4.2 Freedom And Democracy Are Relative Terms
From Political Freedom and Democracy by LJM Cooray (1996)

Freedom and democracy in so far as they have any meaning in the context of government are relative terms. Absolute freedom at the national level or even in smaller groups can lead to anarchy. A host of laws, customs and conventions, regulate the behaviour of human beings. The dictionary meaning of freedom defines it in terms of freedom from something such as slavery, want, fear and so on. People in every nation are subject to a complex set of laws, customs and conventions, with the freedom to do what the law and custom do not forbid, with the possibility of sanctions operating if conduct is not so ordered. Thus, the extent of freedom in any society is residual - a person is free to do what is not prohibited.

The measure and extent of freedom in any society must be determined in terms of the residual freedom from regulation. The countries which pride themselves as forming part of the free world are those in which individuals have greater scope for freedom, or perhaps to put it more accurately, where there is less unfreedom than exists in totalitarian countries, whether of the fascist, communist or other complexion.

Absolute freedom for everyone is impossible as the absolute freedom of one will be incompatible with the freedom of others. What is achievable is the highest degree of freedom which is compatible with the freedom of others.