Two kinds of freedom

pdf version: two kinds of freedom

What’s a progressive libertarian? It all comes down to freedom. The philosopher Isaiah Berlin described two kinds of freedom: negative and positive.

Negative freedom

Negative freedom is when government can’t stop you from acting. The government:

  • can’t stop you from speaking
  • can’t stop you from worshipping
  • can’t stop you from marrying
  • can’t stop you from making your own healthcare decisions
  • can’t stop you from defending yourself
  • can’t stop you from starting a business
  • can’t take away your property and give it to Donald Trump or Dominion Power (eminent domain)
  • can’t seize your property during an arrest without a criminal conviction (civil forfeiture)
  • etc. There are many!

Positive freedom

Positive freedom means government must provide you with the ability to act on your own. Without positive freedom, you can’t follow through on your own decisions. The government:

  • must supply you with healthcare when you can’t afford it
  • must supply you with an education
  • must provide strong social safety nets
  • must protect you from terrorism
  • must protect you from harm and fraud
  • must guarantee fair landlord-tenant contracts
  • must give you a free, fair and easy vote
  • must provide food and housing assistance for who need it
  • must fight for fair employment contracts and against workplace discrimination
  • must make sure your environment is healthy and water is clean

Pure libertarians believe only in negative freedom.
Conservative libertarians believe in negative freedoms that align with their traditional values.
Progressive libertarians believe in both negative and positive freedom. The government must protect our positive freedom without violating our negative freedom.

Examples of Ben’s progressive libertarian policy positions:

  • medicaid expansion including mental health and addiction treatment
  • strong progressive taxation to fund generous social safety nets
  • market deregulation except for harm and fraud prevention
  • rural broadband and infrastructure reform
  • strong environmental protections
  • gerrymandering reform, no-excuse absentee voting
  • defense of unions, collective rights and bargaining
  • cut regressive taxes like car tax, consumption tax
  • free community college
  • right to bear arms
  • decriminalization of marijuana