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December 20, 2007



Try the counter argument: imagine the situation where you would like to do something but are not free to do so. Are you likely to be happier in that situation than in one where you can make the choice, but it turns out not to have the expected positive effect?

The problem is that in order for the constraints on freedom to actually increase happiness, it would HAVE to be invisible and unnoticed by anyone. The choice would have to be simply unthinkable. If this does not hold, if the constraint is known about, it is quite likely to cause a reduction in happiness simply due to human nature thinking the grass is greener.

Worse still, I do not want ANY part in a political system where restrictions can be placed on freedom without the knowledge and consent of the people at large. That way lies the path to complete tyranny.

Luis Enrique

it's a toss up which involves more drudgery - factory work or 'rural life'


Burma is one of the happiest countries in the world, yet they have no freedom. However, the people still want freedom.


"perhaps...freedom and happiness are two different things": how fortunate, then, that there should be two different words for them.

Akhond of Swat

Freedom doesn't make people happy---that's something most people seem to believe instinctively. Which is probably why they aren't particularly bothered about freedom as long as they can make money.Which explains the whole strategy of the Chinese Communist Party.


We know from an early age that total liberty to do what we want is not satisfying. Children whose parents impose boundaries on their behaviour are much more content than those who are allowed to do whatever they want.


Limits to freedom are fine so long as the basis is accepted. Unfortunately the state is arbitrary and oppressive, and any attempt do limit freedom by the state results in more poverty, misery and death (depending on the scale of the intervention). I'd rather trust the individual over the state. My response



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I go into the supermarket. Huge choice. Doesn't make me happy. I go to the small reduced-price-on-the-sell-by-date section. Small choice (and lower price), so I choose something that I would not have chosen among all the similar items in its own section - indeed I would have passed by its own section. Quite often I am happy with my choice. And I think that I am a rational being (was a damn good experimental physicist once upon a time).
When it comes to public services, we just want it to work properly - which is an anti Clegg statement, given what he said on R4 this morning about education and local democracy.


It seems to me that the traditional utilitarian case for liberty -- a la John Stuart Mill -- ends up on pretty shaky ground. You have to start over and make a case that is not so much that individuals should have more liberty as that the state should have less liberty, because of all the bad things it is likely to do if you don't tie its hands.


I'd rather trust the individual over the state.

Which individual and which state did you have in mind? I think it matters. Personally, I'd rather trust neither and have processes in place to keep tabs on both.

knzn - well said, and isn't that what modern liberal democracies are all about?

Chuckmeister (great name - do you drink too much?) - GREAT comment. As a parent of young children this apparent paradox fascinates me. It reminds me of comment on a TV drama whose name escapes me ... Nanny "There are plenty of children on the street who have all the freedom they can use. Except in their case it is called neglect."


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