This brings us on to the second point. Not only has the word ‘freedom’ such powerful overtones of desirability (not only is it ‘prescriptive’, to use the technical phrase), so that apparently incompatible types of government are eager to claim that they are ‘for’ freedom, but the ambiguity of the term, the uncertainty as to what it means descriptively, makes it easy for an able mind effectively to turn the notion on its head. Again the Greeks provide a vivid illustration of this. Plato had this to say about democratic government and its emphasis on freedom:

‘In a democracy people are free . . . Anyone is allowed to do what he likes . . . That being so, every man arranges his own manner of life to suit his pleasure. The result is a greater variety of behaviour than you will find under any other form of constitution. So perhaps democracy is the finest type of government, with its variegated pattern of all sorts of characters. Certainly many people may think that it is best, just as women and children tend to admire those dresses that have many-coloured patterns. At any rate, if we are in search of a constitution, here is a good place to look for one. A democracy is so free that it contains a sample of every kind. You are not obliged to exercise responsibility, however competent you may be, or to submit to authority, if you don’t like i t . . . you may have no right to hold office or to sit on juries, but you will do so, if the spirit moves you. Indeed, a free and easy life.’3