Fellows with Friedman
In his famous admonition about the tyranny of the majority, Tocqueville went on to warn that “Liberty is not the chief and constant object of their desires; equality is their idol: they make rapid and sudden efforts to obtain liberty, and if they miss their aim resign themselves to their disappointment; but nothing can satisfy them except equality, and rather than lose it they resolve to perish.”
If we keep Tocqueville’s advice in mind, we can appreciate why and how the present war against personal liberty in service to mandated equality may become the greatest danger of the 21st century. The theaters of battle already extend to every segment of American life; and every weapon is employed, from government coercion to the progressive media to the Orwellian effort to change the meaning of language itself.
To learn more read “The Idol of Equality” here.
“Despite the fundamental distinction between the two, misunderstandings of capitalism and socialism — and their implications for freedom — abound, and usually in favor socialism. In these circumstances, a return to the basics is warranted. The 17th-century writings of John Locke in defense of political and economic freedom and the 19th-century critique by Karl Marx of political and economic freedom represent classics of the genre. Fresh examination of their ideas brings into better focus the case for freedom and the reasons for concluding that the defense of the free market is central to the securing of individual freedom and equality under law.”
To learn more, read “Capitalism, Socialism, and Freedom” here.
“Two Concepts of Liberty,” in which Berlin distinguishes negative and positive liberty, is his most influential essay. Negative liberty designates freedom in the pursuit of happiness from the arbitrary power of other persons and the state. Positive liberty refers in the first place to the conditions that enable an individual to achieve mastery over his or her appetites and passions and, ultimately, to overcome whatever circumstances and obstacles thwart the attainment of happiness. Originally delivered in 1958 as his inaugural lecture as Oxford’s Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, Berlin acknowledged the related and overlapping dimensions of the two concepts of liberty, while emphasizing the propensity within modern political thought to conscript positive liberty to serve authoritarian ends.
To learn more, read “Isaiah Berlin’s Many-Sided Concept of Liberty,” available on Real Clear Politics here.