Freedom and regulation, two sides of the same coin

Have been reading my journal of October 22, 1998, and found this:

If there is anything that politics is all about isn’t it about the tensions that oppose those who hold that men’s activities need to be regulated to insure that a few don’t oppress the many, and then those others who hold that men need to be left alone, unregulated as much as possible, in order to use their freedom and by their own efforts improve their lives.

And it goes on: For example, between those who hold that governments can by their policies alleviate if not eliminate poverty, and those who hold that only individuals by private philanthropy can do this,  either by creating enough wealth for all or by creating an economy where there is at least equality of opportunity.

A similar tension lies at the heart of educational theory, between those who believe that the young can  learn by being led (taught), and those who hold just as firmly that the young will only learn by following up their own interests and thereby acquiring new knowledge and skills.

Now of course the truth lies somewhere in between, but what makes both educational philosophy and political science interesting is where the line between the two points of view is drawn.  The line between socialists and free market capitalists, for example. Modern history is much the history of where peoples and governments have drawn this line. Dictatorships are something else, of course, anachronisms, and most often don’t survive even the lifetime of the dictator. Religion and science can and do partake of the dualism of which I speak.

Not new, I thought, any of this. I’ve been reading, thinking, and writing down thoughts like this over and over again, a good part of my adult life. Some thoughts, like this one, just never go away. It’s the old saw,  —if youre not a socialist at 18 you have no heart, and if you’re still a socialist 18 years of so later you have no head.

PBW, ParisTampa,


Still reading my 1998 journal entries, and saw this, again left and right, liberal and conservative, well no, more exactly Isaiah Berlin’s positive and negative freedoms.

Negative liberty was at the heart of a properly liberal political creed.  Individuals should be left alone to do what they wanted, provided that their actions did not interfere with the liberty of others.  Such a liberal politics dealt only with what human beings said they wanted, not with what they might want if they only knew better.  Positive liberty, by contrast, was at the heart of all political doctrines, from socialist to Communist, that wished to use political power to free human beings so that they could realize some hidden or repressed potential.  Michael Ignatieff, October, 1998

PBW, ParisTampa,

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