Freedom as the First Principle
I don't recall where and when but once I heard a man say, "I guide my life by principle." I thought it was a neat sounding sentence, but ultimately I did not understand what it meant. Today, given my current perspective, I feel that I am able to better understand the statement. First, we need to understand what principles are and what they are not.
Principles are rules deemed of high importance created by a group or individual. The rules are not "holy" or "spiritual," they are made up by people who are exercising their limited perspective. For these principles/rules to be functional they must be enforced. Individuals can choose to enforce the principles upon themselves, or in some cases power is given to others for enforcement.
Now, if you believe that freedom is a principle then I believe you are mistaken, at least partially. The word "freedom", in it's "raw" version, means that one has the power to act as one wishes. However, the more colloquial interpretation of freedom means that one can choose to act as one wishes as long as it does not deprive the freedom of others. The first version of the term would allow all individuals to do as they please, which can place others and the individual itself in danger--if anything this type of freedom would allow for anarchy. The second version of the word freedom has a restriction attached, and as such it's a rule or it could be considered a principle. However this latter definition corrupts the meaning of the word and can lead to further limited perspective conflicts.
When one thinks of freedom one often thinks of the power of the individual. The individual though is often not as powerful as a collective of individuals This supreme power, known as sovereignty, is almost exclusively held by governments. Of course, sovereignty does not grant freedom to that government--the institution must obey the collective wishes of those individuals who vote for officials. All individuals, when under the power of a collective, do not have the raw version of freedom. Instead they have a freedom in the form of a granted privilege--which is a restriction. The privilege is often a "right" that is given and can be taken away by an entity with superior power. The raw version of freedom is likely nonexistent in modern civilization and this version does not qualify as a principle since it offers no restrictions.
If we deeply think about the meaning of the term principles then we can say that principles are rules, and rules are restrictions. Freedom, when restricted, qualifies as a principle. Freedom, when unrestricted, does not qualify as a principle. But, keep in mind that when freedom is viewed as a principle it likely to be in a contradictory state (freedom + restriction = oxymoron).
Now, when I remember the man's statement, "I guide my life by principle," I realize that it's nothing more than the man saying that he restricts his behavior to what he deems of virtue within his limited perspective.