of speech, constitutional
  • chains, Martin Luther King, children
  • choice, liberty, America
  • Creativity, Experimentation, Invention
  • democracy, rights
  • democracy, World Trade Towers, 9/11
  • free speech, democracy, individualism
  • free will, choices
  • Happiness, America
  • happy, open
  • key, right
  • liberty, states, existence
  • myth, not free
  • Speech, Independence
  • speech, opportunity
  • unconstrained, happy, peaceful
  • United States, flexibility
  • United States, Speech, Religion
  • vote, speech
  • But, superbe
  • Colombe, Eiffel, Nature
  • Droit, 1789
  • droit, autonomie
  • droits, égalité
  • Egalité,Fraternité
  • égalité, fraternité, expression
  • Egalité, fraternité, vie
  • Esprit
  • Expression, Art, Chaines
  • expression, droit, voyage, voler
  • Expression, manifestation
  • Expression, Nature
  • expression, respect
  • france, expression, voyager
  • fraternité, égalité
  • guerre, lutte, mort
  • Internet, Penser, S'exprimer
  • Révolution,


Both the French and the Americans seem to view freedom as a right. However, the Americans named “America”, “United States”, etc. much more often than the French named “France” (which only happened once), and no side named the other country. Also, the American side had a greater variety of words. The most common words on the French side were “expression”, “égalité”, and “fraternité” (probably because France’s motto is “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”).

I think Americans often feel that we are the “most free” people in the world. Do you feel that Americans are wrong to think that?

Many of us mentioned freedom of speech, which is an important right in our country. Is this roughly equivalent to what you mean when you say “expression”, and if not, what sort of expression do you mean?

The most notable difference is the American association of the words “freedom” and “America” (which happened 8 times), whereas only one French person associated “freedom” with France. On the other hand, the French associated freedom with equality more often than the Americans.

Something interesting I noted is that while the Americans said “democracy”, the French said “fraternity”. We don’t really use the word “brotherhood” that often here in the US, and I wouldn’t really associate brotherhood with freedom. Outside of the country motto, what is the connection between those ideas?

Between the two sides, freedom of expression/speech came up 13 times. Do you think freedom of speech is the most important right?

Many of the American students thought of the name of their country (specifically, America/US) when they thought about freedom. On the other hand, the French students seemed to specifically associate the word “liberté” with the French motto rather than the name “France” itself. As “laika” noted above, this seems natural, since the French students have probably grown up hearing the group of words “liberté, égalité, fraternité.”

Most of the American students didn’t list concepts such as equality and brotherhood. We seemed to focus more on the individual meaning of freedom. My question for the French students would be: French motto aside, do you really think that a group of people are free as long as they are more or less “equal” and share a strong sense of community?

The word “nature” was mentioned a few times on the French side. I’m not sure what that means in this context… perhaps it could be referring to having “natural rights”. To the French students – what does the word “nature” evoke for you when talking about freedom?

J’ai été très surpris de voir autant de fois apparaître le mot “America” pour décrire le mot clé “Liberté”. De mon point de vue, les Etats-Unis n’est vraiment pas le pays auquel je pense en premier pour décrire ce mot. Après les révélations d’Edward Swoden sur les écoutes de la NSA, des lois comme le Patriot Act, et les films/Séries (Américaines qui plus est) qui montre un gouvernement ayant tous les droits, surveillant les faits et gestes de touts ces citoyens, je vois plutôt les Etats-Unis comme un pays ultra surveillé.
D’un autre coté, c’est un pays aux étendues sauvages magnifiques ou le mot liberté prend tous sont sens (cf le film “Into the wild” ).
J’aimerais donc savoir d’ou vous viens ce sentiment le liberté ?

Plusieurs étudiants américains considèrent que la liberté est liée à l’Amérique et “United States”, chose que je n’arrive toujours pas à comprendre. Comment vous pouvez expliquer cela ? et dans quelle mesure vous pouvez dire que “America” est le pays de liberté et de démocratie ?

Despite the evidence that America is not a truly “free” country considering what you’ve pointed out with the NSA and other things, America’s Declaration of Independence proclaims that it’s where people have the right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” In the national anthem (which many American students hear often in school and also in public events such as sports), “The Star-Spangled Banner”, the idea of America = Freedom is ever present. The refrain is “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”. I think that because of this, Americans generally associate freedom automatically with their country.

nreavaille, although the revelations of Snowden were disturbing, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that America is a country in which the government has “all the rights”, is a surveillance state, etc. Firstly, France also has its own national surveillance, and I am sure that the French government (and most other liberal democracies) has its share of covert surveillance that has yet to be revealed. Still, I think that many (most?) Americans do believe that our society is fundamentally free in a way that countries like, say, North Korea are not. “Freedom” is considered to be a central value in our society and is a constant talking point among our leaders, activists, and engaged citizens.

hera013 brings up a good point, which I think is the main reason that Americans associate the U. S. with freedom so often. We are taught from the moment we start school that America was founded because we wanted freedom from England, and that our Declaration of Independence/Bill of Rights is the epitome of freedom. All the songs about our country mention freedom (like hera013 said), and added to the fact that we are generally egocentric because of our size and physical distance from most of the rest of the world, this makes us feel that America is in fact a synonym of freedom. I don’t think it’s correct, but it’s a very common thought and association that comes naturally.

I think the reason why Americans so strongly associate America with the word “Freedom” is that it is the key value that led to the creation of this country, and the key principle on which the government of the United States was founded. The US was born out of a desire for freedom from monarchy and a desire for self rule, i. e. the freedom to choose who represents you in government. And further the success of the American Revolution in overthrowing monarchy and replacing it with a democracy based on this value of freedom provided the political and philosophical precedent for the French Revolution and the rise of democracy in the Western world, so I think to that extent Americans take pride in the value of freedom and associate it strongly with their nationality, and will continue to reject attempts to limit that freedom, like the NSA’s spying, which was ruled unconstitutional.

La liberté c’est de se sentir libre de toute contrainte physique et moral. Les USA sont un état non laïque et dont l’entrée sur le territoire est très contrôlée. On ne peut donc clairement pas associer les deux. De même, la France est contrôlée par une “élite” intellectuelle sortant de l’ENA, équivalant à la cour du roi d’il y a 200 ans. Le problème de l’immigration en France montre bien aussi les limites de la liberté à la française. Tout ça pour dire que la liberté est une valeur utopique que l’on massacre en se battant pour la défendre, peu importe le pays.

Alex: I agree with a lot of your definition and understanding of the nature of freedom as well as some of the modern restrictions on personal liberties. When you say it is a Utopian value, is that to say that it can never be reached in a realistic society? To me, I think the definition of freedom also has to do with the freedom of mind - the ability to form your own opinion about each matter and not have ideals forced upon you. Under that domain, I feel that a lot of modern countries are free. In that case, I would say that there is varying levels of liberty under each domain: physical, moral, and mental.

To Alex: You take a fascinating approach to freedom, one that considers whether foreigners/immigrants can enter and exit a country without too many restrictions or barriers. However, I think that when most people in America think about “freedom,” they think about the freedom of the existing citizens or residents - that is, existing citizens and residents should be free to have a voice in government, to think and write and express ideas as they please, and to come and go as they please.

I would like to make a claim that I’m sure will be slightly controversial: I don’t think that many Americans think about freedom too often. We all associate “freedom” with “America” – the phrase “land of the free” is key to our national anthem. However, I think that most of us (myself included) don’t really take the time to reflect upon what it means to be truly free in America. Thoughts?

@Lnb et Mhk : En effet, je pense que la liberté et la société ne peuvent pas coexister. Et pourtant, la société au sens de communauté est le meilleur moyen que l’homme est trouvé pour se rapprocher de la liberté. Pour cela, elle impose des règles pour nous protéger mais aussi nous interdire. Donc pour moi, il n’existe aucun pays dont les habitants sont parfaitement libres. Et même si tu te fais ton opinion sur chaque chose et que tu remets tout en question afin de te forger ton avis, tu ne peux pas échapper à ses règles (morales, psychiques) au risque de t’exclure du groupe et donc perdre ta liberté au sein de ce groupe. Il y a plusieurs niveaux de liberté comme tu le dis, mais en perdre un c’est perdre l’ensemble.

@Mhk : C’est vrai que ma vision de la liberté repose aussi sur la liberté de mouvement partout dans le monde. Mais on sait très bien que dans les faits c’est impossible. Il faudrait que chacun puisse voyager quand il veut et où il veut sans les facteurs argent et temps (tout le monde doit pouvoir avoir le même droit de se déplacer). Pour mettre en place un tel système, il faudrait changer radicalement le monde, bonne chance !

I dont think there will every be a world where everyone is “Free”. I think there are too many different ideologies in the world that restrict others’ freedoms if they do not agree with the definition of freedom as another country. How do you think we could move towards a common definition of freedom? Is it even possible?

Alex, you said the the US is “non laïque” and I’m wondering what exactly you mean by that? I know that the US has a very protestant background (and is still very protestant culturally), but we also have separation of church and state. Do you believe our church and state aren’t really separated?

@Alex: If liberty is to feel free from physical and moral constraints, how could any human being ever be “perfectly free”? Fundamentally, as humans, we need resources to survive, so we will always have at least that physical constraint. Unless you mean that one tricks oneself into thinking they don’t have physical needs and as such “feels” free from physical constraint? And without society, wouldn’t people be even less free, due to the further physical constraints put on the individual, such as finding one’s own food, shelter, etc. and protecting oneself from others who would seek to take those things from you? These don’t exist within a society, yet they exist when mankind is without any organization. So with your definition of liberty, true liberty cannot exist in any manner (due to the issues above), let alone coexist with society, and so society actually gets one closer to true liberty than there were no societies/countries/etc.

@Alex I don’t agree that the United States is “non laïque”, but we have a different definition of secularism than that found in France. In America, freedom of religion means that the government generally cannot restrict your religious practice, or favor one religion over another. Furthermore, the government cannot force you to refrain from religious practice even when one is in public spaces, unlike in France where religious symbols are not allowed in public universities, hospitals, etc. I think we generally view this as an important freedom that is not present in other countries. Personally I wear a kippah (Jewish religious head covering) and for me the idea of not being allowed to do this seems like it would be a violation of my liberty.

I’d be interested in hearing your, or anyone else’s perspectives on this.

@Alex L’homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers - eh?