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Is there such thing as true freedom? (My thought is that only in an anarchist society there would be-meaning that even the slightest rule or law would detain one's freedom to do as one pleases...)

November 2, 2005

Response from Joseph G. Moore on November 2, 2005
Even in a world without laws or social rules, our ability to do exactly as we please would, presumably, be constrained by by all sorts of things--our own abilities, the actions of other people, gravity. (This won't be true, of course, if we could somehow adjust our desires so that we didn't want anything that we were constrained from having. But if we can do this, we might as easily do this in the world with laws.) In fact, the existence of rules and laws seems actually to allow us to do more of what we want. For example, the enforced convention that we drive on the right side of the road (in the US) allows us more efficiently and effectively to move about and do many of the things we want to do, even if it prohibits us from driving however we like with legal impunity. So, I doubt that anarchy would give us the "true freedom" you seek. But I wonder how much value we really place on "freedom" in this sense.
Response from Alexander George on November 2, 2005

It's worth distinguishing between what one is free to do and what value to one that freedom has. Perhaps you're right that in a world in which there was no political society (a State of Nature, as some political philosophers call it) we would be free to do many more things than we are now (since no laws would exist that restrict our freedom). But the worth of those freedoms would be very small. Yes, we'd be free to travel wherever we wanted (without the need for passports, etc.), but most likely, absent the security that a political society provides, the level of industrial development would be so low that there would be no cars, no planes, no roads, etc. Even if there were roads, it would be so very dangerous to set out on them that I wouldn't dare risk it. Whereas now, my freedom to travel is worth something to me: I can drive (I have a car, I can buy fuel for it, there are roads!) confidently to the airport (there are airports!) and take a plane (there's an aerospace industry!) to Reykjavik. The freedom to fly to Reykjavik isn't worth much if there are no planes, no cars, no roads, no safe traveling.

So, even if you thought that freedom (the absence of conduct-regulating laws enforced by the power of the state) is a good thing and that freedom would be increased living in a State of Nature, reasonable people might still choose to live in a political society with a government that restricts their freedoms, because the freedoms they would have would be of value to them. (See also Question 291.)


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