When is it justifiable for government/society/the majority to infringe upon liberty by legislation or executive action, and can meaningful liberty be increased by action that circumscribes absolute liberties?
That’s a loaded question. It implies that “liberty” is an intrinsic, inalienable right.
No it doesn’t. Quite the opposite in fact. If absolute liberty were inalienable, it would never be justified to do anything to curtail it. It does recognise two types of liberty though, freedom to and freedom from.
Define ‘meaningful liberty’ & ‘absolute liberty’, if you please.
Our rights, responsibilities and liberties and multiple and regularly come into conflict. With time, trial and reflection, societies establish hierarchies of values. In light of such hierarchies (only sometimes codified, never fixed, always contested), decisions are made regarding the necessary compromises when those public goods and virtues come into conflict.
(Best I can do off the top of my head, before dinner and without definitions. Sorry.)
By absolute liberty, I suppose I mean an imagined unrestrained state of nature where you are free to do anything you like. This freedom isn’t so meaningful though as life is nasty, brutish and short - you lack freedom from fear, want, disease, poverty etc. By meaningful liberty I guess I mean freedom from, probably brought through social action, usually involving reducing certain freedoms to.
I think you need to rework that.
Why is ‘meaningful liberty’ freedom from? Yeah, it’s good not to have raiders sweep down, steal your crops, rape the livestock, and ride off on the women, but meaningfulness is found in self-realization, not mere avoidance of harm.
imho, to get to meaningful liberty, you’d be better off invoking Berlin and Rawls rather than a Hobbesian state of nature. Ol’ Thomas certainly wasn’t much of a liberal, and in his focus on security, freedom to/from get conflated.
I just meant that while banning murder makes us less free to murder, in practice it makes us more free to live. Being free of laws doesn’t mean you’re free in a meaningful sense (otherwise the liberal, wishing to maximise liberty, would repeal the whole lot). I wasn’t intending to propose meaningful liberty as a class of liberties or as a meaning of life.
As for Hobbes, I was just using his words to describe life in a world free of all laws - not advocate his solutions.
Does this capture what you’re after?
Individual and collective ends are pursued via positive liberty, that is, the freedom to do x, y, z. Such positive liberty should be unconstrained, insofar as possible, save by the requirements of negative liberty; that is, freedom from demands that we adopt ends not of our own choosing, and from substantial threats to the conditions and that level of welfare necessary to pursue our chosen ends.
Ok. There’s an interpretation of liberalism. So what I’m after, do people agree with it and where do they think lines are drawn in practice.
When is it justified to curtail people’s freedom?
e.g. guns, abortion, death penalty, taxation, war, drug prohibition, seat belts, compulsory car insurance, not to mention of course, burqas (but lets leave that one out of this thread).
If you accept that definition then infringements on personal liberty are legitimate when they safeguard others from substantial harm, whether due to deliberate (possibly criminal) acts, or wantonly irresponsible (perhaps merely ignorant) acts.
If you want to thrash out specific policies, I think you need to first decide on your hierarchy of values and establish what the existential conditions of your society are. Not so easy; the entire gun debate could boil down to differences of opinion over current social conditions.
The supreme felicity lies in obedience to a great leader who rallies the people under a common banner and leads them to their glorious destiny–victory over their enemies, expansion of their territory and population–heedless of petty moral objections.
Let me shorten your question. This is the important part of the question anyways.
When is it justifiable for government/society/the majority to infringe upon liberty by legislation or executive action?
Now add one more bit;
When is it justifiable for government/society/the majority/[color=#000080]an individual[/color] to infringe upon liberty by legislation or executive action?
An Individaul should be free to choose all aspects of how they live their life. It is also mandatory that people accept the full consquences for the choices they make.
Interesting. How do you reconcile full liberty and full responsibility for consequences? If the consequences include a forfeiture of liberty…
You’re familiar with social contract theory? You’d accept self-imposed constraints? How would you reconcile an ever-shifting membership (birth, death, migration) with a need for a reasonable degree of continuity? At some point, you’ll necessarily be a part of a polity with norms to which you have not concented.
How about you give me an example? A forfieture of liberty for whom? My degree is in Engineering I’m not familar with social contract theory at all.
[quote=“Jaboney”]Interesting. How do you reconcile full liberty and full responsibility for consequences? If the consequences include a forfeiture of liberty…
You’re familiar with social contract theory? [color=#BF0040]did a quick google, don’t like it. It can and has been too easily corrupted.[/color] You’d accept self-imposed constraints?[color=#BF0040]Sure, as long as I’m free to choose those self imposed constraints[/color] How would you reconcile an ever-shifting membership (birth, death, migration) with a need for a reasonable degree of continuity?[color=#BF0080] Continuiy of what?[/color] At some point, you’ll necessarily be a part of a polity with norms to which you have not concented.[color=#BF0040]It’s an imperfect world but I’d like an example of this if you don’t mind.[/color][/quote]
A standard example might be dry counties.
Just for the sake of argument, assume that 100% of the adult residents vote to prohibit the sale and consumption of alcohol. They ought to be free chose to constrain their future acts in this way, no? Ok, but what happens when, a week later, someone moves in, or has a birthday and becomes a legal adult? Neither has been given the opportunity to consent to have their liberty so constrained. What’s to be done? Constant voting, constant political upheaval destroys the possibility of realizing a lot of social goods.
Most social contract theory assumes that it is legitimate, to a more or less limited degree, for individuals in present day societies to be constrained by those of the past.
Dry counties are kind of far out there on the positive liberty end of the spectrum, but much the same argument can be made on taxation, freedom of speech, form of representative gov’t, ect.
For your example of dry countries my attitute is that the law is wrong. It is overstepping on the part of the government to pass such a law. In practise most of these dry countrys are that way due to the dominate religion correct?
Correct. As I said, it’s an outlier. But similar constraints over time include forms of representation. And if 100% of the citizens voted in favor of the law, what are they overstepping, the rights of absent individuals? The young? Their inconsistent selves? If you would disallow them the right to constrain themselves, on what grounds do you so limit their liberty to do so?
Where are you from? Did you, or your parents, vote on the country’s constitution? Probably not: you probably found it there when you moved in, or were born. That document and similar conventions are binding on you and constrain your liberty. Do you view this as illegitimate? If so, would you prefer periodic reaffirmations (say, every ten years) of basic constitutions?
As you’re an engineer, how about a practical example? You own a house; I’m building a house next door. While my house is being built, you notice that I’m using the cheapest electrical components available: sub-standard stuff. This is a serious safety concern, for both of us. You try to persuade me to upgrade, at least to code. I refuse: “Those regulations are excessive. It’s my house, I’ll do what I want.” Ok, if my house burns down, and the insurance company refuses to pay, I’m fully responsible. And if my house fire results in burning down your house, I’m fully responsible, but unable pay for your losses. And if my house fire results in a death in your home, does it matter that I agreed in advance to accept full responsibility for the consequences that flow from acting with full liberty?
Gotta run, so I’ll tip my hand. I entirely disagree with your position:[quote=“Gman”]When is it justifiable for government/society/the majority/an individual to infringe upon liberty by legislation or executive action?
Answer: never[/quote]In part, because it is necessary and unavoidable to infringe on individual liberty.
And, in part, because this: [quote=“Gman”]An Individaul should be free to choose all aspects of how they live their life. It is also mandatory that people accept the full consquences for the choices they make.[/quote]…is impossible. Impossible and impractical.
Realizing the many benefits of society requires that we accept many infringements on individual liberty. “Never” is an ideological answer that must necessary bow to practical conditions. You might want to hold on to it as an unrealizable ideal, in order to encourage yourself to always limit infringements, but it can’t be considered a serious proposal in itself.
[quote=“Jaboney”]A standard example might be dry counties.
Just for the sake of argument, assume that 100% of the adult residents vote to prohibit the sale and consumption of alcohol. They ought to be free chose to constrain their future acts in this way, no? . . .[/quote]
They were completely free to choose not to buy and consume alcohol before they voted to pass a law prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol.
All they’ve accomplished is prohibiting other people who want to consume alcohol from consuming alcohol.
Legislating morality is always an infringement on others’ liberty. For a paleo-American like myself that’s not a mysterious concept.
Yeah, I know, and largely agree. Save that there are a minority of people who cannot, it seems, choose not to drink.
I just grabbed that as a convenient example of self-binding arrangements. Community 'blue law’s usually get it wrong.