Tuesday, October 12, 2010

QotD: Liberty edition...

From Mark Alger, because it's my blog and I can have as many Quotes of the Day as I want to:
LIBERTY IS A BINARY CONDITION like pregnancy. You can't be "just a little" pregnant. You either is, or you ain't. There's no shades of being free.


Retardo said...

Of course there are shades of freedom. I'm not free to build a shed without a permit (FFS!), but I'm free to own guns and start a business. In the UK, you can't build a shed without a permit or own a gun, but you can still start a business. In Berkeley, none of the above, but at least you can buy food. Finally, you've got places like Cuba and North Korea where you can't even do that.

If you gave this dude a choice between living in Pyongyang or Aroostook County, I bet he'd discover the importance of shades of being free in a remarkable hurry.

Matt G said...

Damn my slow connection-- Retardo beat me to the punch.

We would not be in the situation we are in now, but for the gradient in liberties that results in the boiled frog syndrome.

At this point, the frog is still wiping his brow and asking who's cooking that delicious soup he smells.

Timmeehh said...

Mark Alger is correct. Retardo and Matt G have confused Freedom and Liberty, a common mistake.

From Paul V. Hartman :

"Freedom is the exemption from control by some other person, or from arbitrary restriction of specific defined rights like Worship, or Speech. Liberty is the sum of the rights possessed in common by the people of a community/state/nation as they apply to its government, and/or the expectation that a nation's people have of exemption from control by a foreign power."

So, one can have various degrees of liberty, but one is either a slave or one is free.

Tam said...

Y'know, I'm getting a little tired of reductio as somalium...

Sigivald said...

If we can, in fact, have "various degrees of liberty", then it's not a "binary condition", first off.

(There are not "various degrees of one and zero", after all. At least not logically, that is - at the electrical level in an electronic digital computer, that's another matter...)

And if it's defined as "the sum of the rights possessed in common by the people of a community/state/nation as they apply to its government", then liberty is whatever you have, even if there's almost none of it.

So I think you mean that Mark Alger has confused liberty and being free, seeing as how his quote is the one that uses them interchangeably.

Liberty and freedom aren't the same thing, and it sure seems like there are gradations between freedom and slavery.

Very, very little in the human condition other than pregnancy and being really-totally-dead is binary.

Tam said...


Thank you for a response that was more thoughtful than the usual reductio ad somalium.

You raise valid points which I will need to go put on my thinking cap to discuss...

Hank said...

Free means the lack of constraint. So to be totally free means you have no constraints whatsoever. That's pretty much consistent with the definition of anarchy.

But if you're "too free," others will conspire to constrain you. So at best you will have "some freedom" but not "total freedom." Even if you're the king, you're not guaranteed to have total freedom forever. Others will conspire to constrain you (and usually will succeed) if you are "too free."

With luck, a balance of freedoms and constraint will evolve that meet the needs of most people.

And this is all about the process known as negative feedback.

JB Miller said...

Freedom is a beautiful woman, who I'd rather sleep with in a pile of dung, than sleep without her in a bed of silk...

Mark Alger said...

Tam abbreviated my quote, (as is it her privilege to do, this being her blog, as she stated in the post).

My point was directed toward the NRA's practice of endorsing incumbent statists if they can be in any way adduced to have a reasonably pro-gun legislative score, even if they fail magnificently on the score of the other eight Amendments in the Bill of Rights.


I also have as my masthead quote on my blog a quote from Jesse Helms which is perhaps more apposite: Compromise, hell! That's what has happened to us all down the line -- and that's the very cause of our woes. If freedom is right and tyranny is wrong, why should those who believe in freedom treat it as if it were a roll of bologna to be bartered a slice at a time?


Retardo said...

Mark, I take your point about the BoR and the pernicity of politicians who ignore the other 90% of it. However, the NRA doesn't pretend to grade politicians overall. It grades them on their pro-gun records alone, and it's up to us the voters to make our own call based on that and whatever other information is available. Personally, I like it that way: Nobody but me weights different issues quite like I do, so give me the raw numbers and let me add them as I like.

The nice thing about single-issue groups is that you can support only what you actually agree with. Imagine the stupendous amount of time and energy the NRA would waste if they had to pick a position on gay marriage or abortion, and apply it in their grading.

I don't insist on doing all my shopping at the same store, either. Centralization is for insects, pace RAH.

Tam: Isn't the argument from Somalia that strawman thing, where you say that you don't need a government inspector measuring your dog's toenails every single week, and some idiot says "So move to Somalia, you damn anarchist!"

That's what I thought it was, anyhow: The claim that if you want to put any limits at all on the state, then you might as well just abolish government entirely. That the only alternative to constant growth of the state is a Hobbesian stone-age free-for-all.

Who were you saying used it? Not me, I hope. I was saying the exact opposite, that things aren't binary.

Mark Alger said...


Well aware that the NRA has a rationale for their actions. I'm saying that it's counter-productive to grade on that curve. Because, as I say, you can be a slave according to protocol or you can be free. But trucking with tyrants because they agree not to gore YOUR ox is a bit... myopic.


Tam said...


So, do you think that the NRA should concern themselves with abortion, like Larry Pratt does?

Matt G said...

"Y'know, I'm getting a little tired of reductio as somalium..."

I understand the phrasing; I don't understand its application, here. Retardo and I are simply pointing out that there's a gradient, and while it's steep, the brink is not always clear.

There are government interferences that may adjust how I act, without restricting my goals (like traffic laws regarding rules of the road), which I do not accept are denying my freedom. Have I lost my liberty because those interferences are imposed at the threat of loss of my immediate freedom?

@ Timmeeh: "So, one can have various degrees of liberty, but one is either a slave or one is free." And by your quoted definition, if you are under any control by another entity or person, you're not free. A slave.

I think back a month ago, when I was booking a furious, foul-mouthed drunk into the jail for DWI. We were within the secure facility, and he had been patted down, and I was filling out paperwork, leaning over my clipboard as if rested on the property counter a mere foot from his abdomen. My head was hovering over my paperwork, and in the corner of my eye, I saw his hands flex into a fist. He had made clear that he hated me for arresting him for his umpteenth DWI. He was muttering. I knew he wanted to hit my head, and he was in a great spot to do it from, too. I kept writing, and then stood up.

"I should have beat your head in, just now," he said.

"Why didn't you?" I asked.

"Because of them," he gestured impatiently at the two detention officers who had gathered near us, close enough to grab him after he had acted, but too far to stop him from getting in a single good hit. "And you would've charged me with another charge."

I agreed that I would have. He made the right choice, right there. But he had the freedom, even within one of the most restrictive environments that I've ever seen, to act. He just didn't have the freedom to act without consequence. He didn't have the freedom to walk away at all.

Are we defining freedom as the ability to do something? Or the right to do it without repercussion?
I'm not trying to make a reduction. On the contrary: I believe that the concept of freedom is very complex.

Mark Alger said...


Dunno who Larry Pratt is. My opinion on abortion is it's none of the state's business UNLESS AND UNTIL they redefine legally what a human being is. Until then, they're playing tonsil hockey with themselves, if you get my drift.

I do believe that an NRA endorsement of a statist incumbent when his challenger is far more liberty-oriented is just stupid, no matter the power calculus.


Drang said...

OTOH, quite often the incumbent statist has a track record, whereas the challenger has only his rhetoric.

Mark Alger said...

And STILL you prefer to trust the incumbent who is ALREADY foresworn? Better the devil we know?