Essay on Positive Liberty

1102 Words Nov 11th, 2012 5 Pages
Should the Government Promote Positive Liberty?

The idea of liberty, or freedom, varies between different theorists. One theorist, Isaiah Berlin, focused on the difference between two different ways of thinking about political liberty (Cherniss & Hardy, 2010). Berlin called these two different concepts negative and positive liberty. According to Berlin, negative freedom can be defined as ‘freedom from’, that is, freedom from constraint or interference of others. In contrast, positive freedom can be defined in two ways: ‘freedom to’, that is the ability to pursue and achieve willed goals; and also as autonomy or self-rule, as opposed to the dependence on others (Cherniss & Hardy, 2010). Keeping the idea of positive liberty at
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Politically in practice, positive freedom is sometimes forced on members of society, because leaders believe that “individuals are either unwilling to be free or simply ignorant of the benefits and prerequisites for becoming free” (Haworth, 1991). Therefore, these leaders think those who understand humanity’s true nature should impose upon those uncooperative individuals’ measures which are for their own good. One example of positive liberty may include compulsory education in this country and many others. This is due to citizens, or the offspring of citizens, who are forced into a specific action for their own good. Another example would be that of religious societies. By imposing a state religion, or the banning of a religion completely, the state exerts its will over the spiritual lives of the governed.
There has been extensive academic debate surrounding the idea of positive liberty. Many people think that positive freedom is a good thing, believing it is a good idea to have our rights and freedoms “spelled out” for us (Nelson, 2005). Nelson (2005) notes in recognition to this, the British moved from their principle of an unwritten common law constitution to something more explicit. One of Tony Blair’s first moves as Prime Minister was to push the Human Rights Act 1998 through Parliament, making it clear that there are certain things that the British can expect as a fundamental right. However, there has been some unease about fully embracing the concept of

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