Sunday, March 27, 2011

Confusing freedom with provision

The confusion of freedom with provision may have been inevitable once the Declaration made the pursuit of happiness a self-evident universal right. Franklin Roosevelt built on the tendency to confuse freedom with provision in his 1944 State of the Union address when he justified what he called a “second Bill of Rights” on the grounds that “Necessitous men are not free men”. The state, he went on to argue, must provide a “new basis of security and prosperity” which included “The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.”

Of course, the corollary of believing that “necessitous men are not free” is that any measure of government control, provided it relieves necessity, is a sacrifice we should be willing to make for the sake of “freedom” or, as Rousseau would say, for the sake of the general will.

When freedom is confused with provision and when intervention is necessary in order for that provision to be delivered (as it inevitably must be, since the government can only give what it first takes away), those individuals who resist intervention become the enemies of freedom. Like those in Rousseau’s utopia, they must “be forced to be free.” Put another way, the state must force citizens to surrender those liberties which hinder government from optimizing its provision potential.

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