Why insisting on more freedom brings about more tyranny
July 30, 2014 § 53 Comments
Modernity’s idea of freedom is based on the concept of rights.
Rights have two modalities which cannot be separated from each other. Every right has a modality of empowerment and a modality of constraint. A right discriminates between the right holder and others, empowers the right holder, and constrains others.
A simple example is that a property right discriminates between owner and potential trespasser, empowers the owner, and constrains all of the potential trespassers. But this basic structure is common to all rights.
Individual rights are a one-to-many relation in terms of modality: for every single right-holder who is empowered by a given right there are many other people constrained by that right.
Liberalism functions by a kind of sleight of hand wherein, on our freedom ledger, we are supposed to count the individual empowerment from a given right; but we are not supposed to notice the constraints it implies. As we insist on more and more freedom what happens is a proliferation of empowering rights. And behind the curtain, for every single instance of empowerment we get many instances of constraint.