Objective freedom, or, the allure of the formless void
March 23, 2017 § 51 Comments
As previously observed, every concrete choice made by a human being starts with a large number of potential reality-outcomes and collapses it into a particular concrete outcome. Choices are irrevocable option-reducers: they empower one particular possibility, breathe fire into it and make it a reality. They take mere (but real) potential and convert it into actual reality: they merge the matter and form of possibility to make something concretely real. In the wake of doing so, every single choice leaves behind a multitude of roads not taken, options which now rest outside the realm of real possibility.
Freedom as an objective state can be understood as having real options: as having available choices not yet made. (Subjectively, freedom can be understood as a particular subject having available choices which correspond with what the subject wants to choose).
Acts of authority are human choices which, like all human choices, eliminate options. Because they are specifically acts of authority-as-authority they eliminate options available to subjects, to those subject to the particular authority in question. For every single actual empowerment produced by the choice of a human authority, a multitude of mutually exclusive options, of roads not taken and now ruled out, are destroyed.
In short, every act of authority always and necessarily reduces objective freedom. When folks subjectively like the results it feels empowering to them: their wishes correspond to their real options. When folks subjectively don’t like the results it feels constraining. But it is a fundamental mistake to see empowerment of the good as “freedom.” Empowerment of the good means that good actions are empowered and that the right sort of people are sent to prison.
Liberalism attempts to make increasing or sustaining freedom – availability of choices – into the (or a) primary justification of authoritative acts. When liberals suggest that they are pro choice they really mean it: the most “consistent” liberalism is an anarchism which forces itself on everyone. Ultimately, maximizing objectively available choices means not making or even “allowing” any actual choices: it means embrace of the eternal formless void out of a fear of better options. In this sense a ‘conservative’ liberalism is indeed anti-choice. In a perfect liberal paradise all choices are available but nobody falls into the imprisoning trap of actually making one. In a perfect liberal paradise the clock can always be turned back to before any particular choice was made: reality must stand for reelection over and over again, in saecula saeculorum, amen.
In the real world, consistent loyalty to liberalism as a political doctrine is impossible. In practice, then, liberalism becomes weaponized incoherence.
It is of course common to equivocate here: to suggest that liberalism merely says (tautologically) that people ought to have the available choices that they ought to have, and sets one purpose of authority to be ensuring that subjects are really able to choose what they ought to be really able to choose. These “things subjects really ought to be able to choose” – with the support of those in authority – we label “rights”.
But if that is the case we need to accept that more rights mean objectively less freedom, not objectively more freedom. Rights are rules which authoritatively discriminate and reduce the space of all really possible options to a more constrained space of really allowable options. Given that this is the case it seems that the only honest approach is to unequivocally shun the deontology – and even the language – of liberalism entirely. When we say “everyone should be gay and should embrace gayness without resistance” we might just mean that everyone ought to be happy. But talking to modern people that way just makes us madmen, garrisoning the motte on liberalism’s behalf as we gaze at the padded walls.