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  1. #1
    CC International Master TheJoker's Avatar
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    Freedom What is it?

    Most of the arguement in the politics section revolves around the role of government and personal freedom. A what sort of public policy will result in the greater well-being of the citizens.

    Until recently I had an under-developed concept of freedom/liberty, much like some of the right libertarians on the BB. The work of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has helped me develop a better understanding of freedom and welfare.

    I found the article on the web that provides a nice brief summary of Amartya Sen's approach. I be interested to hear any criticisms of this approach:

    http://www.wku.edu/~jan.garrett/ethics/senethic.htm

  2. #2
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheJoker
    Until recently I had an under-developed concept of freedom/liberty, much like some of the right libertarians on the BB.
    I haven't noticed any right-libertarians here at all. I have noticed a couple of posters who appear to be socially-conservative capitalists (or something like that) though (Jono and Igor Goldenberg).

    Quote Originally Posted by TheJoker
    As a libertarian what do you believe are more important positive freedoms or negative freedoms?
    I am not a libertarian. However I do not know of any libertarian who believes positive freedoms are more important than, or even as important as, negative freedoms. The problem for the true libertarians is that for any so-called "positive freedom" the question lurking in the corner is "who pays?" - positive freedom is obtained only at the expense of negative.

    Also what do you think of Amartya Sen's capabilties approach?
    I think the vague and open-ended nature of the question of what capabilities will be valued (and how these values will be weighted) not only makes assessment based upon it highly subjective but also makes it susceptible to being used to promote a needlessly long list of capabilities some of which might not actually deserve State support. (I have the same problem with bill of rights proposals that include positive rights.)

    There is also the question of what you do when an adult individual persists in freely destroying their own capabilities - do you respect that decision or do you get paternalistic to ensure that they are "forced to be free" (to quote a Kanteanism that I personally find very nauseating)? I abhor state paternalism towards adults in general, except in cases of what I call "flippant autonomy" (as an example of the latter I have no problem with the State forcing people to wear seatbelts for their own good.)

    Nonetheless the capability approach seems quite a good conceptual model for how I think the State should approach and measure the success of education and child welfare. The whole issue of childhood is a big black hole in classical economic libertarianism which can easily slip into the trap of treating children as the property of their parents to be indoctrinated and raised as their parents see fit. This can result in children having a lot of options closed off for them before they are old enough to know any better, and can be extremely detrimental. I like the basic idea that the State should ensure children are given the skills and knowledge to have their adult options open.
    Last edited by Kevin Bonham; 14-12-2008 at 01:20 AM.

  3. #3
    CC International Master TheJoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    I am not a libertarian. However I do not know of any libertarian who believes positive freedoms are more important than, or even as important as, negative freedoms. The problem for the true libertarians is that for any so-called "positive freedom" the question lurking in the corner is "who pays?" - positive freedom is obtained only at the expense of negative.



    I think the vague and open-ended nature of the question of what capabilities will be valued (and how these values will be weighted) not only makes assessment based upon it highly subjective but also makes it susceptible to being used to promote a needlessly long list of capabilities some of which might not actually deserve State support. (I have the same problem with bill of rights proposals that include positive rights.)

    There is also the question of what you do when an adult individual persists in freely destroying their own capabilities - do you respect that decision or do you get paternalistic to ensure that they are "forced to be free" (to quote a Kanteanism that I personally find very nauseating)? I abhor state paternalism towards adults in general, except in cases of what I call "flippant autonomy" (as an example of the latter I have no problem with the State forcing people to wear seatbelts for their own good.)

    Nonetheless the capability approach seems quite a good conceptual model for how I think the State should approach and measure the success of education and child welfare. The whole issue of childhood is a big black hole in classical economic libertarianism which can easily slip into the trap of treating children as the property of their parents to be indoctrinated and raised as their parents see fit. This can result in children having a lot of options closed off for them before they are old enough to know any better, and can be extremely detrimental. I like the basic idea that the State should ensure children are given the skills and knowledge to have their adult options open.
    Kevin

    Thanks for the interesting reponse. Btw I started a new thread since this seemed a little of topic perhaps you could move the posts over to that thread. I agree with most of your criticisms.

    However I might add that negative freedoms see to also be limited concept. Negative freedoms can often be hollow in that all though I am free from outside interference, I dont have the means to make an actual choice.

  4. #4
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheJoker
    However I might add that negative freedoms see to also be limited concept. Negative freedoms can often be hollow in that all though I am free from outside interference, I dont have the means to make an actual choice.
    I agree with this to a degree and that is one of the reasons why I support a basic welfare net including almost unconditional unemployment benefits. But beyond my comments about education above, and this idea that the State should try to provide the most basic financial security for all who want it, I'm not sure how much further I'm inclined to take it.

  5. #5
    CC International Master TheJoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    I think the vague and open-ended nature of the question of what capabilities will be valued (and how these values will be weighted) not only makes assessment based upon it highly subjective but also makes it susceptible to being used to promote a needlessly long list of capabilities some of which might not actually deserve State support. (I have the same problem with bill of rights proposals that include positive rights.)
    Yes that does seem to be a valid concern, Sen originally had five essential capabilities, that has already been expanded to ten by Nussbaum.

  6. #6
    CC International Master TheJoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    I agree with this to a degree and that is one of the reasons why I support a basic welfare net including almost unconditional unemployment benefits. But beyond my comments about education above, and this idea that the State should try to provide the most basic financial security for all who want it, I'm not sure how much further I'm inclined to take it.

    What about healthcare where the spillover benefits often exceeds the costs of the free-rider problem?

  7. #7
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    I haven't noticed any right-libertarians here at all. I have noticed a couple of posters who appear to be socially-conservative capitalists (or something like that) though (Jono and Igor Goldenberg).
    Probably a reasonable description (of me anyway; Igor can certainly speak for himself).

    The LDP would probably be left-libertarians by your definition. They seem quite rare though. In America there are people who demand that the GOP shift direction to attact the socially liberal fiscal conservatives, but there are hardly any of those.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    I agree with this to a degree and that is one of the reasons why I support a basic welfare net including almost unconditional unemployment benefits.
    The LDP supports that (as did Milton Friedman), in such a way that a beneficiary is always significantly better off with any paid work, unlike the current system.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    (I have the same problem with bill of rights proposals that include positive rights.)
    Chairman KRudd's government seems determined to foist this crap on Australia.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    There is also the question of what you do when an adult individual persists in freely destroying their own capabilities — do you respect that decision or do you get paternalistic to ensure that they are "forced to be free" (to quote a Kanteanism that I personally find very nauseating)?
    A bit like the mandatory volunteerism favoured by Comrade Obamov.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    I abhor state paternalism towards adults in general, except in cases of what I call "flippant autonomy" (as an example of the latter I have no problem with the State forcing people to wear seatbelts for their own good.)
    OK, but what about airbags, bike helmets? I'm not especially ancient, but I cycled without a helmet in my misspent childhood and rode in cars without seatbelts. Then we have banning trans fats ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    Nonetheless the capability approach seems quite a good conceptual model for how I think the State should approach and measure the success of education and child welfare. The whole issue of childhood is a big black hole in classical economic libertarianism which can easily slip into the trap of treating children as the property of their parents to be indoctrinated and raised as their parents see fit. This can result in children having a lot of options closed off for them before they are old enough to know any better, and can be extremely detrimental. I like the basic idea that the State should ensure children are given the skills and knowledge to have their adult options open.
    Who says the State knows better than parents? Look at the way the State educracy has dumbed down education, so kids leave school without knowing how to read or write or add up. That's what closes off options. And the KRudd government is developing a curriculum to indoctrinate Australian kids into the leftist PC groupthink.
    Last edited by Kevin Bonham; 14-12-2008 at 01:58 AM.
    “The history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty.”
    “There’s no point blaming the tragedies of socialism on the flaws or corruption of particular leaders. Any system which allows some people to exercise unbridled power over others is an open invitation to abuse, whether that system is called slavery or socialism or something else.”—Thomas Sowell

  8. #8
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheJoker
    What about healthcare where the spillover benefits often exceeds the costs of the free-rider problem?
    Means-tested healthcare along the lines of Medicare is fine by me - not so much from a cost-benefit angle as from an avoiding-very-bad-outcomes angle (eg all the negative freedom in the world is not much use to you if you're not that rich and have very expensive health problems - and I'm not convinced private health insurance is a viable solution).

    Quote Originally Posted by Jono
    The LDP would probably be left-libertarians by your definition.
    Well they are certainly to the left of Ayn Rand economically.

    (Rand rejected the libertarian label but is the archetype of a right-libertarian in my classification.)

    The LDP supports that (as did Milton Friedman), in such a way that a beneficiary is always significantly better off with any paid work, unlike the current system.
    They do but as I have previously discussed their version is much too stingy and very few people could live on it alone with any real quality of life.

    A bit like the mandatory volunteerism favoured by Comrade Obamov.
    What has he proposed in this light?

    OK, but what about airbags, bike helmets? I'm not especially ancient, but I cycled without a helmet in my misspent childhood and rode in cars without seatbelts. Then we have banning trans fats ...
    There's probably some level at which a good solution would be that if someone really wants to do themselves serious harm with no evident benefit apart from laziness or extreme cost-cutting, they can do it if they waive the right to state health care should they injure themselves.

    Think when I road a bike as a child helmets weren't even an issue.

    Who says the State knows better than parents? Look at the way the State educracy has dumbed down education, so kids leave school without knowing how to read or write or add up. That's what closes off options. And the KRudd government is developing a curriculum to indoctrinate Australian kids into the leftist PC groupthink.
    I'm talking about what the State should do, not necessarily about what it does. And I'm talking about the responsibility of the State to ensure that children are protected from miseducation and shutting down of capabilities by the bad end of the parent spectrum (the incompetents and the extremist indoctrinators, primarily).

  9. #9
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    They do but as I have previously discussed their version is much too stingy and very few people could live on it alone with any real quality of life.
    But their costs would likely come down, private charities are more likely to increase since donors have less money confiscated from the government. And most importantly, there is a real incentive to obtain paid work under the LDP system as opposed to the bullying Centrelink bureaucracy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    There's probably some level at which a good solution would be that if someone really wants to do themselves serious harm with no evident benefit apart from laziness or extreme cost-cutting, they can do it if they waive the right to state health care should they injure themselves.
    Yes, that's fair. Or else they insure themselves, if they can afford the premium.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    Think when I road a bike as a child helmets weren't even an issue.
    One wonders if they even make riding safer overall. There is a "homeostasis of risk", where helmeted riders think they are better protected so adopt riskier behaviour, and motorists drive closer because they think the rider better knows what he's doing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    I'm talking about what the State should do, not necessarily about what it does.
    And that's the rub: we can only judge by what it does, not by endless empty promises to improve. Why should parents give up education to the State with its proven record of incompetence? And here's another lovely benefit of our wonderful government school system:

    Australian primary school students suffer bullying at a rate of almost 50 per cent above the international average, putting Australia in the worst category for bullying. Of the 36 countries sampled in the survey of year 4 students, only Kuwait, Qatar, Taiwan and New Zealand fared worse than Australia.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    And I'm talking about the responsibility of the State to ensure that children are protected from miseducation and shutting down of capabilities by the bad end of the parent spectrum (the incompetents and the extremist indoctrinators, primarily).
    But just as this atheist argued in A Libertarian Solution to Evolution Education Controversy: No More Public Schools, we don't need a state-mandated diet for children; we just punish extreme malnourishers. The same should apply to education.
    “The history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty.”
    “There’s no point blaming the tragedies of socialism on the flaws or corruption of particular leaders. Any system which allows some people to exercise unbridled power over others is an open invitation to abuse, whether that system is called slavery or socialism or something else.”—Thomas Sowell

  10. #10
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jono
    But their costs would likely come down, private charities are more likely to increase since donors have less money confiscated from the government. And most importantly, there is a real incentive to obtain paid work under the LDP system as opposed to the bullying Centrelink bureaucracy.
    There can be real incentives to obtain paid work with a more generous welfare net and without Centrelink's ridiculous behaviour.

    Private charities would indeed increase but I am not sure they would increase sufficiently to ensure a liveable income for all who needed it and I see no compelling reason why the risk should be taken.

    As I recall a person earning nothing under the LDP proposal received $9,000 per annum. If that was $15,000 I would be more tempted.

    Yes, that's fair. Or else they insure themselves, if they can afford the premium.

    And that's the rub: we can only judge by what it does, not by endless empty promises to improve. Why should parents give up education to the State with its proven record of incompetence?
    I was not saying the State should educate all children. I was saying that the State should adopt and enforce a certain approach to ensuring children are well prepared for adult life. In my view that should include allowing for and encouraging home education, but not by parents who either don't know what they're doing or who will abuse the freedom.

    But just as this atheist argued in A Libertarian Solution to Evolution Education Controversy: No More Public Schools, we don't need a state-mandated diet for children; we just punish extreme malnourishers. The same should apply to education.
    The "extreme malnourishers" are the incompetents and extremist indoctrinators I was referring to.

  11. #11
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    To me freedom is about empowering an individual to act in accordance with his beliefs in values as long as these beliefs and values do not contradict the law of the country.
    Interested in Chess Lessons?
    Email webbaron!@gmail.com for more Info!

  12. #12
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    By the way, I think "freedom" is best conceived as primarily negative freedom. Consider two cases: one in which someone wants to do something and lacks the resources or the ability, the other in which they want to do it, have the resources and the ability but the action in question is illegal. In the first case they have negative freedom but not positive, in the second case positive but not negative.

    In my view to say they have the "freedom" to do whatever it is in the second case (where they are able to do it but will be arrested after doing so) is completely ludicrous, while to say they have the "freedom" to do it in the first case makes a kind of sense - they have the theoretical freedom but they do not have the actual capability.

    Sen's "capability" term is a good word to use but it would be better viewed as a clarifying replacement for the misleading term "positive freedom".

  13. #13
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelBaron
    To me freedom is about empowering an individual to act in accordance with his beliefs in values as long as these beliefs and values do not contradict the law of the country.
    I'll turn that one around and park it properly.

    To me freedom is about removing those laws of the country that would prevent an individual from acting in accord with their beliefs and values, except where the actions of the individual in question would prevent other individuals doing likewise.

  14. #14
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelBaron
    To me freedom is about empowering an individual to act in accordance with his beliefs in values as long as these beliefs and values do not contradict the law of the country.
    That's the whole point though. Freedom should go further, so that the law of the country don't restrict actions unless they harm someone else, violating his life or property rights.
    “The history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty.”
    “There’s no point blaming the tragedies of socialism on the flaws or corruption of particular leaders. Any system which allows some people to exercise unbridled power over others is an open invitation to abuse, whether that system is called slavery or socialism or something else.”—Thomas Sowell

  15. #15
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    ^^^
    Where's Miranda? Here is an instance of KB and Jono not merely agreeing but doing so independently at the same minute!

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