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February 14, 2012


Anton Howes

Doesn't the interest group for freedom have to be an ideological one? Like, say, the Liberty League, which is still in its infancy or Students for Liberty in the US (whose conference will soon be larger than CPAC)?


Corey Robin:

'Security and equality are critical values, but they are means to an end. The reason we value security is that it enables us to act freely, without fear. The reason we value equality is that inequality is the throughway of domination: someone with vastly more resources than I — an employer, for example — can coerce and control me, abridge my freedom. By emphasizing security and equality, we focus on the means and lose sight of the end.'


The powerful interest group surely is the whole electorate. Everybody likes freedom. If only we had a few capable politicians...

Curt Doolittle

That's not logical.


The market's difficult, risky and unpredictable. We all want to be consumers in someone else's market.

The state attracts rent seekers from BOTH SIDES.

Capitalism (private property and voluntary transfer under the common law regulated by a constitution) CANNOT create rent seeking without State intervention.

if the state does it it isn't capitalism. It's statism.


"Of the 3000+ new criminal offences created by New Labour, how many have been repealed?"

Or 'no matter who you vote for, The Government always gets in.'

Isn't it annoying that the last few years of New Labour were marked by a combination of liberals (including many of them within the Labour Party) and Tories squealing about New Labour's 'authoritarianism' - it was such a misdiagnosis, and the result was to lionised politicians who would bring back hanging and allow the party of Section 28 back into power.

It was managerialism all along.

Jonathan Monroe

I'm not sure what you think is "capitalist" about the persecution of Paul Chambers. Three bureaucracies were involved - Robin Hood airport, the police, and Chambers' employer. One of these is inherently governmental, and the other two would have behaved in exactly the same way if they had been government bodies.

A definition of "capitalist" that includes Nottinghamshire Police, Russian organised crime, and state-owned Chinese companies, as well as conventional for-profit businesses, is not very useful. In any case, public and private sector bureaucracies mostly have the same problems for the same reasons, so the distinction between "capitalist" and "statist" bovinity is one without a difference.

"Managerialist" accurately names the enemy. Keep using it.

Account Deleted

I think it's worth talking about liberty, rather than freedom, as that emphasises the fact that traditional concepts of freedom/liberty are ultimately based on property.

The pursuit of negative liberty in practice has been biased towards the rights of property rather than the rights of man. Freedom from the coercion of government is lauded, while the freedom of capital to coerce is ignored.

The increase of "anti-freedom" online can be seen not simply as an authoritarian spasm or managerialist habit, but as an attempt to appropriate property, namely the data that I created with my labour for my benefit.

Unfortunately, the interest groups online are fragmentated across different perspectives (anti-censorship, anti-government, net neutrality etc), while the discourse on user data focuses on "privacy", i.e. negative liberty.

It would be nice to see some group try and move the debate towards positive liberty, i.e. the equal right of all to develop and retain ownership of their online labour.


For those of us whose political sensibilities were formed in the 1980s it's always been perfectly obvious that big businessmen are megalomaniacs first and foremost

And most "libertarians" who obsessively post on the web are fascists or closet fascists, or in a tragic form of denial.


I would question two aspects of your argument. First I think any educated person without an axe to grind must agree that the idea that Capitalism and profit are integral to any concept of freedom or liberty is a gross right wing exaggeration and always has been. Property rights have some utilitarian justification as part of a mixed economy welfare state but are not the only kind of rights that matter. It is a problem to start demanding absolute rights when what we want is human happiness and that requires compromise to produce acceptable social arrangements. Second I am not sure people do want freedom or Liberty. Leaving aside a small number of Philosophers like J.S.Mill and even his ON Liberty is full of qualifications. People want to be able to do what they want but seem quite happy to deny other people the same ability or willing to let the state do so. Most Libertarians do seem to be rich white men who don't want to pay Income Tax. An attitude which produces social Fascism at least. As they tend to depend on Billionaires to do the dirty work rather than a Natzi party it is difficult to say if they are all Fascists in the full sense such as extreme Racism.

I do think that the collapse of the USSR and the after effects show that there are many enemies of Liberty. The crowing over the end of history was sadly premature. We have a post soviet world where love of money leads to corrupt rulers in China and Russia bolstered by extreme Nationalism and religious bigotry. Racism, homophobia, Taliban medievalists in east and west, cuts to the welfare state etc. All inconsistent with Liberty or human happiness. Greed and enthusiasm for intolerant sects and ideologies seems to be the main winner from the decline in socialist movements since the 1970s so no progress there. At the cost of stating the obvious trade Unions used to be one way to restrain abuses by capitalist bosses. Remember them? What ever happened to Unions?

Account Deleted

Keith's right (the obvious should always be stated). Despite reduced circumstances, the unions may offer the best available vehicle to tackle anti-freedom.

This does require their continuing reinvention as proponents of positive liberty, as engagement in the area of negative liberty will lead to the right disinterring the corpses of the closed shop and the coercion of entrepreneurial spirit.

Ultimately, this requires Labour (the clue is in the name) to advance workers' rights and workplace democracy as positives for society and the economy as a whole. These should be primary goals, not nice-to-haves.

Given the continued sniping in the PLP about Ed Milliband's dependence on the union vote, this may be some way off yet.


I note that Cohen mentions some philosophy dude re. the possible greatness of increased openness.

Outside the ivory tower of the newspapers, a well known SF author and scientist published "The transparent society" 13 years ago and has been discussing issues about the surveillance society for longer than that. Maybe Nick needs to get out more.
Said author is David Brin. His point is that it'll only work when surveillance is open to everyone, so the lower people can watch the upper.

Yann-Vari Ebrel

How many times the inner functioning of corporations is dictatorial. Think of Murdoch(cescu), this "Saddam Hussein" ruling News International...

Trooper Thompson

@ Keith

"I think any educated person without an axe to grind must agree that the idea that Capitalism and profit are integral to any concept of freedom or liberty is a gross right wing exaggeration and always has been"

Any educated person without two brain cells to rub together, more like. You think freedom comes from the abolition of private property and profit? In other words forced collectivism is freedom? If that's what you got from education, you should burn down the school you attended.



You should be all for people keeping their private property; the profit that is extracted daily from working people's labour.

There are numerous examples from history - if you cared to look; where collectivism was not forced but the free will of collectivists.


A story I've told before and, by God, will tell again is of how Yaron Brook, Director of the Ayn Rand Institute, visited the Oxford Union and began to praise the freedom of Singapore. A student interjected; politely informed the room that he was from Singapore and noted that it wasn't free at all. Brook corrected himself and said he'd meant that it had economic freedom. One can only speculate as to how the two concepts had become muddled in his brain.


"The question then is: given that capitalists are often opposed to freedom, where is the powerful interest group that might act as a force for freedom?"

Powerful? For freedom? Pick one.


Ben Its true that most people view the nobel prize as a raewrd for achievement. Viewed this way Obama shouldn't win. But if you view it as having a peaceful positive effect on the world, then Obama has done more than anyone in a long time. Fhakk Great point about expectations. Hadn't thought of that. Still, that also gives him some degree of leverage, given the big upswing in international views of the US thanks to him. It doesn't solve problems like Af/Pak but it does help with smaller ones in South East Asia and South America. It's become much harder for dictators around the world to use the US as a punching bag/justification, as those in Iran have found out, and Hugo Chavez is coming to see.

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