Positive Liberty Is Deception – Not Freedom


In 1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill signed The Atlantic Charter setting forth British and U.S. societal objectives for a post-World War II world.  It unfortunately seemed to legitimize the view that freedom from want and freedom from fear are part of the definition of the word liberty. I wrote about this on 11/24/15 while discussing the famous Norman Rockwell painting Freedom From Want of a family serving turkey at Thanksgiving.


Freedom from want is not liberty; the confusion and “debate” persists to this day. Insecurity and poverty are not violations of freedom even though many try and argue otherwise.  Isaiah Berlin’s (1909-1997) essay Two Concepts of Liberty draws a sharp distinction between Negative Liberty (freedom from coercion) and Positive Liberty (freedom to fulfill your potential).  Berlin notes that negative and positive liberty are not merely two distinct kinds of liberty; they are rival, incompatible interpretations of a single political ideal. You have to pick one – you can’t have both definitions of liberty, if one is correct, the other is false.


Dahrendorf wrote – It’s not a helpful debate because nothing is gained by a confusion of terms. Everything is what it is: liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or culture or human happiness or quiet conscience.  The notion of positive liberty is rhetorical deception – designed to disguise underlying value conflicts.  Leftist thinkers tried to hijack philosophy in order to advance their agenda to substitute collective control of resources for individual liberty.   Positive liberty attempts to conflate and impose goals from some thinkers who believe that we “should” rationally desire equality as a justification for political tyranny.


It’s not a straight forward intellectual fight. The debate is illusory because those who argue for positive liberty hide the ball – they are disingenuous and dishonest about the meaning of the word liberty in their attempt to re-define the concept for purposes of pursuing their values and political ends.  But as Erasmus said to Martin Luther 500 hundred years ago – it is not necessary to fight with an enemy in front from whom you have incautiously received a wound in the back.  Our Estate Planning War Chest need not engage in the dispute.  We’re in the business of securing personal health, wealth and wisdom – we’re not in the business of treacherously attempting to convince a gullible, feeble minded general public that they rationally and morally deserve free stuff from a Government empowered to confiscate and then redistribute wealth.


It becomes more evident the harder hypocritical leftist elites try to push their agenda. Victor Davis Hanson of National Review writes:

Inequality cannot be remedied by legislation. The multitude of factors that contribute to it — chance, luck, circumstances of birth, innate talent, familial upbringing, human nature itself, and the forces of bias, self-interest, nepotism, and tribalism — require totalitarian remedies. History shows us that attempts to enforce equal results usually result in war or genocide. The more fervently progressives seek to redistribute income, or use diversity quotas to ensure proportional representation in hiring and admissions, or suspend constitutional free speech and due process to suppress individualism and heterodoxy, the more likely that progressivism’s affluent adherents will risk being exposed…


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