Posts Tagged positive freedom

Dangerous Convictions: Dogmatism versus Empiricism

I caught some of this on C-Span over the weekend.  Nice catch to the folk at Winning Progressive for summarizing Allen’s perspective.

The root of the problem, Allen argues, lies in what the media routinely ignore: those statements made by members of Congress as they declare why they will support this policy or oppose that one.

Allen knew his public statements were straightforward expressions of his reasons. He believed most of his Democratic colleagues also said what they truly believed when they spoke about public issues. But what of Republicans? Time and again he asked his fellow Democrats: “Do they really believe what they say?”

The answer, Allen came to recognize, was “Yes, Republicans really do believe what they say” … even when what they say is demonstrably, empirically false.

Why is that?

Allen argues that Republicans argue from principles, and when facts contradict their principles the facts must be wrong. What’s more, Allen writes, Republicans reject the possibility that Democrats might argue from facts. Instead, Republicans presume that Democrats argue from opposing principles, hence their claims President Obama and Democrats are “socialists” whose response to any problem is “more government” and “less freedom.”

In the past I’ve touched on similar concepts.  The problem is a fundamental disconnect in the way the two parties view the world.  Republicans for example see government only in terms of bigger and smaller, not in terms of better or more effective.

A key divide is between negative liberty and positive liberty:

In the Republican worldview, “freedom” means only negative liberty: the absence of interference from others. That worldview dismisses positive liberty: the presence of opportunities and resources to fulfill one’s own potential.

John McGowan’s book American Liberalism talks about the idea that government is a necessary agent of freedom – government facilitates greater freedom.  The expansion of government doesn’t negate the expansion of freedom.  That’s positive liberty; the Republican view is based on the idea that if government passes a new law, we are all less free.  Anti-discrimination laws mean people’s freedom has been curtailed.  Arguments against the Affordable Care Act’s component on birth control made more sense when seen in this light.

WP is going to be exploring Allen’s view further so watch for updates.  Read the whole thing, it’s worth your time.

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