Liberty

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Liberty, or freedom, is a zero-sum game. For me to have a liberty, your liberty must be restricted by a duty not to interfere. The liberty of your nose depends on a coercive duty imposed on me to not swing my fist into it. Liberty can be redistributed, but not created or destroyed. Pretending otherwise is one of the great frauds of libertarianism.

http://www.cato-unbound.org/2010/03/10/david-schmidtz-and-jason-brennan/conceptions-of-freedom/ http://www.cato-unbound.org/2010/03/12/tom-g-palmer/liberty-is-liberty/ http://www.cato-unbound.org/2010/03/23/david-schmidtz-and-jason-brennan/reflections-on-the-history-and-language-of-liberty/

liberty as half a see-saw, other half being duty to respect liebrty: x axis me to you, y axis liberty to duty If only half the see saw is moved, it is a broken model

David Schmidtz and Jason Brennan, "A Brief History of Liberty"

Berlin says historians documented two hundred ways of using the term "liberty", and he is writing only about two central ones, positive and negative.

Constant’s distinction between individual [“modern”] and collective [“ancient”] liberty

liberty must be discussed initially as an individual right.

Freedom is an inherently social concept, devoid of meaning outside of society, whereas the concept of assets (or wealth) is not an inherently social concept. A man all alone on a planet, with no connections with other moral agents, can hardly be said to be either free or unfree. He doesn’t live in a free society, just as he doesn’t live in a generous society. For the same reason, he could not be said to be unfree. He doesn’t live in a society, at all. Liberty, like generosity and kindness, refers to a relationship among persons (or at least among moral beings of some sort). (It may involve other terms, as well, but it is nonsensical to invoke the concept of liberty without invoking a multiplicity of persons.) Tom Palmer

One man's liberty is another man's slavery. Often literally: the liberty to own slaves has been a frequent, real world oxymoron. For one man to have uncoerced freedom, all others must have a coerced duty to not interfere with that freedom. There can be no maximizing of liberty overall: only redistribution of liberty and coercion.

See Also:

Links

What Is Liberty?
Liberty (AKA Freedom), the supposed object of Libertarianism, is hardly ever defined or discussed analytically by libertarians. Liberty, as used by libertarians, is a glittering generality of propaganda: an emotionally appealing phrase so closely associated with highly valued concepts and beliefs that it carries conviction without supporting information or reason. But liberty is susceptible to analysis and that analysis reveals enormous problems with libertarian ideology.
Libertarians Misunderstand Liberty (7 links)
Liberty (also known as freedom) is a glittering generality of libertarian propaganda. Libertarians do not adequately define it, and often think the mistaken ideas of "positive" and "negative" liberty resolve problems. Liberty can be correctly understood as a triadic relation.
Privatization of Power (4 links)
What libertarians call liberty is actually privatization of power. Taking power that the state holds and transferring it to individuals. That might sound good until you realize that the state power protects us individuals from each other's power. Privatization of power would result in the wealthiest having the most power and the poorest having none.
Liberty (propaganda)
The objective of libertarian liberty is to take power from public institutions and put it in the hands of private property owners. This merely changes who has liberty, removing the liberty to decide public policy from voters and giving it to the rich.
Positive and Negative Liberty (5 links)
The concepts of positive and negative liberty are not generally agreed upon: major philosophers such as T. H. Green and Isaiah Berlin used different meanings, and modern libertarians have their own bastardized meaning. Many philosophers think the distinction is a word game. American legal philosopher Gerald MacCallum explains Freedom as a Triadic Relation, with positive and negative being a false dichotomy, different viewpoints of the same thing. The Capability Approach is much better.
Freedom as a Triadic Relation [More...] (2 links)
Gerald MacCallum's interpretation that: "x is/is not free from y to do/not to do or become/not become z". This allows you to make complete "Subject verb object." sentences out of vaguer philosophical claims. That helps eliminate concealed assumptions.
Capability Approach (13 links)
Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum's successor to liberalism, liberty and rights. This approach to human well-being emphasizes the importance of freedom of choice, individual heterogeneity and the multi-dimensional nature of welfare. It is an excellent substitute for archaic interpretations of liberty or freedom. Most libertarians won't accept it because of (a) "muh property" or (b) the corporations and plutocrats that produce libertarian propaganda won't like its funding requirements.
Liberty for me, but not for thee. (4 links)
Libertarians want liberties for themselves, but don't really care about the liberty of others. Their primary desire is liberty for property owners (and thus the rich.) Libertarians want to dictate what liberties will exist for everybody. Examples abound.
Four Freedoms (4 links)
Franklin Roosevelt's inspirational freedoms that we fought for in WWII. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. Freedom from want. Freedom from fear. Far superior to the libertarian idea of economic freedom that benefits corporations and the rich.
Constitutional Rights and Civil Liberties (8 links)
Almost all US political groups want Constitutional rights and civil liberties preserved or extended. Libertarians have their own myopic viewpoints that they want implemented. They oppose incorporation of Constitutional rights against individuals and business. They deny civil liberties such as privacy rights, except when government is involved.
Corporate Threats to Liberty (23 links)
Corporations also threaten liberty. The private prison industry has every incentive to sponsor laws to increase incarceration. Corporations have huge incentives to invade your privacy by tracking you, recording your purchases, your messages, etc. Government could then legally buy this information, rather than getting a court order to do it as part of an investigation. See also: Private Limitations Of Liberty.
Existential Comics 234: Desert Island Economics [More...]
Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg are shipwrecked on Liberty Island, owned by Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard. "Save the brandy!"
Free Speech (5 links)
Free speech is one of our most important liberties: yet somehow libertarians have no compunction about prohibiting free speech on private property. Especially the workplace. Nor do they recognize that there are practical limits to free speech, such as incitement to violence. And suspiciously, they are very opposed to regulation of commercial speech, despite the tendency to fraud.
Freedom (10 links)
Freedom has many interpretations. Often it simply means Liberty. Libertarians want to enforce their idea of freedom, rather than engage in political negotiation for which freedoms we will enjoy.
Freedom and Money [More...]
G. A. Cohen points out the elephant in the room: property restricts freedoms of others, and money is the bribe needed to enjoy those freedoms. In this respect, the poor have much less freedom than others.
Freedom for the wolves has often meant death to the sheep. (2 links)
There are many types of freedoms that benefit the powerful while harming the weak. Libertarians are almost always in favor of those. Regulation is needed to eliminate those harms to the weak.
Freedom House (2 links)
"Freedom is possible only in democratic political environments where governments are accountable to their own people; the rule of law prevails; and freedoms of expression, association, and belief, as well as respect for the rights of minorities and women, are guaranteed."
Freedom in the World [More...]
A respectable, non-libertarian index of freedom, and a good alternative to libertarian, neoliberal and corporatist indexes. Produced by Freedom House. Based on 10 political rights questions and 15 civil liberties questions.
Freedom is More Than Small Government [More...]
"My point simply is to suggest that there tends to be a myopia among conservatives and libertarians that is quick to condemn governmental curtailments of individual liberty, while failing to appreciate or even acknowledge expansions of personal freedom and many other things that have enormously improved our lives over those of our parents and grandparents, not to mention those in the distant past."
Hohfeld’s typology of rights (7 links)
Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld created the standard legal classification of right, duty, privilege, no-right, power, liability, immunity and disability in his 1913 article Some Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied in Judicial Reasoning. (Privilege means liberty.) Libertarians (and lay people in general) are usually ignorant of these important definitions. The most important of these observations is that rights have correlative duties for others and a duty is the opposite of a liberty. Your rights destroy liberties of others.
Inequality Against Freedom [More...]
"What don’t go together – in the real world – are inequality and freedom. So-called right-libertarians therefore have a choice: you can be shills for the rich, or genuine supporters of freedom – but you can’t be both."
Laissez Faire (17 links)
Laissez faire is a hypocritical propaganda term: it is government that creates a capitalist environment, advantaging capitalists over others. Unregulated Market is a more honest term. History shows pretty clearly that unregulated, unfettered capitalism is a brutal environment where wealth accumulates in the hands of an elite leaving most people in poverty, deeply vulnerable to the inevitable economic shocks that follow.
Liberty Upsets Patterns (1 link)
A saying of Robert Nozick. Who happens never to define liberty. But property is a pattern, and real liberty would not observe it. Patterns of liberty are also upset when people have the liberty to politically organize. But this is really a tautology: patterns only exist because liberty is restrained.
Private Limitations Of Liberty (25 links)
Libertarians like to claim only government limits liberty. But that's not what people experience. First world government is actually a minor source of repression and loss of liberties. Private organizations, particularly business, employers and the workplace are the major sources of repression and limitations of liberty that we experience most frequently and heavily. For example, all lynching was private. See also: Corporate Threats to Liberty.
Private Property Is Not The Only Liberty (3 links)
Many libertarians root all rights and freedoms in self-ownership and other property rights. The few who recognize other rights consider them trumped by even the slightest association with property. Property uber alles!
Property Is Theft (3 links)
All property reduces the liberty of all other people by threatening violence for use of the property. Violent confiscation of liberty is a theft of liberty. This is true of other types of rights as well.
Public Expansions Of Liberty (14 links)
Government creation of enforceable rights makes markets for those rights, as in cap and trade. Public safety protects us from crime and accidents, giving us the freedom to use our resources productively rather than protectively. Infrastructure such as roads lets us travel and do many things more freely.
Reclaiming the Politics of Freedom [More...]
"[The politics of freedom] views the state the way the abolitionist, the trade unionist, the civil rights activist and the feminist do: as an instrument for disrupting the private life of power. The state, in other words, is the right hand to the left hand of social movement."
The Differing Definitions of Liberty [More...]
"Due to the tradeoff inherent in granting liberty to one side, society must decide which group’s liberty should be protected at the expense of the other."
The libertarian and the genie.
A libertarian finds a magic lamp, and when he mixes his labor with it a genie appears. The genie tells him he can have three wishes...
The Workplace (38 links)
Our greatest daily loss of liberty is in the workplace. Libertarian pretense that the workplace is voluntary would only make sense if people had an equal alternative to the workplace. Power differences between employer and employee result in many losses of liberty.
There Are Important Values Besides Liberty (16 links)
Compassion, justice, civic responsibility, honesty, decency, humility, respect, and even survival of the poor, weak, and vulnerable. All these trade off with liberty in important ways. Libertarians want to found society on only one value, private property (which they conflate with liberty.) People with other values will be burdened by having to pay for them.
Two Concepts of Liberty [More...]
Isaiah Berlin's famous overview of how two ideas (of the hundreds) of liberty relate to various historical philosophers' ideas. He uses a different definition of positive liberty than prior authors.
Two Notions of Liberty [More...]
"... liberty is a sliding scale concept that, crucially, is related directly to how much money (or whatever you want to use as the stand in for resources/stuff) you have. This means poor people have the least liberty and rich people have the most liberty."
Violently Destroying Liberty Is Important For Flourishing, Libertarian Argues [More...]
"Thus we can't ever actually be debating about whether we are for or against aggression or coercion. That's ridiculous. Folks on all sides of the debate are for using force that is consistent with their theory of what belongs to whom (called "defense") and against using force that is inconsistent with their theory of what belongs to whom (called "aggression")."

Quotations

Of society's old institutions, they would retain only private property. They seek an abstract Liberty that never has existed in any civilization -- nor, for that matter, among any barbarous people, or any savage. They would sweep away political government; in this, they subscribe to Marx's notion of the withering away of the state .
Russell Kirk, "A Dispassionate Assessment of Libertarians"
The worst enemies of enduring freedom for all may be certain folk who demand incessantly more liberty for themselves. This is true of a country's economy, as of other matters. America's economic success is based upon an old foundation of moral habits, social customs and convictions, much historical experience, and commonsensical political understanding. Our structure of free enterprise owes much to the conservative understanding of property and production expounded by Alexander Hamilton -- the adversary of the libertarians of his day. But our structure of free enterprise owes nothing at all to the destructive concept of liberty that devastated Europe during the era of the French Revolution -- that is, to the ruinous impossible freedom preached by Jean Jacques Rousseau.
Russell Kirk, "A Dispassionate Assessment of Libertarians"
Libertarianism is supposed to be all about principles, but what it’s really about is political expedience. It’s basically a corporate front, masked as a philosophy.
Thomas Frank in Jane Mayer, "Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right" pg. 123.
Libertarians always insist that they are defending a philosophy of freedom, but what they are in fact defending is the freedom of a few to maintain their status privileges. The rest of us, without money or votes, always tend to remain distinctly unfree.
Nathan Robinson, "Democracy: Probably a Good Thing"
All forms of society grant freedoms to, and impose unfreedoms on, people, and no society, therefore, can be condemned just because certain people lack certain freedoms in it. But societies have structurally different ways of inducing distributions of freedom, and, in a society like ours, where freedom is to a massive extent granted and withheld through the distribution of money, that fact, that money structures freedom, is often not appreciated in its full significance, and an illusion develops that freedom in a society like ours is not restricted by the distribution of money. This lecture exposes that illusion.
G. A. Cohen, "Freedom and Money"
[S]ocial relations abhor a power vacuum. When state authority contracts, private parties fill the gap. That power can feel just as oppressive, and have effects just as pervasive, as garden variety administrative agency enforcement of civil law. As Robert Lee Hale stated, “There is government whenever one person or group can tell others what they must do and when those others have to obey or suffer a penalty.”
Frank Pasquale, "From Territorial to Functional Sovereignty: The Case of Amazon"
Between the strong and the weak, between the rich and the poor, between master and servant, it is liberty that is oppressive and the law that sets free.
Henri-Dominique Lacordaire, speech given at the 52nd Conférence de Notre-Dame, Paris, 1848.
You call it cancer, I call it freedom loving cells, throwing off the shackles of collectivism and trying to reach their full potential of growth. If every cell in the body just started looking out for itself and its offspring, the outcome for the whole body could only be the best one imaginable.
WKorsakow (Reddit pseudonym), "How do I bootstrap myself out of cancer?"
Libertarianism is, in the end, not so much about liberty as it is about protecting and enforcing absolute property and contract rights.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 133
This notion, that the preservation of freedom sometimes requires the restriction of freedom, may induce incomprehension or apoplexy in the libertarian—but it should not. After all, [minarchist] libertarians are themselves committed to such a thought in their basic justification for the state: the coercion of the state frees people from the “wild” coercion of lawless individuals.
Chris Bertram, "Let It Bleed: Libertarianism and the Workplace"
But what do people mean who proclaim that liberty is the palm, and the prize, and the crown, seeing that it is an idea of which there are two hundred definitions, and that this wealth of interpretation has caused more bloodshed than anything, except theology?
Lord Acton, "Inaugural Lecture on the Study of History"
How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of the negroes?
Samuel Johnson, Taxation No Tyranny
Authority and liberty are interdependent, not simply opposed. As Kant, among others, made dear, rights (including property rights) are defined and enforced by the state. Referring to "natural rights," Emile Durkheim convincingly wrote that "the State creates these rights, gives them an institutional form, and makes them into realities." To violate liberal rights is to disobey the liberal state. In a sovereignless condition, rights can be imagined but not experienced. In a society with a weak state, such as Lebanon for the past decade, rights themselves are weak or underenforced. Statelessness means rightlessness, as the story of migrating Kurds, Vietnamese and Caribbean boat people, and many others should by now have made abundantly clear.
Stephen Holmes, "The Liberal Idea"
Some people giving orders and others obeying them: this is the essence of servitude. Of course, as Hospers smugly observes, "one can at least change jobs," but you can't avoid having a job -- just as under statism one can at least change nationalities but you can't avoid subjection to one nation-state or another. But freedom means more than the right to change masters.
Bob Black, "The Libertarian As Conservative"
In so far as I live in society, everything that I do inevitably affects, and is affected by, what others do. Even Mill's strenuous effort to mark the distinction between the spheres of private and social life breaks down under examination. Virtually all Mill's critics have pointed out that everything that I do may have results which will harm other human beings.
Isaiah Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty"
I do not wish to say that individual freedom is, even in the most liberal societies, the sole, or even the dominant, criterion of social action. We compel children to be educated, and we forbid public executions. These are certainly curbs to freedom. We justify them on the ground that ignorance, or a barbarian upbringing, or cruel pleasures and excitements are worse for us than the amount of restraint needed to repress them.
Isaiah Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty"
First things come first [...] individual freedom is not everyone's primary need.
Isaiah Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty"
Almost every moralist in human history has praised freedom. Like happiness and goodness, like nature and reality, it is a term whose meaning is so porous that there is little interpretation that it seems able to resist. I do not propose to discuss either the history or the more than two hundred senses of this protean word recorded by historians of ideas.
Isaiah Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty"
My goal, in the immediate stage, is to force libertarians to stop pretending that things like non-aggression, coercion, and force initiation do anything in the debate. They don't. Since the words get their meaning from an underlying theory of entitlement, the debate is always and anywhere about theories of entitlement. It is not about aggression or coercion or force. All arguments that turn upon those concepts are vacuous and question-begging. All of them.
Matt Bruenig, "Violently Destroying Liberty Is Important For Flourishing, Libertarian Argues"
To my knowledge, all libertarian philosophers (except Conway), from Hayek to Nozick to James Buchanan to lesser-known writers such as Antony Flew and Tibor Machan, reject the positive-libertarian alternative, preferring to rely on the claim that only negative liberty is “real” liberty. It may be surprising that, 700 years after the collapse of Scholasticism, there should still be philosophers who assume that there are “correct” and “incorrect” definitions of words. But it would be a mistake to underestimate how important to libertarian philosophy is the conviction that only negative liberty captures the “essence” of the word liberty. Even if negative liberty is “true” liberty (and even if liberty is intrinsically valuable), however, this cannot constitute an argument for libertarianism without the further assumption that negative liberty is either uniquely or relatively embodied in libertarianism. The assumption that liberty is embodied in libertarianism relatively more than in other systems is necessarily false, however -- unless we are speaking of positive liberty -- since, as we have seen, there is no difference in the amount of negative liberty afforded people by libertarianism and by competing systems of property law.
Jeffrey Friedman, "What's Wrong With Libertarianism" pg. 431.
... libertarianism would simply be liberalism if not for its equation of “liberty” with private property.
Jeffrey Friedman, "What's Wrong With Libertarianism"
We should wonder about this impulse of economists like Friedman and Hayek to theorize and write about the meaning of freedom and liberty. Why should economists be taken as the moral authority on what freedom and liberty mean? Are they our new priests? Indeed, Friedman is tipping his hand to a secret about economics as a discipline: economic policies are not value-neutral science.
Howard I. Schwartz, "What Color Tie Do You Vote For?"