De Jasay makes a distinction between these, saying, as I understand it, that a liberty to Smith presupposes a duty to Jones not to interfere with Smith’s exercise of the liberty; while a right entails a duty on the part of Jones to undertake a positive performance. “Only in the limit is bearing and fulfilling it a matter of indifference.” (219)

A ___ to “health care” should then be filled with “right,” because it coercively enjoins the taxpayers to pay for other people’s pleasures. But a ___ to “free speech” is essentially a liberty, since no one is required to do anything other than not to beat the speaker up.

The difference is well-taken, even though it is not generally observed in common speech.

Freedom to do X is best defined as at least one and normally both of the following:

(1) having no serious moral duty not to do X;
(2) facing no threat of punishment from the government for doing X.

This definition combines two “permissions,” as suggested by my understanding of metaethics: “internal,” as if from nature and nature’s God, to do X in the form of absence of a duty; and “external” or absence of threat of physical punishment. Again, duty is a categorical command; law backed by threat is a hypothetical incentive.

Thus, one would have no freedom to murder even in the absence of government in the state of nature from (1) alone, because there is a “serious” moral duty not to murder.

But one also has no freedom to exceed the speed limit from (2) alone: there is no serious moral duty to comply, but one is still afraid of getting a ticket.

Freedom typically prevails when both conditions are satisfied.


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