Is positive Liberty true liberty? To go with the brand new debate issue of the print magazine, Reason's Brian Doherty debates Samuel Hammon, director of poverty and welfare studies at the Niskanen Center, at the link below.
Affirmative: Libertarianism is about freedom from interference, writes Doherty.
Millions of words by learned political and ethical philosophers have been expended trying to suss out what liberty means, how it should best and most coherently be conceptualized, and by what rules and institutions it is best secured. But to limit unjust interference in people's lives and choices—a decent summation of the purpose of political libertarianism—the only liberty consistently defendable is "negative" liberty, Doherty argues.
Negative: Liberty requires well-constructed institutions, Hammond says.
The popular view among contemporary libertarians that Freedom means merely "freedom from," as in "freedom from the coercive tentacles of government interference," is radically incomplete. It takes for granted the immense institutional infrastructure that makes our apparent "negative rights" anything but, and it orients the libertarian reform agenda in a way that is ripe for abuse, according to Hammond.
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