Tuesday, November 15, 2011


When I think of the freedoms I want to enjoy, I think of things like the freedom to breathe clean air, the freedom to swim in clean rivers, the freedom to enjoy the beauties of nature, the freedom from unsafe working conditions at my job, the freedom to have any site I visit on the internet to come up as quickly as any other - I could go on with a long list, but in general, I'm talking about the freedoms that my government protects for me.

There's another view of freedom loose in the land:  the freedom for farmers and factory owners to foul our air and rivers, freedom for coal companies to rip up mountains, freedom for employers to set whatever working conditions they choose, freedom for monied interests to decide whose internet sites may be visited more quickly - again, I could go on with a long list.  And infringement of such freedoms to do harm is disparagingly referred to as "government regulations", instead of what they really are:  protections.

In general, the Democratic Party favors the freedoms from harm, and the Republican Party favors the freedom to do harm.  Yet the Democrats seem incapable of drawing the distinction between the two kinds of freedom:  they allow the Republicans (and Libertarians allied with the Republicans) to claim the moral high ground in proclaiming that they are for freedom, rather than making clear to voters that there are two competing visions of freedom, and offering an informed choice between the two visions.

Another of the Democrats' rhetorical failures.


  1. This is naive and just silly wordplay. Please read Isaiah Berlin on Two notions of rights for intelligent analysis of the same subject. Freedom can be a negative one - i.e freedom from being inteferred with - or a positive one - right to be provided with something. The latter usually interferes with the negative rights of others and is hence usually ends badly.

  2. Equating "freedom" with "the right to be provided with something" makes no sense to me.

    But if you are referring to the extension of civil rights that some people advocate - claiming that there is a right to health care, to a job, to housing, to education etc., I will agree that these are not rights, in the same league as civil rights, but that it is more a matter of good public policy that government acts to ensure all of these are available to all citizens.