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Round 2: Freedom and constraint on freedom - focus on economic freedom (sorta long)
Posted by: Ted King
Date: October 16, 2022 08:33AM
In a previous post I went into some length about freedom and constraints on freedom and I spent too much time talking about the forest rather than the tree I most intended to focus on - the notion of economic freedom.

I think there are two primary ways of thinking about economic freedom. One is to think of it in terms of potentiality - do the rules permit you to buy goods and services you want to buy. More stringent rules, less economic freedom. Less stringent rules, more economic freedom. I sort of suspect that that is a meaning many people would settle on if they thought about it. But there is a second meaning that I prefer - that the degree of economic freedom you have depends on how much money you have to spend on goods and services. The more money you have to functionally spend, the more freedom.

If you are filthy rich there is almost no meaningful difference between the two meanings - "rule constrained potentiality" and the other "constraint by amount of money you have to spend". But for low income people the difference between the two meanings is stark.

I know we tend to talk about "freedom" in a holistic sense; like, how much capacity to act the way I want do I have. But when we do talk about various aspects of "freedom" we seem to seldom be talking about economic freedom. Freedom of expression is a vital freedom as is freedom to assemble, especially in public places. These are more apparent freedoms than economic freedom but I think economic freedom may play a more crucial role in our lives, though I don't intend to diminish freedom of expression and assembly because I think they are indeed very important. If economic freedom plays a significant role in our capacity to act the way we want to, then I think it is important to keep the distinction between the two meanings of "economic freedom" in mind. Those two meanings seem to revolve around how we take the word "capacity" in "our capacity to act the way we want to". In one meaning "capacity" is taken to mean "rule constrained potentiality"; in the other "capacity" is taken to mean "constrained by amount of money you have to spend".

I think we think of economic freedom too much from the "potentiality" meaning and not enough from the "constrained by the amount of money you have" meaning. The former is abstract, the latter is functional - especially for lower income people. You may have the abstract freedom to choose to spend your money within the rules, but that doesn't have much weight in your life if you are very constrained by the amount of money you have to spend.

It is true that you have to have the abstract freedom to act for there to be a field of money constrained functional economic choices to choose from, so in that sense I will admit that the abstract is primary. If the economic rules become too constraining, they can impact poor people's economic freedom. But in the current economic situation in the U.S. I think constraint of freedom by the amount of money you have to spend is worth focusing on because in most realms poor people don't have enough money to bump up against "rule constrained potentiality".



e pluribus unum



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 10/16/2022 08:46AM by Ted King.
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Re: Round 2: Freedom and constraint on freedom - focus on economic freedom (sorta long)
Posted by: btfc
Date: October 16, 2022 08:38PM
For the top few percent, economic freedom = the unfettered ability to do pretty much any thing you want in pursuit of more money.

For the bottom 40+ percent, economic freedom is a unicorn.

Conditioned to be obedient consumers and as workers, docile cogs in someone else’s larger machine.

We are told that interest rates need to go down, in order to drive unemployment rates up, by slowing business growth and demand down.

This despite multiple years of record profits and significant stock market increases.


What’s the plan for dealing with more coming automation?

Lower wages? Higher baseline unemployment to keep workers hungry?

The current system primarily serves those who already control most of the power and resources.

Quelle suprise!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/16/2022 08:38PM by btfc.
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Re: Round 2: Freedom and constraint on freedom - focus on economic freedom (sorta long)
Posted by: anonymouse1
Date: October 16, 2022 10:27PM
You may want to google "positive freedom" and "negative freedom."
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Re: Round 2: Freedom and constraint on freedom - focus on economic freedom (sorta long)
Posted by: Ted King
Date: October 17, 2022 01:59PM
Quote
anonymouse1
You may want to google "positive freedom" and "negative freedom."

Thanks. I did Google positive and negative liberty. From my reading it seems like the person who created the terms intended some fairly nuanced meanings for the words but I think I get the gist of it. In overly simplistic form - negative liberty is freedom from legal constraints or other external constraints and positive liberty is having the functional capacity to do as you please. Based on that understanding I would say that what I talked about in the OP does fall under the umbrella of that terminology. I was focused on the economic facet of positive and negative liberty - positive economic liberty and negative economic liberty if you will.

It's not surprising that these terms as originally conceived were focused on the political ramifications of the two kinds of liberty; e.g, libertarians appear to advocate for negative economic liberty and don't care much about positive economic liberty.



e pluribus unum



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/17/2022 02:00PM by Ted King.
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