Negative Liberty

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“Negative liberty” is a term stands for “freedom from interference by other people” per the Wikipedia.  It deals with external restrains. For example, freedom of speech, religion, and so on in the US Constitution restrain the government from interfering with individual liberties.

But what about the Stay-at-home, wearing mask, or other social distancing orders?  Do they violate our liberty?  I believe the answer is no.  To explain why, let me introduce another term “positive liberty.”

Positive liberty stands for possession of the power and resource to fulfill one’s own potential (Wikipedia). It deals with internal restrains.  To the extent it entails the responsible exercise of free-will under the rule of  law without depriving other’s right.

So government leaders have to weigh the individual liberty with public health concerns in applying the social distancing rules.  And we as individuals have to be responsible in exercising our free-will. Whether the rules are successful or popular, that is a different debate.

What do you think about the government’s stay-at-home orders? Too much? Not enough?

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2 Responses to Negative Liberty

  1. Thanks for posting this question. It’s been on my mind a lot too. This really does feel like a time where personal freedoms are in conflict with maintaining the public good. I’m a political science nerd, so I find this fascinating. In my most idealistic fantasies, I like to think that we wouldn’t need the government to ORDER a stay at home, and that people could take care of each other and be responsible of their own free will. But I realize that’s probably wishful thinking. Pandemics historically are so hard for us to get a handle on publicly. I don’t think there are ever really any easy answers. I was reading about Yellow Fever outbreak in New Orleans the other day. They couldn’t even get the papers to admit it was happening bc it was bad for business. Feeling thankful that we’re at least in a place where public information is at least available. Cheers to you. Cool blog!


  2. terryshen says:

    Yes, Sister Satsume, we will get through this pandemic. Many are enduring it and hoping it will go away quickly. Some don‘t even want to deal with it. How we deal with the pandemic reveals a lot about ourselves. And that is valuable. Just like having access to public information. Thaks for sharing.


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