The Freedom to Be an Adult
There are certainly no absolutes here. Conservatives have some social views that seem like the parent controlling the behavior of the child, and everyone wants full freedom to make their own decisions in certain areas. Plus, we all expect the government to take away some of our worries, like handling criminals and foreign governments intent on doing us harm. Still, the main argument now seems to be whether the government is to be the parent looking out for the individual needs of all its people or whether we should be left on our own, even if that means some people will end up not being able to take care of themselves. And these two viewpoints are irrevocably opposed.
This isn't to say they are both equal as valid concepts of freedom. Both are pretty old concepts of freedom, though. The adult freedom is probably the older concept, as most animals live or die on their own merits with no safety net in sight. Still, the child freedom is about as old as when people first had rulers. Any tyranny a king forced upon his people would be justified (when one felt a justification was required) as being necessary to protect his people. That attitude is certainly still common today, as the Chinese government often justifies its oppression by worrying about what chaos would ensue if its citizens/children were left to do as they pleased.
And that's the big difference in the two philosophies. I doubt very many liberals see themselves as children in need of the government’s guidance. Instead they see themselves as the parents who know how to properly guide everyone else. People don't pass laws against trans fats because they're afraid they themselves will eat unhealthily otherwise; those types of laws are for everyone else the liberals feel they need to forcefully parent for their own good. While the adult freedoms are freedoms we want for ourselves, the child freedoms are mainly inflicted on others we imagine need our control for their own betterment.
This is where the progressive European governments and the backwards Islamic governments share a similarity: they are both concerned with what their citizens may do without the government’s interference -- the Europeans are worried about non-PC behavior, and the Islamic governments are worried about influences from the West and other religions. The end result is both types of government feel they have the right to treat their citizens like children in need of direction.
The United States of America was supposed to be different. Finally citizens recognized their rights to be adults, to take their fates into their own hands. There are so many governments out there that see their citizens as children, but the American example was the one that was supposed to stay out of the way and let people make their own decisions.
Today, we see people protesting and demanding their freedom as adults and others ridiculing them as stupid and worrying what would happen if those people were left to make their own decisions. Of course, early on in American history we had one of the greatest crimes against freedom: slavery. If anything, that should illustrate just how much tyranny can be justified when one group is convinced it's smarter than another.
So when we’re deciding on the future direction for our country, let's all be adults and recognize everyone else’s right to be adults, too.