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Fellows with Friedman

How Government Power Threatens Freedom

Richard Epstein

One of the most disturbing trends in the United States is the relentless concentration of power in the federal government. Ever since the New Deal, the classical liberal vision of limited government and strong property rights has taken a back seat to a progressive vision of a robust administrative state, dominated by supposed experts, whose powers are largely unimpeded by legal constraints. Wholly apart from Congress, the new administrative state has adopted and enforced its own laws and regulations, and is defined by unilateral actions by the President and other members of the executive branch, all of which threaten the system of checks and balances built into the original constitutional design.

To learn more, read “The Perils of Executive Power,” available here.

Peter Berkowitz

“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.

Peter Berkowitz

According to Lincoln, the founders “meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.”

To learn more, read “Unalienable Rights, Reconstruction, and Constitutional Continuity,” available on RealClearPolitics here.