choice_based_lib - Choice-Based Libertarianism Like...

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Choice-Based Libertarianism Like possessive libertarianism, choice-based libertarianism affirms a basic right to liberty, but has a different understanding of liberty. Choice-based libertarianism defines liberty in terms of choice, not in terms of a prior set of rights. Limits on collective power are associated with a conception of individuals as choosers, responsible for how their life goes, not from an idea of individuals as full owners of themselves. Friedman advances a view of this kind in Capitalism and Freedom . Now Capitalism and Freedom is not a philosophical essay, so I will need to do some interpretation to present the philosophical outlook it expresses. I will begin, then, by addressing three questions: what is liberty; what is a fundamental right to liberty; and why is there such a right. 1. What is Liberty? First, then, Friedman seems to hold (roughly) that liberty is a matter of other people not interfering with choices among alternative courses of action. Thus a person is at liberty with respect to some action just in case other people do not interfere with that person's acting or not acting that way. I am at liberty with respect to drinking some tea iff others will not prevent me from drinking it if I decide to drink it or from not drinking if I decide not to. 1 Two features of this account are important. First, in a famous paper called "Two Concepts of Liberty," Isaiah Berlin distinguishes negative from positive conceptions of liberty. According to negative conceptions, liberty is a matter of "not being interfered with by others" in doing what one might aim to do. 2 Positive
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Justice , Spring 2006—2 conceptions of liberty see liberty not simply as non-interference by others but as self-mastery. The negative understanding finds liberty in the absence of interference by others; the positive conception identifies liberty as self-direction: with empowerment, not simply non-interference. An example: suppose you are stranded on a desert island. You are unable to order others around, because no other people are on the island. Unable to eat chicken, because the island has no chickens. Unable to occupy yourself by doing mental multiplication because you lack the ability. And unable to live comfortably because that would require hard work and you lack the necessary strength of will. So you are limited in what you can do. Still, your negative liberty is unimpaired. True, your options are severely limited relative to your aspirations. But other people are not the source of the restrictions. A positive conception of liberty would hold that greater resources and a stronger will would make you freer because you would then be more in control of your actions and circumstances. 3
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This note was uploaded on 02/27/2012 for the course POLS 101 taught by Professor Nemnich during the Fall '09 term at Boise State.

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choice_based_lib - Choice-Based Libertarianism Like...

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