Monday, August 17, 2009

"What is Real Freedom?"

Arnold Kling has an answer at EconLog:

Consider the following definition of freedom: the absence of monopoly.

The absence of monopoly means that you can exercise exit, even if you cannot exercise voice. The presence of monopoly means that, at most, you can exercise voice.

Neither my local supermarket nor any of its suppliers has a way for me to exercise voice. They don't hold elections. They don't have town-hall meetings where they explain their plans for what will be in the store. By democratic standards, I am powerless in the supermarket.

And yet, I feel much freer in the supermarket than I do with respect to my county, state, or federal government. For each item in the supermarket, I can choose whether to put it into my cart and pay for it or leave it on the shelf. I can walk out of the supermarket at any time and go to a competing grocery...

If you lived in North Korea, which would you rather have--the right to vote or the right to leave?

In fact, if we had real competitive government, then we would be no more interested in elections and speaking out to government officials than we are in holding elections and town-hall meetings at the supermarket. I repeat: real freedom is the absence of monopoly.


JD said...

Anarchy in other words.

JD said...

Bravo Arnie.

Anonymous said...

My husband is a professor at a local college just outside of Birmingham and I was hoping to bring some
people to the blog to give there thoughts and opinions on the educational resources I have been
providing (both amateur and professional).
It is (appropriately) named The Top Education Journal. You can visit it by going to
I hope you decide to check it out, so far friends and colleagues have been very supportive. Thank you.

mac ram said...

It is a society in which the real freedom to do whatever one might wish to do is fairly distributed among all. This conception of social justice combines freedom, equality, and efficiency. It justifies granting to each citizen an unconditional basic income at the highest sustainable level consistent with two conditions: respect for everyone's formal freedom and an appropriate level of resources target at the less able. Is such an unconditional basic income not a recipe for exploitation of the hard workers by the lazy? Not in any sense that makes exploitation intrinsically unjust. Can a higher unconditional basic income be sustainably achieved under capitalism than under socialism? There are empirical and theoretical reasons to think so. But only the effective presence of such a powerful and liberating distributive mechanism can justify capitalism.

Rebecca said...

What is real freedom? the ability to opportunity to choose to lead, follow or get out of the way. Choice to speak up, choice to live with the status quo, or choice to act, or not act, is freedom. But the caveat is the maintenance of freedom requires sacrifice from some who dare to fight for it. It may not be what we want to hear.