Classical Economics assumed that Wealth was a stock and Income a flow. Actually, Wealth and Income are impredicatively defined in terms of each other- Wealth is what you can't spend without diminishing future Income and Income is what you can spend without diminishing Wealth in the future. Both ultimately depend on perceived Uncertainty. The greater the uncertainty, the less both our Income and Wealth because prudence requires us to do 'ontologically dysphoric' things which probably aren't going to be productive- just in case.
Having greater Income and Wealth means being able to do more- to have a wider choice menu. This may appear to be related to Freedom. However, a slave could be much better off and more secure than a free man. However, he may not have the option to enfranchise himself 'on demand' so to speak.
Freedom is the opposite of being bound, or being the property of someone else. There was a period in medieval India when everyone was queuing up to become a slave of the Sultan. This meant you could kill or rape or steal with impunity because few would dare to destroy the property of the King.
I suppose, if one really wanted to be free, one could take to the open seas or hole up on some unclaimed atoll. However, this is risky and inconvenient. We prefer to pay taxes and be bound by laws in return for some limited rights and immunities of a Hohfeldian sort. However these rights and immunities are defeasible.
Every country does have a small number of rhetoricians who can make a little money pretending that the indigenous regime is more righteous or cuddly or liberal or socialist or moral or racially pure than those repulsive foreigners and their naughty little ways.
In a democracy, we expect our politicians to talk a certain amount of crap and kiss a certain number of pooping babies. This is to reassure us that they aren't really free but rather live only to serve.
Under a totalitarian regime, all the sociopaths long to vow obedience to the Party. Few would wish their own children to have a free and independent spirit because their lives in some Gulag would be nasty, brutish and short.
This is not to say that the word 'Freedom' is meaningless. On the contrary, it means incurring a prudential cost so as to gain the protection of a countervailing power and, in this manner, have a reasonable expectation of continuing to belong and answer only to oneself in certain areas of one's private and commercial life.
This is a matter of economic choice- one where 'regret' (in particular such as would arise by endangering one's own liberty) is minimized; present utility is not maximized. This involves an obvious opportunity cost of an ontologically dysphoric type. Unlike physical systems, Social configuration spaces are fundamentally impredicative in a manner which undoes the possibility of their having univalent foundations. Thus two observable states of the world which are observationally equivalent, nevertheless are indiscernibly non-identical. This is the idiographic aspect of Economic analysis which continually overturns its own nomothetic foundations. Freedom- which appears a nomothetic concept- something endowed from on high- is actually an idiographic praxis which has evolved because of regret minimizing Social Choice on a multivalent configuration space. As such, a comparative study of Freedom can be elaborated within the discourse of Law & Economics. However, in the process, Economic and Legal paradigms prove defeasible. It is not the case that either can provide Political Philosophy with a set of common knowledge principles.
A Philosophical, or Political conception of freedom is bound to be incoherent because neither type of discourse has an independent understanding of the global nature of the opportunity cost involved in safeguarding Freedom. This is because the Social configuration space is of a much higher degree of complexity than the ad captum vulgi
truths pedagogues purloin from Economics and Jurisprudence.
Consider Isaiah Berlin's essay- two concepts of Liberty
- the first of which is foolish and the second of which is paranoid
His analysis of 'negative Freedom' begins with this fallacy-
To coerce a man is to deprive him of freedom.
A slave may be coerced just as much as a free man. If you enter my house and I coerce you to leave it, I have not deprived you of freedom. No doubt, my act of coercion has an opportunity cost. I may regret having done so. Economics is concerned with regret minimization and its tools can help improve our decisions.
Berlin is concerned not with 'Law & Economics' and its Hohfeldian rights and immunities- which are justiciable- but rather with 'political conceptions' of freedom which, however, can seldom have bright-line judgments on 'wedge issues'- e.g abortion, immigration, conscription, 'just war' and so on.
It is not the case that Liberty can itself say that there is something fundamental it secures which may not have to be sacrificed at a given moment simply so as to preserve the possibility of its restoration.
The first of these political senses of freedom or liberty (I shall use both words to
mean the same), which (following much precedent) I shall call the
'negative' sense, is involved in the answer to the question, 'What is
the area within which the subject - a person or group of persons -
is or should be left to do or be what he is able to do or be, without
interference by other persons?'
The answer is 'ask an economist. Nothing is off the table when it comes to Trade-offs. Your question is about externalities or merit or repugnancy markets. Externalities can be internalized. Repugnancy markets can be regulated or reformed. Merit goods can be subsidised or publicly provided.
'This is complicated idiographic stuff. Don't try to puzzle it out for yourself on the basis of a priori, or nomothetic, first principles. You are bound to fuck up.'
The second, which I shall call the
positive sense, is involved in the answer to the question .'What,
who, is the source of control or interference that can determine
someone to do, or be, this rather than that?'
The essence of Coase's theorem is that property rights don't matter so long as there is freedom to contract and a sufficiently rich environment of public signals. This is equivalent to a Goldilocks condition on preference diversity which in turn means that 'limited arbitrage' can do everything substantive because such contracts can be 'incomplete' and involve continuous revision of their 'process' and 'outcome' aspects.
Thus the only sane and rational answer to the question 'who should have auctoritas?' is- 'the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbor's cat when considered in the light of the correct Economystic theory'.
Not everybody will agree but by dint of showing them pictures of your neighbor's cat and making meowing noises they will, by and by, fuck off and go be a nuisance somewhere else.
I am normally said to be free to the degree to which no man or body
of men interferes with my activity.
A slave of the Sultan is a guy no one fucks with. A minion of the Mafia can swagger down the street harassing and humiliating all whom he encounters. Such a person is not normally said to be free.
Nobody lives to interfere with a person who can and will kill them if they try. We don't normally say of such a person 'She is free'. We say 'she's a fucking homicidal nutjob. Stay out of her way.'
A person who manages, at great personal sacrifice, to exercise a countervailing power over this lady such that she ceases to be a menace may be praised for restoring liberty to others- they no longer feel terror when going about their business.
However, if as a matter of good business, local notables pool resources to hire a bunch of guys to exercise a countervailing power over dangerous gangsters or lunatics, then it is not the case that Freedom has been established but that there is a free-rider opportunity at a certain location.
This does not mean that we normally speak of people at such locations as free. The affluent stockbroker broken upon upon the wheel of his quotidian routine, as much as the scruffy pedagogue grading term-papers on the Aristotelian concept of Eudaimonia, are scarcely exemplars of the flourishing of the free and unfettered Human Spirit. Nevertheless, both serve Society by providing a specific sort of hedge and may acquiesce in their miserable fate under Nietzchean palingenesia.
Political liberty in this sense is simply the area within which a man can act unobstructed by others.
What he means is an area where a man can free-ride in a certain way. If the man himself is paying into the common pool, then something of a purely economic, not political, type has occurred. A specific Hohfeldian right or immunity has been purchased as part of a collective security compact.
To believe otherwise is to say foolish things like-
If I am prevented by others from doing what I could otherwise do, I
am to that degree unfree; and if this area is contracted by other men
beyond a certain minimum, I can be described as being coerced, or,
it may be, enslaved.
I am prevented from pissing on you by your punching my face or by my fear of being arrested. I may say- 'Poor me! I'm un-free. The generous flow of my golden urine has been curbed by the forces of Illiberalism from spraying upon the upturned faces of the poor and suffering masses! Boo hoo! I am being coerced! My life is that of a slave!'- but, sensible people will ignore me.
A follower of Berlin, however, would be obliged to give ear to me. That's a good reason not to be a follower of Berlin. Save time by considering the matter from a purely Economic point of view.
Otherwise you will have to say something as fucking obvious as-
Coercion is not, however, a term that covers
every form of inability. If I say that I am unable to jump more than
ten feet in the air. or cannot read because I am blind, or cannot
understand the darker pages of Hegel, it would be eccentric to say
that I am to that degree enslaved or coerced.
It is equally eccentric to say this very thing. It only became necessary because Berlin had previously said something downright stupid.
Coercion implies the
deliberate interference of other human beings within the area in
which I could otherwise act. You lack political liberty or freedom
only if you are prevented from attaining a goal by human beings.
If you can inflict asymmetric harm- either by yourself or by resort to a collective security mechanism- on those other human beings, they won't prevent you doing what you want. Why give the name of Political liberty to such a situation? It is something you bought and paid for.
Certain 'Liberals' have expressed puzzlement that voters don't care about freedoms which they themselves don't or can't exercise because of service provision rationing or discrimination by the Police or other Agencies funded by their own taxes. Thus, the fact that the SAS aren't turning up to take out the gangsters who are getting kids to stab each other on the Council Estate next door to me, sours me on paying for those guys to go off to Venezuela or Iraq to take out some gangster there. Of course, if the occupation of Iraq had given us lower petrol prices then, okay, we'd have been prepared to play along with a silly sort of rhetoric which invokes Universal Human Rights and the blessedness of Democracy and so forth so as to legitimate higher standards of living for ourselves.
Berlin's mistake is to implicitly assert that there actually was
a coherent Political concept of Liberty which, however, is now being stretched a little too far.
Mere incapacity to attain a goal is not lack of political freedom.'
This is brought out by the use of such modern expressions as
'economic freedom' and its counterpart' 'economic slavery''.
These expressions were used in the context of a theory that the State should own the means of production. But then, Classical Liberalism was a revolt against the notion that all realty should vest in either the Crown or the Church or else be held in Common. Coase's theorem shows that ownership needn't matter. The Law, by means of 'legal fictions' could overcome medieval restrictions on appropirable and residuary control rights.
'Political Liberalism' had no problem with actual, indentured, slavery and considered Transportation for Life to be an appropriate punishments for any worker seeking to engage in collective bargaining because this was to seek to impose a 'Restraint on Trade'.
This gave rise to some deeply hypocritical rhetoric just as the Bolsheviks adopted a wholly mendacious rhetoric against 'social parasites'- including Refuseniks and Dissidents who wouldn't do what they were told and hence who couldn't get a job.
argued, very plausibly, that if a man is too poor to afford something
on which there is no legal ban - a loaf of bread, a journey round the
world, recourse to the law courts - he is as little free to have it as he
would be if it were forbidden him by law.
That is because it is forbidden him by law, assuming the law is enforced, to beat some guy who has that round the world ticket till he hands it over. But Judges and Policemen and Prisons cost money. The freedom to have and enjoy the stuff you paid for comes at the price of paying into a Collective Security system though, no doubt, at the margin, some free-riding obtains.
Berlin doesn't get the wholly economic nature of 'freedom' as a Hohfeldian right or immunity which corresponds to an obligation under a bond of law. If that vinculum juris is not incentive compatible, the thing misfires. On the other hand, it may create a virtuous circle of 'endogenous growth'.
If my poverty were a kind
of disease, which prevented me from buying bread, or paying for
the journey round the world or getting my case heard, as lameness
prevents me from running, this inability would not naturally be
described as a lack of freedom, least of all political freedom.
If I break your leg I don't cease to be lame. If I smash your head in and take away you ticket round the world- ceteris paribus-
get to go round the world. Berlin is showing that 'political freedom' is only meaningful with respect to transferable goods and services whose production involves an opportunity cost. But this is because 'political freedom' is purely economic. It may wear a universalist or nomothetic disguise but that is mere puffery.
only because I believe that my inability to get a given thing is due to
the fact that other human beings have made arrangements whereby
I am, whereas others are not, prevented from having enough money
with which to pay for it, that I think myself a victim of coercion or
Being in jail, getting bent over, could do that to you- sho' nuff.
In other words, this use of the term depends on a particular
social and economic theory about the causes of my poverty or
Nothing depends on a theory. What matters is if this guy can get together with a bunch of others to bust out and put the hurt on the powers that be till they cry Uncle and hand over goodies.
If my lack of material means is due to my lack of mental or physical capacity, then I begin to speak of being deprived of
freedom (and not simply about poverty) only if I accept the theory.
Nonsense. Gibbering idiots don't accept or propagate anything as foolish as an economic theory. Nor do weak and terribly handicapped people. On the contrary, they may speak of the riches of Spirituality, the treasures of a compassionate heart, the Heaven to which the altruistic Soul expresses an indefeasible tropism.
If, in addition, I believe that I am being kept in want by a specific
arrangement which I consider uniust or unfair'.1 speak of economic
slavery or oppression.
What would be the point to that? The sensible thing to do would be to seek countervailing power against those who unfairly benefit from that specific arrangement. No doubt, as a matter of puffery, your action may be described by sympathizers as a blow struck for freedom or the true Church or the purity of the Race or the right of senior citizens to incessant sodomy or whatever other nostrum has been taken up by the chattering classes.
'The nature of things does not madden us,
only ill will does', said Rousseau.
coz he was mentally ill.
The criterion of oppression is the
part that I believe to be played by other human beings, directly. or
indirectly, with or without the intention of doing so, in frustrating
No! It isn't human beings but rather the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbor's cat which is responsible for all this mischegoss.
Why is Berlin giving a paranoid criterion for an unjust or unfair practice which reduces our potential utility gain? Asserting a countervailing power by establishing a 'threat point' is the sensible course of action.
As shitty little teenagers, no doubt, we whined on and on about how like Mom is intentionally or unintentionally fucking up my big project to be all kool & gangsta and thus frustrating the hell out of me.
By being free in this sense I mean not being interfered with by others.
Yup! That's a teenager talking right enough. The horrible thing is they probably are
being interfered with by their Soccer Coach or Parish Priest so give 'em a break, willya?
The wider the area of noninterference the wider my freedom.
This is what the classical English political philosophers meant when they used this word.
Rubbish! In so far as they were philosophers they could not mean anything in English. They could merely pathetically gesture at their own gibbering idiocy.
disagreed about how wide the area could or should be. They supposed that it could not, as things
were, be unlimited, because if it were, it would entail a state in which all men could boundlessly
interfere with all other men; and this kind of `natural' freedom would lead to social chaos in
which men's minimum needs would not be satisfied; or else the liberties of the weak would be
suppressed by the strong,
These idiots invented an oxymoron called 'Political Liberty' and then pretended that it had some magical power even though, through out history, people have been smart enough to pool resources so as to hire tough guys to beat or kill sociopaths and hooligans.
Because they perceived that human purposes and activities do not
automatically harmonize with one another, and because (whatever their official doctrines) they
put high value on other goals, such as justice, or happiness, or culture, or security, or varying
degrees of equality, they were prepared to curtail freedom in the interests of other values and,
indeed, of freedom itself.
This is sheer nonsense. No Society has ever put a high value on 'justice', 'happiness', 'culture' or 'equality'. It would be silly to do so because these are essentially contested concepts which only bullshitting cunts drone on about.
It is a different matter that, if a bunch of gangsters have established a 'reign of terror', they get a kick out of pretending they are 'men of honor' or are protecting 'the purity of the Race' or are actually Robin Hoods or some other such shite.
For; without this, it was impossible to create the kind of association
that they thought desirable.
Such associations arose without the inter-mediation of any bunch of bullshitters whatsoever. A small bunch of self-publicists jumped on such bandwagons but they may as well have been whistling Dixie for all the good they did.
The Law has always existed. Much more money could be made by its practice than by writing a silly little pamphlet or an even sillier door-stopper. That's because the Law serves an actual purpose. The other thing is wholly make-believe.
Consider the profundity of thoughts like this-
Consequently, it is assumed by these thinkers that the area of men's
free action must be limited by law. But equally it is assumed, especially by such libertarians as
Locke and Mill in England, and Constant and Tocqueville in France, that there ought to exist a
certain minimum area of personal freedom which must on no account be violated; for if it is
overstepped, the individual will find himself in an area too narrow for even that minimum
development of his natural faculties which alone makes it possible to pursue, and even to
conceive, the various ends which men hold good or right or sacred.
Unicorns ought to exist coz they are sooooo sweet. When I grow up, I want to be a fairy and to ride a nice pink Unicorn.
There is no need for any minimal 'Seeta-Rekha' of freedom. Kids having arranged marriages and becoming parents in their teens can be more or less successful then kids who choose their own partners and themselves decide when to start a family. Even highly abhorrent practices like female genital mutiliation don't correlate with lower reproductive success. I may not like it, but I have to admit that a Bohra girl upon whom f.g.m has been performed, has better not worse life-chances as a result of this deeply repugnant 'costly signal'.
Suppose I'd had horrible parents who kept beating me till I passed exams in difficult subjects. Further suppose, that I'd been employed by a sociopathic Corporation which forced me to perform at the top of my ability for fear of physical sanction. I'd be miserable but somewhat less of a worthless sack of shit than I currently am.
It follows that a frontier must
be drawn between the area of private life and that of public authority.
This is nonsense. Actual Liberalism is about abolishing any such frontier. Parents should not be allowed to mutilate their kids or to beat them till they got a degree in a STEM subject.
Where it is to be drawn is a
matter of argument, indeed of haggling. Men are largely interdependent, and no man's activity is
so completely private as never to obstruct the lives of others in anyway. `Freedom for the pike is
death for the minnows'; the liberty of some must depend on the restraint of others. `Freedom for
an Oxford don', others have been known to add, `is a very different thing from freedom for an
This proposition derives its force from something that is both true and important, but the phrase
itself remains a piece of political claptrap. It is true that to offer political rights, or safeguards
against intervention by the state, to men who are half naked, illiterate, underfed, and diseased is
to mock their condition;
That is where Berlin was wrong. The Egyptian felaheen wanted the State to stop
intervening in favor of the tax-farmer turned landowner. They wanted the State to use its Revenues to pay for the education and healthcare of their children. Nasser delivered on these reasonable demands which is why his people are still in power there.
they need medical help or education before they can understand, or
make use of an increase in their freedom. What is freedom to those who cannot make use of it?
Not having to worry about guys in uniform coming to throw you off your land if you get on the wrong side of the Sheikh is genuine freedom. The Oxford Don may have received a similar immunity from the sack for his purely political opinions. However, the guy could always emigrate or quit Academia so as to have an even higher standard of living. JBS Haldane and his wife renounced British Citizenship and settled in India after the latter was sacked for drunkenness. More sensible savants headed for California.
Without adequate conditions for the use of freedom, what is the value of freedom?
What is the value of gassing on about freedom, or spirituality or the purity of the Race? Only economics matters.
come first: there are situations, as a nineteenth century Russian radical writer declared, in which
boots are superior to the works of Shakespeare;
What a great discovery! But what does it really mean? Markets for boots and books and so forth are a good thing.
individual freedom is not everyone's primary
Primary needs like secondary needs and needs wot bin to Collidge and needs wot went to Collidge but dropped out to join a Commune or found a Start Up, are all Economic. They have no coherent, or indeed, sensible, description in Political Philosophy.
For freedom is not the mere absence of frustration of whatever kind; this would inflate the
meaning of the word until it meant too much or too little;
nor is it the presence of something coz it refers to prudential actions with respect to contingent events.
The Egyptian peasant needs clothes or
medicine before, and more than, personal liberty,
The Egyptian peasant- like every other sort- needs to stop reproducing himself like crazy. He needs to have an exit strategy for his progeny. That exit should be towards urban areas with a flourishing private sector.
Nobody is going to turn up with clothes and medicines and free food for a Malthusian race of sub-subsistence peasants. They themselves have to migrate, undergo demographic transition, and then subsidize a declining agricultural sector- perhaps with a view to environmental effects rather than food production.
but the minimum freedom that he needs today,and the greater degree of freedom that he may need tomorrow, is not some species of freedom
peculiar to him, but identical with that of professors, artists, and millionaires.
This is stupid. 'Professors, artists and millionaires' exist by reason of 'market power' which is greater where economic activity is concentrated and linkages are greatest. Peasants need different sorts of freedoms precisely because they are price takers at the end of tenuous supply chains. They experience terrible 'last mile' delivery of Public Services.
What matters for 'Professors, artists and millionaires' is transfer earnings in equivalent jurisdictions. The greater their mobility, the greater their effective freedom. Peasants have low mobility but need Exit on more favorable terms. Otherwise their 'Voice' and 'Loyalty' will be illiberal.
This, increasingly, is the lot of the indigenous working or lower middle class in advanced economies. We don't have the option of 'Exit'. So we exercise our 'Voice' and give our 'Loyalty' to those who claim to represent a countervailing power to the cosmopolitan 'Professor, artist or millionaire'.
What troubles the consciences of Western liberals is not, I think, the belief that the freedom that
men seek differs according to. their social or economic conditions, but that the minority who
possess it have gained it by exploiting, or, at least, averting their gaze from, the vast majority
who do not.
Western Liberals only pretend to have a conscience for the purpose of competitive virtue signalling.
If this were not the case, they would be engaged in a purely Economic, not Politico-Philosophical, Research Program.
They believe, with good reason, that if individual liberty is an ultimate end for
human beings, none should be deprived of it by others; least of all that some should enjoy it at
the expense of others.
What good reason could there be for having a silly belief? Not getting old or dying horrible is an ultimate end for human beings. The only reason I myself have grown old and will die horribly of some obesity related disease is because I am such a wonderful, caring and sharing human being, that I've said to God- 'Sorry Elvis. I refuse to stay young and beautiful for ever. Not till everybody can enjoy eternal youth will I accept this gift. Yes, I agree, Elvisji. Eating cheeseburgers on the loo is the way to go.'
Equality of liberty; not to treat others as I should not wish them to treat
me; repayment of my debt to those who alone have made possible my liberty, or prosperity or
enlightenment; justice, in its simplest and most universal sense--these are the foundations of
liberal morality. Liberty is not the only goal of men. I can, like the Russian critic Belinsky, say
that if others are to be deprived of it --if my brothers are to remain in poverty, squalor, and
chains-- then, I do not want it for myself. I reject it with both hands and infinitely prefer to share
Incidentally, I should explain why I write like crap. It's not coz I iz stoopid and iggnirint. It's just that I refuse to let my brilliance become manifest while even the lowest of my brothers is Homi Bhabha and the most wretched of my sisters is Gayatri Spivak.
But nothing is gained by a confusion of terms. To avoid glaring inequality or wide
spread misery I am ready to sacrifice some, or all, of my freedom: I may do so willingly and
freely: but it is freedom that I am giving up for the sake of justice or equality or the love of my
Why stop with freedom? Why not give up intelligence and education and the ability to talk or write anything other than shite?
Oh! Political Philosophers never had any such thing in the first place.
Economics considers all things as fungible. I trade off the disutility of working in a boring job for the utility of buying nice things for my family. To protect the liberties I currently enjoy, I am prepared to pay somewhat more in tax than is strictly required for Public Safety and the provision of Public Services. The surplus is used for precautionary purposes- e.g nuclear missiles which will never be used.
I should be guilt stricken, and rightly so, if I were not, in some circumstances, ready
to make this sacrifice. But a sacrifice is not an increase in what is being sacrificed; namely
freedom, however great the moral need or the compensation for it. Everything is what it is:
liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or culture, or human happiness or a quiet
Everything which yields utility or disutility is mutable and can be transformed into anything else.
If the liberty of myself or my class or nation depends on the misery of a number of
other human beings, the system which promotes this is unjust and immoral.
But, if I curtail or
lose my freedom, in order. to lessen the shame of such inequality, and do not thereby materially
increase the individual liberty of others, an absolute loss of liberty occurs.
Nonsense! The thing is probabilistic. What matters is if there is a realistic chance of success. In any case, increasing the cost curve of the bad guys is a good thing.
There is a Law of Conservation for Energy, there isn't one for the Conservation of Freedom or Happiness or being Too Cool for School. Why? Conservation laws exist where there is a differentiable symmetry. But biological organisms are examples of dissipative systems. More generally, notions like utility and regret refer to a higher dimensional configuration space and are expressed as possibilities. This makes nonsense of any attempt to treat Economic phenomena like Physical phenomena. A Physical field interferes, but cannot propagate in the high-dimensional configuration space. A probability distribution propagates in the configuration space, but cannot interfere, since possibilities cannot interact with one another.
This may be
compensated for by a gain in justice or in happiness or in peace, but the loss remains, and it is a
confusion of values to say that although my `liberal', individual freedom may go by the board,
some other kind of freedom--'social' or `economic'--is increased. Yet it remains true that the
freedom of some must at times be curtailed to secure the freedom of others. Upon what principle
should this be done?
A purely economic principle involving trade-offs, not some shite about indefeasible rights or sacred values.
If freedom is a sacred; untouchable value, there can be no such principle.
Sure there can. You just have to believe in an Occassionalist God, or Divine Providence or some emergent 'Gaia' regulating Evolution. There is always an after the fact Mathematical Theodicy involving higher dimensions or the non Euclidean geometry Ivan Karamazov refused to accept even if all of the insulted and the injured rose up at the eschaton to forgive their tormentors and declared the whole cascading history of human atrocity to be the perfection of Justice and Mercy.
One or other, of these conflicting rules or principles must, at any rate in practice, yield: not
always for reasons which can be clearly stated, let alone generalized into rules or universal
maxims. Still, a practical compromise has to be found.
This is the economia of equity which compensates for the over-reaching, by reason of too great a generality, of the Law's rigid akrebia.
You don't need book-smarts to understand this stuff. Commerce can thrive, Courts can enforce contracts efficiently, with only minimal literacy and no wasteful expenditure on a foolish Paideia.
Philosophers with an optimistic view of human nature and a belief in the possibility of
harmonizing human interests, such as Locke, Adam Smith and, in some moods, Mill, believed
that social harmony and progress were compatible with reserving a large area for private life
over which neither the state nor any other authority must be allowed to trespass.
They were wrong. Courts have always required defendants in actions in tort to show that their private life was not such as might have led to a negligent or prejudicial act or omission. Mill accepted that 'responsibility' meant 'punishability'. None of these guys stood up for homosexual rights or anything else which might have got them into trouble back then.
No doubt, as in Lawrence vs Texas, Mill's harm principle could
be given a liberal juristic interpretation. But it wasn't for more than a century, when public opinion was even more fucking retarded.
those who agreed with him, especially conservative or reactionary thinkers, argued that if men
were to be prevented from destroying one another and making social life a jungle or a
wilderness, greater safeguards must be instituted to keep them in their places; he wished
correspondingly to increase the area of centralized control and decrease that of the individual.
But both sides agreed that some portion of human existence must remain independent of the
sphere of social control. To invade that preserve, however small, would be despotism.
It would also be expensive and self-defeating. Political Philosophy wasn't helping anybody by saying stuff which no despot could achieve, without destroying the basis of his own power, would be wrong coz it would be like totally despotic and uncool.
eloquent of all defenders of freedom and privacy, Benjamin Constant, who had not forgotten the
Jacobin dictatorship, declared that at the very least the liberty of religion, opinion, expression, property, must be guaranteed against arbitrary invasion.
Constant was a silly man. Property must pay for its own protection- preferably collectively coz there are economies of scale and scope. It oughtn't to be guaranteed against anything. Neither should anything else. Let them pay their own way. A small amount of free-riding may be tolerated- it shows the robustness of the system. However, at the margin, nuisances will be curtailed no matter how much whiners whine about their Yuman Rites.
Jefferson, Burke, Paine, Mill, compiled
different catalogues of individual liberties, but the argument for keeping authority at bay is
always substantially the same. We must preserve a minimum area of personal freedom if we are
not to `degrade or deny our nature'.
We must breathe in and then breathe out. Failure to do so could lead to suffocation. Why are our Professors and Politicians and Media Pundits speaking out on this vital issue? They are all in the pay of Big Air. We need a proper pedagogy of breathing in and then breathing out. Won't someone think of the children?!
We cannot remain absolutely free, and must give up some of
our liberty to preserve the rest.
We can't just breathe in. We must also breathe out.
But total self-surrender is self-defeating.
Only breathing out is self-defeating.
What then must the
A proper Scientific pedagogy of breathing in and breathing out would be able to specify that minimum after suffocating a whole bunch of Grad Students. Why are our elite Colleges not ensuring the thing happens? They are all in the pay of Big Air. Meanwhile, there is no one to speak up for the children.
Once we have established the lower bound for Pneuma, we will be able to specify 'Human essence'. As in-
That which a man cannot give up with out offending against the essence of his
human nature. What is this essence? What are the standards which it entails? This has been, and
perhaps always will be, a matter of infinite debate.
Like- can Spiderman beat up Dracula.
But whatever the principle in terms of which
the area of non-interference is to be drawn, whether it is that of natural law or natural rights, or
of utility or the pronouncements of a categorical imperative, or the sanctity of the social contract,
or any other concept with which men have sought to clarify and justify their convictions, liberty
in this sense means liberty from absence of interference beyond the shifting, but always
WTF? Did Berlin have a stroke? Liberty has a sense in which it means being free from 'absence
of interference'? Why? Fuck is wrong with Liberty? Is it high? Or just stupid?
`The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own
good in our own way'
Everybody pursues their own good in their own way. If they fail, either individually or collectively to guard against the possibility of being fucked over while doing so then their freedom may decrease. They may find themselves down a deep hole with a guy standing above them saying 'it rubs the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again'.
If saying something so stupid is the kind of thing that 'celebrated champions' of Freedom do, then fuck Freedom and fuck the horse on which it rode in on.
, said the most celebrated of its champions. if this is so, is compulsion ever
justified? Mill had no doubt that it was. Since justice demands that all individuals be entitled to a
minimum of freedom, all other individuals were of necessity to be restrained, if need be by force,
from depriving anyone of it. Indeed, the whole function of law was the prevention of just such
collisions: the state was reduced to what Lassalle contemptuously described as the functions of a
night watchman or traffic policeman.
What made the protection of individual liberty so sacred to Mill?
So sacred he didn't speak up for homosexuals being persecuted under the new law.
In his famous essay he declares
that, unless men are left to live as they wish `in the path which merely concerns themselves';
civilization cannot advance; the truth will not, for lack of a free market in ideas, come to light;
there will be no scope for spontaneity, originality, genius, for mental energy, for moral courage.
Mill was wrong. Soviet Russia and Communist China produced better Scientists and Artists than economically similarly placed countries. India had a 'free market in ideas'. The result was that Kosambi started publishing fake proofs of the Reimann hypothesis. Meanwhile, Chinese mathematicians powered through the Cultural Revolution and have greatly raised the International ranking of China's elite Universities.
Mill was a false prophet. Liberal England started falling behind Germany in STEM subjects. Tzarist Russia produced better novelists- even playwrights.
Society will be crushed by the weight of `collective mediocrity'.
That could certainly be said of the Oxbridge or Ivy League elite. Without immigration, the decline would have been precipitous.
Whatever is rich and diversified
will be crushed by the weight of custom; by men's constant tendency to conformity, which
breeds only `withered capacities', `pinched and hidebound', `cramped and warped' human beings.
`Pagan self-assertion is as worthy as Christian self-denial.' `All the errors which a man is likely
to commit against advice and warning are far outweighed by the evil of allowing others to
constrain him to what they deem is good.'
Such constraints encourage a psychic and intellectual investment in ontologically dysphoric lebenswelts. This can actually be a very good thing for intellectual, artistic and soteriological Research Projects.
The defence of liberty consists in the `negative' goal of
warding off interference . To threaten a man with persecution unless he submits to a life in which
he exercises no choices of his goals; to block before him every door but one, no matter how
noble the prospect upon which it opens, or how benevolent the motives of those who arrange
this, is to sin against the truth that he is a man, a being with a life of his own to live.
Exactly! That is precisely my point! I have been campaigning for giving a prominent position in the curriculum to the proper pedagogy of breathing in and breathing out. I have been mercilessly persecuted for interrupting lectures on Political Philosophy to remind every one present of the need to first breathe in some nice Air and then breathe it out again. People tell me there is no need for me to carry on with my life-work. I should get a job delivering pizza and stop being a smelly homeless person. However benevolent the motives of those who say this to me, they sin against the truth that I am a man with a life of my own to live.
Also, all these bastards are in the pay of Big Air. Won't someone think of the children?
liberty as it has been conceived by liberals in the modern world from the days of Erasmus (some
would say of Occam) to our own.
None of these guys achieved anything useful. They only figure on the curriculum of fundamentally worthless University subjects which yield a Credential of declining signalling value. Why bother with them?
Every plea for civil liberties and individual rights, every
protest against exploitation and humiliation, against the encroachment of public authority, or the
mass hypnosis of custom or organized propaganda, springs from this individualistic, and much
disputed, conception of man.
That's the problem. These shitheads think standing up for the rights of Nazis to march through a community with a lot of Camp survivors proves they are holier, not stupider than thou.
All this virtue signalling has turned Liberalism into what Reagan called 'the L word'. The thing has become utterly rabid.
Three facts about this position may be noted. In the first place Mill confuses two distinct notions.
One is that all coercion is, in so far as it frustrates human desires, bad as such, although it may
have to be applied to prevent other, greater evils; while non-interference, which is the opposite of
coercion, is good as such although it is not the only good.
Confusing two false propositions does not matter. Ex falso quodlibet
. Coercion requires skills that can be learned and technologically enhanced. As with 'Games against Nature', there are positive externalities associated with developing Coercive power and updating one's Offensive doctrine.
By contrast holier-than-thou 'non-interference', or 'passive resistance' or 'Ahimsa' has negative knowledge based externalities. It makes its advocates and practitioners stupider and more backward than the common herd.
Protesting against everything under the sun causes a backlash towards the status quo. No nuisance is justified for so paltry a purpose as competitive virtue signalling. Nor can any substantive good- something which 'pays for itself'- come out of a purely political or philosophical conception of something.
This is the 'negative' conception of
liberty in its classical form. The other is that men should seek to discover the truth, or to develop
a certain type of character of which Mill approved--critical, original, imaginative, independent,non-conforming to the point of eccentricity, and so on-- and that truth can be found, and such
character can be bred, only in conditions of freedom.
Smart people shouldn't waste their time doing stupid stuff- like political theory or philosophy. They should invent or discover things which can make everybody better off. On the basis of the surplus they create, by all means, let them gas on a little in a high minded manner. It's a perk of a job well done.
Both these are liberal views, but they are
not identical, and the connexion between them is, at best, empirical. No one would argue that
truth or freedom of self-expression could flourish where dogma crushes all thought. But the
evidence of history tends to show (as, indeed, was argued by James Stephen in his formidable
attack on Mill in his Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) that integrity, love of truth, and fiery
individualism grow at least as often in severely disciplined communities among, for example, the
puritan Calvinists of Scotland or New England, or under military discipline, as in more tolerant
or indifferent societies; and if this is so, Mill's argument for liberty as a necessary condition for
the growth of human genius falls to the ground. If his two goals proved incompatible, Mill would
be faced with a cruel dilemma, quite apart from the further difficulties created by the
inconsistency of his doctrines with strict utilitarianism, even in his own humane version of it.
The way out of the dilemma was not far to seek. Only kowtow to the bien pensant
shite uttered by genuine inventors and discoverers. After all, it is comforting to see those idols have feet of clay.
To balance things, one could look for and publicize people who haven't discovered anything but who have survived terrible adversity and yet display superior rationality and humanity.
In the second place, the doctrine is comparatively modern. There seems to be scarcely any
discussion of individual liberty as a conscious political ideal (as opposed to its actual existence)
in the ancient world. Condorcet had already remarked that the notion of individual rights was
absent from the legal conceptions of the Romans and Greeks; this seems to hold equally of the
Jewish, Chinese, and all other ancient civilizations that have since come to light.
Condorcet was a good mathematician and a nice guy- championing Women's Rights and opposing Slavery and laws criminalizing Sodomy. Unfortunately, he proposed a theory which justified the oppression of women and minorities as 'necessary stages' in a determinate process of human perfectibility unfolding though History. Unlike John Adams, he didn't get that the very notion of a Right which an individual may exercise on his own behalf arises not in any Religious or Philosophical or purely Political context but rather in the context of overlapping legal jurisdictions. This is what happened when St. Paul asserted his rights as a Roman citizen. Where jurisdiction shopping is possible, a right clearly inheres in the individual making the election. In India, it is a matter of empirical fact that both Islamic and Hindu jurisprudence made themselves assimilable and were indeed subsumed by British jurisprudence precisely because Case Law evolved in a manner which clarified what rights under Islamic or Hindu law adhered to the individual and how Legislation could remove instances of superior individual rights accruing to members of a competing creed. Mohammad Ali Jinnah gained salience as an All India Muslim leader by demanding a reform of Waqf law which disadvantaged Hanafi enterprises. It is jurisdiction shopping which leads to a lowest common denominator of indefeasible Human Rights. However, these are merely cosmetic unless there is an underlying incentive compatible mechanism.
Philosophers gassing on about Political Liberty did not originate or change the Law. The needs of Commerce, of Industry, of Capital accumulation and Portfolio Diversification, drove its origin and trajectory. Simply importing the latest model of Liberal Constitution- as happens in Gilbert & Sullivan's Mikado- is futile.
domination of this ideal has been the exception rather than the rule, even in the recent history of
Ideals don't dominate anything. Business does.
Nor has liberty in this sense often formed a rallying cry for the great masses of
mankind. The desire not to be impinged upon, to be left to oneself, has been a mark of high
civilization both on the part of individuals and communities.
It has been the hallmark of the Shaman and the Shraman, the Eremite and the Epicurean. 'High Civilization', on the other hand, has been characterized by the desire to be recognized as a celebrity. Fame is the stalker who only shreds your skin if he leaves you alone.
The sense of privacy itself, of the
area of personal relationships as something sacred in its own right, derives from a conception of
freedom which, for all its religious roots, is scarcely older, in its developed state, than the
Renaissance or the Reformation.
It is scarcely older than Lawrence vs Texas
. Both the Renaissance and the Reformation, not to speak of various ultra-Rational Revolutions, were associated with a perception of increased, not decreased, external effects. Enlightenment is something private- or imaginary- which is supposed to have a positive externality. Indeed, that is the cash value of Berlin's otherwise vacuous conception of 'positive freedom'. By contrast, not caring about whatever Liberal moral panic is going the rounds is, we are told, to fatally endanger the body politic and cause the rise of Trump.
Berlin's own people had a communal form of life stigmatized by Renaissances and Reformations and Enlightenments and the Ethnic Cleansings they justified. The inviolability of the private sphere is contingent on its collective expression as resistance to isonomia.
Consider this extract from a Guardian article published last month- 'Ultra-Orthodox Jewish parents and teachers are warning that schools may go underground and children be educated at home if the government presses ahead with guidance on teaching about same-sex relationships and gender reassignment.'
Apparently, Liberalism's notion of privacy, even for little kiddies, means having to hear about sodomy and people having their dicks surgically inverted into vaginas.
Berlin, no doubt, would have been appalled. He says-
Yet its decline would mark the death of a civilization, of an
entire moral outlook.
That's what happened to the Incas. I recall reading about it in Tintin's 'Prisoners of the Sun' comic book. The Inca King had a peculiar and wholly private relationship with his favorite llama. The Spanish, very meanly, publicized this tender relationship which led to a lot of sniggering across the Andes. This caused the death of Inca Civilization. Snowy, the dog, said 'woof woof' to express his sorrow at this outcome. As should we all say 'woof, woof' coz the death of an entire moral outlook is no joking matter even if no llamas had their feelings hurt in the process.
The third characteristic of this notion of liberty is of greater importance. It is that liberty in this
sense is not incompatible with some kinds of autocracy, or at any rate with the absence of self-government. Liberty in this sense is principally concerned with the area of control, not with its
source. Just as a democracy may, in fact, deprive the individual citizen of a great many liberties
which he might have in some other form of society, so it is perfectly conceivable that a liberal-minded despot would allow his subjects a large measure of personal freedom. The despot who
leaves his subjects a wide area of liberty may be unjust, or encourage the wildest inequalities,
care little for order, or virtue, or knowledge; but provided he does not curb their liberty, or at
least curbs it less than many other régimes, he meets with Mill's specification.
Which is why Mill was a silly billy. Freedom is an Economic concept, not a Political one. It means making the regret minimizing choice to topple or flee a regime where the opportunity to do so is ceasing to exist.
Freedom in this
sense is not, at any rate logically, connected with democracy or self-government.
It could be provided there is free entry and exit and 'Tiebout sorting' occurs. In this case, people with similar regret-minimizing preferences flock together and can have mechanisms conducive to the preservation of the freedoms they value.
Selfgovernment may, on the whole, provide a better guarantee of the preservation of civil liberties
than other régimes, and has been defended as such by libertarians.
Provided, the Tiebout model does not have too much rent dissipation relative to preference diversity. This sort of stuff is a proper subject for idiographic 'Law & Economics' type analysis. It's something ordinary people can do 'well enough' a lot of the time.
But there is no necessary
connexion between individual liberty and democratic rule.
There is no necessary connection between any two things under Knightian Uncertainty except Rationality and Regret Minimization. Freedom is about contingent events- not what is happening now but what might happen unless you have insured yourself against the risk.
The answer to the question `Who
governs me?' is logically distinct from the question `How far does government interfere with
Both questions only have answers on a higher order configuration space such that they can't be logically distinct because of radical interdependence and indeterminacy.
Who governs is contingent on how far the government interferes which in turn depends on the costs and returns on governance which in turn depends on the governed.
It is in this difference that the great contrast between the two concepts of negative and
positive liberty, in the end, consists. For the `positive' sense of liberty comes to light if we try to
answer the question, not `What am I free to do or be?', but `By whom am I ruled?' or `Who is to
say what I am, and what I am not, to be or do?'
So, the positive sense of liberty is paranoia. Everybody knows that we are all ruled by the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbor's cat. I mean, they would know it, if pussy willed it.
The connexion between democracy and
individual liberty is a good deal more tenuous than it seemed to many advocates of both.
Connections may be tenuous but provided Muth rationality prevails no great scandal arises. In other words, if people coordinate on the basis of the correct economic theory, Political Philosophy can go fuck itself.
The desire to be governed by myself; or at any rate to participate in the process by which my life is to
be controlled, may be as deep a wish as that of a free area for action, and perhaps historically
older. But it is not a desire for the same thing. So different is it, indeed, as to have led in the end
to the great clash of ideologies that dominates our world.
Berlin was writing at the height of the Cold War when it was by no means apparent that Ideology can talk till it is red in the face but it is Economics which walks all over its naked sweaty body in a pair of stilettos. Obviously, what happens next is that Economics gives Ideology a golden shower and then takes a dump upon its chest. Not that Ideology isn't into twisted shit of that description. It's just that it gets done for fraud when it pretends its credit card was stolen by, like this real big black dude- actually, come to think of it, there was a whole bunch of them and anyway, the only reason I'm so confused about my sexuality is coz Mommy made me wear my sister's hand-me-downs till I was 42.
For it is this--the `positive' conception
of liberty: not freedom from, but freedom to-- to lead one prescribed form of life--which the
adherents of the `negative' notion represent as being, at times, no better than a specious disguise
for brutal tyranny.
What Berlin means is that there were some Ideological dickheads who were pretending that Communist countries granted genuine freedoms while Capitalism was bound to end in an underconsumption crisis with everybody on the dole. AJP Taylor thought Hungary was in better shape than Britain. Joan Robinson thought North, not South, Korea was a success story. There was a film titled 'Letter to Brezhnev' about a Liverpudlian lass who thought emigration to the Soviet Union would make her life better.
History has recorded its own verdict on all this silliness. Unfortunately, it got real drunk and, next morning, in a rare moment of clarity, realized it was wholly illiterate. Also there was this huge charge on its Credit Card bill which it tried to get out of paying by claiming that it had been mugged by this black dude- Ranajit Guha- actually it was a whole bunch of black dudes from the Subaltern Studies street gang and, boy, is my ass sore.