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Collector coin from Latvian central bank ruminates on issues of personal freedom

Anyone worried that the Latvian central bank (Latvijas banka, LB) has not put out a new collector coin in the last three weeks can heave a sigh of relief as another one is imminent.

This time the theme of the pocket shrapnel is "Personal freedom". Though the legal tender value of the coin is 5 euros, it'll cost you 53 euros and the central bank will impose its own limit on your personal freedom if you want several as the purchase limit for one buyer will be four coins.

"In 2019, Latvijas Banka had invited students representing various sectors to a discussion on the contemporary meaning of personal freedom. The artist of this coin, Beate Šņuka, has chosen to symbolically feature the idea that the limits of our freedom are where another individual's rights begin. She has depicted these limits by creating regular adjacent hexagonal pyramids and applying various finish techniques," said the central bank.

To the layman's eye, one side of the coin is very busy, while the other is somewhat sparse, to say the least.

Latvian central bank 'Personal freedom' coin

As ever, the central bank then provides a memorable explanation of the aesthetic-philosophical reasoning behind the minting of the loose change. While students of political theory might take issue with some of the assertions, we nevertheless reproduce it in its full glory below for your entertainment and edification.

The development of technologies allows everyone to express themselves freely in the social networks and comment on arts, social and political processes; potentially leading to an illusory belief that freedom has reached its highest point in the history of humanity. Undeniably, there are many more opportunities in terms of freedom of action than ever before. At the same time, no social network or company has abandoned the fundamentals of the functioning of the society. The limits of our free will are within respecting actions and opinions of others. We are interdependent, so the existence of freedom depends on everyone's ability not to place their interests above the public interests.

One cannot have more personal freedom than another. Freedom needs true equality and democracy, and respect for every member of the society.  One might think Eastern Europe knows the price and meaning of freedom best. People of Latvia had to defend, fight for, gain, lose and regain their freedom. But every era has its own way of treating freedom. Today, awareness of personal freedom and responsible behaviour has gained a much wider scale. Freedom of action now affects not only the closest ones, but also global processes and the future of the planet.

Personal freedom is limited by the social norms. These unwritten laws ensure society's ability to exist.  If we want to be part of the society, we will follow the rules that are in place and have been historically established. The social norms define ability to comply with restrictions, share with those in need and respect the laws of the society. The social norms can exist only when recognised by most of the society.

Compliance with the social norms means morally and ethically acceptable behaviour (and today such is required for the sake of public health), and that may contradict the individual's beliefs and personal will. Then personal freedom must be restricted in the name of public interest.  One could feel unhappy and believe that personal freedom is unjustly restricted. At the same time, being responsible means being able to accept it, understanding the benefits the society, and hence each person individually, will gain from that.

However, not all the existing social norms or the ones that tend to arise in the short term are positive, respect human rights and ensure sustainable development. In such cases, it is the freedom that ensures that such social norms and conventions can be changed. If there is no personal freedom, no changes are possible.  A society without personal freedom is static and doomed to extinction, since it will not listen and understand that the boundaries of freedom do not lie in privacy, but ability to accept the different and be tolerant towards the diversity of freedom.

Our individual action may not always necessarily lead to change. But the possibility to act individually and freely, without an outside pressure, is more important. As long as we respect the social norms existing in the society and the society respects the independence of every person, we will be free.

This last assertion in particular would seem to be problematic and perhaps even self-contradictory, though it might be defensible from a neo-Hobbesian position. Unfortunately, there is not space on the edge of a coin to debate it further. But are we not, in a sense, all on the edge of a coin? No, not really.

Anyway, the purchase of Personal Freedom coins will be possible only on the website e-monetas.lv from 12.00 (noon) on 11 December owing to the aforementioned restrictions on personal freedom imposed by the coronavirus. 

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