Thoughts on economics and liberty

What is freedom?

Freedom can mean many things: 1) Liberty of the person, and protection against abuse of power, e.g. protection from slavery, detention, or oppression. This means absence of arbitrary exercise of authority. This is closely related to 2) Being unhampered. This refers to our power to engage in actions without control or interference.  Finally, 3) Self-determination or the power of self-determination: This refers to the capacity to exercise choice through free will. This includes access to power, or the "right to be a participant in government" (Hannah Arendt).

Together, these tell us something about freedom. But taken out of context, any of these meanings can become problematic. Freedom must therefore be closely integrated with justice or accountability. Unconstrained action can quickly degenerate into license. No one is free to steal or pollute or kill, or to throw their garbage on the streets. 

Two points to note: (1) Political independence of nations has little to do with freedom. When people talk of India's freedom movement, or a book is entitled, Freedom at Midnight, the issue refers to national independence, not freedom. Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, and even Nehru's India (no matter how democratic) were independent but they were not free. (2) Freedom is not an exemption from unpleasant or onerous conditions. Being free from poverty has little to do with freedom. Slaves or prisoners are not exactly poor, being given food and shelter; but they are not free. 

The Freedom Team of India (FTI) is looking for outstanding leaders to lead India to life and liberty. You must be prepared to contest elections after 1500 leaders like you have assembled and agreed to a detailed policy platform.


a) This is the post that Desicritics objected to, because I had added a few notes about where people can find more about freedom: DOF/BFN. That was apparently not acceptable to Desicritics. End of abortive relationship. 

b) The contents of this post are a slightly edited version of my editorial in TAGI, 15 June 2008}

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