freedom’s just another word….

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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17 Responses

  1. “I think this is exactly what I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to say for a while now. ”

    Me too.Report

  2. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    Call me skeptical, but it sounds like he’s saying that freedom’s just another word for being privileged enough to move to another country.Report

  3. Avatar greginak says:

    A couple of thoughts about this. We all do have a voice at our supermarkets. We can complain to the manager or head office. They do actually listen, although some companies don’t care. Why do so many companies to market research stuff, because they want to know our feedback. So I think that was, at best, a poor example.

    Comparing supermarkets to countries has to be….ummm…. the mother of all bad analogies. The costs of going to a different supermarket are almost nothing in almost every urban or suburban spot in America. The cost of leaving a country is huge: the loss of culture, language, family, locality. Leaving your country is for most a one time event. Freedom is just another word for you have one chance to pick where to live and then you are stuck with it.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The right to secede is a big one.

    This is why I support strong Federalism when a gun is held to my head. If I hate the state I live in, I can always move to a different one. If I don’t like my country, I can move to Canada or Mexico or Taiwan. When the government says “nope, you don’t get to leave!”, then that’s indicative of a real problem. West vs. East Germany used to be a really useful example of this particular problem.

    The problem is that, these days, there’s no “where to go” if you want smaller, less intrusive government. There’s no “west” left.Report

    • Avatar Travis says:

      Right, Jaybird. Except “The West” as some miracle libertarian paradise is an utter fabrication. The only thing that made it possible – massive government intervention.

      From driving off the Native Americans who really owned the land, to surveying and mapping the land, to subsidizing the railroad and spending billions on irrigation projects, the American West is perhaps the most government-influenced landscape in the world.Report

  5. Avatar greginak says:

    Afghanistan or Somalia don’t interest you? They are pretty much renowned for no functioning central government.

    There are people who live out in the wilderness in Alaska so they can get away from evil gov. Of course you actually have to survive out there. Then when they get tired and/ or old they move into towns so they can be near services. And then complain to their last breaths about the gov.Report

  6. Avatar greginak says:

    What???? you aren’t interested in those no central gov paradises?

    When did I say love it or leave it? Stay it’s your country to.

    I am not aware of this “free healthcare” thing you talk about. Health care in the UK is paid for be taxes I believe.Report

  7. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Where would these theoretical Chinese who rejected their state live? What if they were attacked by non-Chinese? Does anyone believe the Chinese gov’t would not protect them. Is there any meaningful sense in which they are not nearly explicitly proposing a free-rider arrangement for themsleves with reard to the primary function of a state? If there is a meaningful place they could live when we would realistically believe they had given up any expectation of protection from aggression, and didn’t fall into the umbrella of another state or quasi-state power, then this vision does have some potential as an arrangement that could provide absolute maximum terrestrially-achievable negative freedom (something I have absolutely necer coveted and find ample reasons to fear profoundly). But I wish them good luck with their new country.Report

  8. Avatar Ryan says:

    Why is it that these hyper-libertarian conceptions of freedom always require people to be pretty much fantastically wealthy to pursue freedom? Exactly how do we meaningfully explain to the inner-city poor that *real* freedom means you have the right to go join a charter city in the middle of the ocean? I imagine any version of Atlantis sounds equally fanciful to them.

    Also, the logical conclusion of this argument is that freedom, properly understood, is the right to (if you so choose) completely self-govern (i.e., exit from all governments). For the supermarket, this sort of works – you do/should have the right to make all your own food, if that’s what you want. But complete self-governance just takes us back to the state of nature. Whether you like Locke or Hobbes (I think Hobbes is far more realistic), most of the West basically agreed three or four centuries ago that that’s not workable.

    Incidentally, this is why libertarians, no matter what they say, are manifestly *not* classical liberals: they tend to reject what is really the core insight of classical liberalism.Report

  9. Avatar Freddie says:

    You know, in saying that true freedom is the product of the economic privilege to exercise choice, there is the basis for a very strong argument that says that classic liberalism and the Enlightenment demand redistribution on the grounds of protecting freedom.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      That’s a very good point, and I agree entirely. The question, to my mind, is not whether or not wealth should be redistributed, but how wealth should be redistributed.Report

    • Avatar Ryan says:

      I think so as well. As Matt Yglesias has indicated in the past (although I don’t recall him ever explicitly making the argument), there are a lot of ways in which “modern” liberalism actually is (contra what libertarians may thing) a natural extension of classical liberalism. If I were to construct the argument, which I haven’t really done yet, it would involve some discussion of the ways in which non-governmental power (which Locke, Jefferson, and others really didn’t confront philosophically) undermines some of the core ideas about freedom that liberals were working with. And that this non-governmental power often requires some kind of social remedy.Report

  10. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Actually I would urge people to look not just at the concept of “competitive governments” but look at how important exit is in any scenario, even our day-to-day micro-economic lives. Kling is just taking this concept of monopoly and running with it….Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      Choice generally is good, though there is a literature on the declining marginal utility of increased choice, and our irrational responses to equivalent choices that are presented in varying ways.

      Would you say that in the employer-based health insurance model, we experience the health insurance market as a monopoly (that’s probably a duh question but I’ll put it out there anyway)?Report

  11. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    I think this is getting things a bit backwards. The ability to choose exists precisely because there’s a monopoly in place. (i.e. the state (as an institution) monopoly on the use of coercive hard power) Because the state is the only institution capable of doing this (and therefore denying other institutions that power) it effectively prevents coercive hard power from being used against individuals who then have the ability to move about the grocery store as they please. In other words, the only thing that prevents the massive disparity in hard power between the super market and the consumer (the former obviously having a great deal more manpower and capital) from manifesting in a coercive use of hard power, is the monopolization of hard power by states. New feudalism or the “End of the State” end-games where non-state entities (seasteads I think would count in this area) begin to possess similar amounts of coercive hard power are insofar as they’ll exist, a significant step BACKWARD. Smaller entities upon which there are fewer constraints from a larger monopoly of power simply means they’re more capable of using that hard power against individual actors.

    What’s to stop charter cities from creating draconian emigration policies once people get there? Confiscatory financial policies? North Korea is an interesting example to bring up in this choice framework, because it shows just how capable a relatively small entity is of using coercive power to hold its individual actors in place even with competing large actors in its immediate neighborhood.Report