Front Page Titles (by Subject) I: Paradigms of Freedom - Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1
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I: Paradigms of Freedom - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Paradigms of Freedom
In the phraseology of Thomas S. Kuhn's influential book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, diverse thinkers have viewed human freedom from conflicting “paradigms” or conceptual frameworks.
Here, the first sequence of summaries treat ancient and modern rival definitions of freedom, and also the dilemma of thinkers caught in transition between such distinct definitions. Kuhn would describe such perplexity as a “crisis” in paradigms which may precede the achievement of a new, canonical paradigm and a “revolution” in ideas.
Often the observer who is operating within the filtering presuppositions of an old paradigm will find it difficult or impossible to categorize a newly emerging paradigm.
“Freedom: A Study of the Development of the Concept in the English and American Traditions of Philosophy.” Magi Books, Inc., 33 Buckingham Drive, Albany, N. Y., 47 pp.
The clash of rival definitions of freedom and liberty disturbs international and domestic areas such as social legislation, penal reform, educational policy, family relations, and moral development. Everyone, as Karl Jaspers observes, desires this problematic “liberty,” yet this same ill-defined liberty arouses anxiety, and we often overlook it in the quest for cozy security. Plato, the Stoics, the Epicureans, Marx, Freud, Dewey, Locke, Hobbes, and Bentham all disagree on the nature of freedom. Philosophical analysis should at least help sort out several distinct meanings of freedom under discussion. Philosophers might also discuss how and why strong feelings are aroused by this competition in ideas about freedom. They might also explore how to reconcile such diverse ideas of freedom.
As a beginning we can identify, among the confusing uses of freedom, three key conceptions that scholars have woven into all discussions of American, British, and Continental thought: (1) freedom as “self-perfection” or exemption from slavery to our internal passions, (and more positively the individual's possession of virtue); (2) freedom as “self-realization” or exemption from the slavery of external circumstances (e.g., coercive laws, duress, etc.); (3) freedom as “self-determination” or the psychological and moral ability to freely choose an alternative (as opposed to determinism).
The chief contenders for the allegiance of minds are freedoms (1) and (2). Freedom (2), the laissez-faire notion of freedom which characterizes English philosophy, emerges perhaps because of empiricism, and can be summarized as “doing what one wishes.” Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Bentham, and the two Mills, as well as Russell, Moore, Broad, and Ayer subscribe to various qualified versions of this. On the other hand, those favoring freedom in sense (1), stress the moral notion of “doing as one ought.” This moralized freedom goes back to Plato and brands the second kind of freedom as not liberty but libertinism since it does not stress leading the life proper to man qua good man. Outwardly free, man could still be inwardly an abject slave lacking moral autonomy.
Moral freedom (1) tends to be unconcerned with the influence of external constraints, since the good and virtuous man can still be “free” to will the good even in prison (e.g., the Stoics and modern personalist-oriented people). Laissez-faire freedom (2) tends to believe that both morally good and bad men can be “free,” provided we remove external constraints on the will and action.
There have been various attempts to reconcile the moral and the laissez-faire notions of freedom as well as freedom as self-determination, (together with a fourth narrower notion of “political freedom,” the ability of citizens to participate in making laws). These attempts have either (a) sought to combine all three major freedoms in a consistent composite theory keeping each distinct, or (b), maintained that we can fuse all three consistently into a single freedom when each is modified.
Paradigms as Procrustes' Bed
“Towards a Better Understanding of Ancient Societies.” (Helios Journal of the Classical Association of the Southwestern United States) 4 (1976): 3–15.
Scholars should be more knowledgeable in their methodology and attend to the interdisciplinary application of various social science techniques in studying history. Such methodological self-awareness and sophistication would produce significant insights into social values and assumptions that inform historical events. Negatively, sound methodology would expose the warping effects of unexamined assumptions [cf. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, 2d ed.; A.W. Gouldner, The Hellenic World: A Sociological Analysis (New York: Harper & Row, 1969); and T.F. Carney, Content Analysis (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1972)].
Traditional methods of historical analysis often ignore how the historian can manipulate putative “facts” subjectively. He thereby erects conceptually impressive but realistically flimsy edifices of interpretation. Thomas Kuhn has shed light on the blinkering effect of adhering uncritically to a particular theory or “paradigm” in studying history. The dangers of unacknowledged assumptions appear for example in the time-honored theory that the topography of mountains and valleys “caused” the numerous small city-states of ancient Greece. Here a conjecture, endlessly repeated, becomes a historical cause, an assumed “fact” in need of no further defense. Merely because the conjecture satisfies the paradigm's logical or formalistic requirements of cause and effect, scholars elevate it to a truth and “fact.”
This methodological “Procrustes' Bed” imposes causality simply to frame an elegant hypothesis, yet it disregards recalcitrant facts: (a) that Greek political fragmentation was the rule even when the geography was favorable for union, and (b) that in other non-Greek societies, with terrains similar to Greece's mountain valleys, political fragmentation did not occur. An aesthetically pleasing theory sometimes pleases more than the true facts. The paradigm bewitches the mind from noting contradictory evidence that does not fit the paradigm. This bewitchment blinds scholars from inquiring why the Greeks desired this political form; it also conceals the anachronistic modern assumption that “larger states” are good and that “extensive division” is a curse.
An unexamined paradigm or uncritical methodology creates a cognitive straitjacket. To overcome the blinkering effects of a reflex use of unexamined methods we must consciously inspect our inherited patterns of thought. We must question our assumptions and thus compel ourselves to ask different questions and produce different answers.
History, particularly ancient history, can use one particular form of a more self-conscious methodology. It employs the methods of the social scientist (techniques of controlled data gathering, construction of models, scrutiny of classifications, and especially, “content analysis”). These tools allow us to search beneath the visible social surface to underlying values of culture and society.
Interest and Ambition
“Liberty in Classical Antiquity.” Aspects of American Liberty. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1977: 8–15.
The partisan, confused, and inconsistent usage of classical Greek and Roman examples of “liberty” by America's Founding Fathers should arouse a sobering distrust about apostles of “liberty” in any age.
Richard M. Gummere, The American Colonial Mind and the Classical Tradition (Cambridge, Mass., 1963) and Meyer Reinhold ed., The Classick Pages (University Park, Pa., 1975) have documented the powerful influence of classical ideas on eighteenth century Americans. Ancient notions of liberty, in particular, fanned the ideological passions for independence from Great Britain. But the sad history of the Greek and Roman political abuse of that term cautions us to be suspicious in accepting at face value any political appeals to liberty.
For example, early fifth century B.C. Athens, after Cleistenes' experiment with “free” political institutions, embarrasses students with its many illiberal inconsistencies. Athenian isonomia (the notion of “Liberty and Order” or equality before the laws) opposed arbitrary power, but in oligarchic fashion it did not extend political equality to all the demos or common people (not to mention the women and slaves). This old order sought to curb the rule of the demos but had to yield, because of imperial ambition, to democracy. Athenian imperialism with its need for military manpower compelled the oligarchs, by 462 B.C., to recognize both the military and political sovereignty of the popular assembly.
In Rome, neither democracy nor equality ever held sway. A senatorial aristocracy dominated politics and the people throughout the Republic. Hypocritically, libertas was the political slogan of this privileged nobility. As a legal term, libertas could honorably denote a citizen's free status and his juridical guarantees against the arbitrary rule of magistrates. But libertas soon became an abused term. It had the emotional connotations of the prerogatives and dominion of the oligarchic ruling class. Libertas could even signify Rome's imperial dominion over its subjugated provinces. Imperialism undercut the old order. Rome's world empire fostered individual power and ambitious generals who ultimately toppled the senatorial ruling class from their hegemony. Still the senate's partisans defended their lost privileges in the name of “liberty and the laws.” The new autocrats, the Caesars, responded in kind with empty claims to being restorers of lost “libertas.“
The ancient republics of Greece and Rome and a very restricted and circumscribed notion of political liberty. The modern liberal movements stripped away most of those limits on liberty. The Declaration of Independence declared that “all men were created ‘equal’ with certain inalienable rights.” Yet “liberty” continued as an ambivalent term since it could be applauded by slaveholders. The American Founding Fathers were aware of the ambiguities of political slogans and the deceits of ethical and emotional terminology and how easily it could be debased.
Thesis and Antithesis
“Human Rights: What About China?” Foreign Policy (USA), 29 (1978): 109–127.
Since Mao's death, mainland China has been struggling to suppress political dissidents. A Chinese official boasted that its government deprived only 5% of Chinese of their rights. This means that 40 million of China's 800 million people now undergo “reeducation,” imprisonment, or supervision. However, the Carter administration has maintained a curious silence on these human rights violations in China. By exploring some recent examples of dissidence within China, we may speculate about the likely emergence of at least a small, vocal, and prominent group of dissidents within China. They will pressure the Chinese government (in much the same way as Russian dissidents have) by focusing international attention on the suppression of political and civil liberties within the country.
Several examples evidence a growing willingness by Chinese citizens to protest unpopular government actions, including the strikes by factory workers in Hangchow in Spring 1975 and the riot in Peking's Tien An Men Square in April 1976. However, the most interesting example involves the Li I-che poster entitled “Concerning Socialist Democracy and Legal System” displayed in Canton in November 1974. The poster extended over 100 yards in length and covered 67 sheets of newsprint. This poster is significant because a number of former Red Guards authored it, and because it stresses the need for democratization and guarantee of political rights. The Li I-che poster represents a sophisticated variation of the “new class” argument regarding the political consequences of authoritarian rule (reminiscent of the writings of the Yugoslav dissident Milovan Djilas). The authors of the poster contend that Chinese socialism has generated a new ruling class within the Communist Party and the state apparatus that uses political power to appropriate privileges to itself. The poster criticizes the arbitrary nature of political authority, especially since the Cultural Revolution.
Mao's passing and the subsequent factionalism within the political elite has severely weakened the moral legitimacy of central political authority in China. At the same time, while Mao failed to provide an institutionalized guarantee of political criticism and democracy, he did leave a legacy of antiauthoritarianism best epitomized by his statement that “to rebel is justified.” We may speculate that the Red Guards will be the most likely source of domestic dissidence. Disillusioned by the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, many Guards have grown stern and resentful of the lack of democratic institutions.
Freedom and Authority
“Freedom and Authority.” Yale Review (USA), 66 (1977): 237–251.
Authority can exist without freedom, but freedom cannot exist without authority. Moreover, authority is a necessary function of freedom, rather than the antithesis of it.
What type of authority or social condition best maximizes freedom? Consider the following assumptions regarding freedom: (1) it is always relative; (2) it is tempered and limited by social norms; and (3) it can only be a condition of social structure, of choices balanced against choices, interests against interests.
A study by sociologist Gerard DeGré, written in the late 1940s, identified five types of societies that represented five responses to the concentration of power and authority, and five insuring expressions of freedom—atomistic, multipartite, pluralistic, oligarchic, totalitarian.
With DeGré, one could believe that only in the pluralistic condition does authority act to organize larger associations into a democratic balance in which freedom is maximized.
Sin and Society
“Adin Ballou and the Perfectionist's Dilemma.” Journal of Church and State (USA), 17 (1975): 459–476.
Adilemma surfaces in studying Adin Ballou's life: How could the pre-Civil War “perfectionists” live a sinless life in a sinful world? Unlike those who considered socialist utopianism to be an “intellectual dalliance with pseudoreform,” perfectionism rested on the bedrock of revivalism which swept the country at that time. Turning to Adin Ballou, founder of Hopedale community in 1842, we may ask: How did this middle class, moderate man come to believe that the only way to change society was to separate himself completely from it? What exactly was the perfectionist's analysis of the American society which so repelled him, and how did he arrive at it?
Perfectionism was a compelling system of thought, one which dictated a precise and powerful view of man and his relationship to both the God who created him and the society in which the perfectionist lived. Perfectionism defined a specific goal, the regeneration of society, but it prohibited the believer from utilizing the institutions of society to achieve that goal. This dilemma could only be solved in one way: by a complete break with society and its sinridden institutions. The solution to it was found in utopian socialism.
In describing Adin Ballou one meets a man who claimed to be a Christian socialist, but is dealing with perfectionism in general. One thereby can examine the attempts to resolve the conflict between the individual and the state, with the consequent disavowal of the state as an agency of reform. One can also trace how a large number of reformers sought a way out of statism.
Autonomy and Authority
“Locke's State of Nature in Political Society.” Western Political Quarterly (USA), 29 (1976): 126–135.
Did Locke think, in his Two Treatises of Government, that the state of nature really existed, or did he present it as an invented or imagined state? The state of nature is not only a persistent fact but a necessary and pervasive component of political life.
In the state of nature, all men are perfectly equal and perfectly free. Every man has the right to judge and punish violations of the law of nature. The essential defining characteristic of the state of nature is a defect—the lack of an authority, commonly accepted, to settle controversies that may arise.
Locke used the term and the thought to set out the limits of political power. To both ruler and the ruled, the admonition is to beware of bringing back the full state of nature in a worse form than the ordinary state of nature. The teaching to both is one of restraint and moderation.
The ruler who understands will be restrained in the exercise of his authority; he will be aware that the effort to make political society completely civil cannot succeed; so he will not seek to accomplish the impossible. The people, if they understand, will be alert to the danger of excessive use of power by the authorities; they will not take the law into their own hands as long as the government functions with right and authority.
Virtue and Status
“Market Society and Meaning in Locke's Political Philosophy.” Journal of the History of Philosophy (USA), 15 (1977): 33–44.
Many assume that Locke was an entirely consistent classical liberal and exponent of freedom. But it was only in the early nineteenth century that Locke, was first viewed in that fashion. Locke, in fact, did not champion a fully free market.
Locke's political philosophy must be viewed in its historical context. In the seventeenth century, cataclysmic economic upheavals disturbed England. It experienced an evolution and transition from feudalism towards mercantilism or state capitalism. Late seventeenth century England was not a free market economy. Severe inflation, land transfers through enclosures, and abandoned royal prerogatives during the Civil War (1640–1660) characterized not so much the rise of a free market middle class but a threat to hereditary aristocracy. Faced with this historical situation, Locke did not claim that the aristocracy was illegitimate, but rather that some aristocrats—those who lived idle and debauched lives—deserved to lose their authority and social status.
Locke did not attack inherited hierarchy. His concern was to refute the claim that manual labor was ignoble or inferior. He maintained that any job allowed an individual to demonstrate his rationality and productivity. If anyone fell or rose from a lack of these qualities, it was just. Whether one was a farmer or a lord, he could lead a virtuous life. Being poor did not of its nature make one depraved or animalistic; it simply fostered such a tendency.
In sum, Locke was more interested in analyzing and justifying a certain personality and moral type than an economic system. We should be careful not to view political philosophers out of context, ignoring their practical political policies or their historical milieu.
Utility and Progress
“J. S. Mill: Socialist or Libertarian.” Prophets of Freedom and Enterprise. Edited by Michael Ivens. London: Kogan Page, 1975.
Mill is generally regarded as becoming a socialist late in life. But a careful examination of his later works suggests he was considerably closer to a position advocating personal liberty. He was not certain, for instance, that common or socialized ownership would satisfactorily bring intellects into stimulating collision so as to produce mental and moral progress.
Mill's major concern was with ownership by free association (rather than state ownership), groups which would presumably compete in the market. He also opposed confiscatory death taxes, progressive taxation, and subsidy or monopoly of workers' cooperatives. He totally rejected monopoly in any form and regarded every restriction on competition as evil. He favored restricting government to promulgating information but then leaving individuals free to use their own means.
Even where government was delivering the mail or providing for the sick in public hospitals, Mill favored private competition. Similarly with education: “A government which can mould...the people from their youth upwards, can do with them whatever it pleases.”
Even in his last work on socialism, Mill warned of the dangers of making all decisions politically and collectively. He urged that communes be tested in a market framework. He was skeptical about rooting out money-making ambition, fearing that struggles for preeminence and influence would produce bitterness when the money-making desire was diverted to seek gratification in other directions.
Diversity and Equality
“‘Liberty by Taste’: Tocqueville's Search for Freedom.” Modern Age (USA), 20 (1976): 164–176.
Many find Alexis de Tocqueville difficult to categorize as a political and social thinker. Was de Tocqueville a liberal, conservative, or individualist? In nineteenth century terms, he was both conservative and liberal at the same time. He favored the system of government most conducive to liberty, regardless of the precise admixtures of equality or inequality within that system. However, he never ceased believing that a general tendency to equality was salubrious. While Mill might be seen sometimes in the tradition of Rousseau, de Tocqueville is better seen as Montesquieu's heir: balances, checks on arbitrary power, specifically defined liberties historically descended from feudal privileges, and emphasis on diversity and liberty.
Among de Tocqueville's conservative tendencies were: a staunch defense of property; fear that liberty would be lost, not through laissez-faire, but through guaranteeing welfare to all by an increasingly omnipotent state; and a recognition that religion was fundamental to freedom. Fearing the danger arising from the omnipotence of the majority tyranny in an excess of individualisme. De Tocqueville also feared power. He wanted to limit government, not expand its power.