Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Choices and freedom

A libertarian discusses those concepts in relation to health care policy. Ari Kohen makes this point:

The difference that exists between my own position and that of the Tea Party, at bottom, is that I don’t feel less free when I look at the amount of money that comes out of my check every month, even though I’d rather have that money in my pocket. The reason is that I’m actually making a choice too: I choose to live in this country, with its government and tax structure and social safety nets. In fact, I embrace it. We can certainly do better in terms of those safety nets by working to make our government more efficient and effective, but that’s not what Paul is advocating; instead, he thinks that the vast majority of the government — and the services it provides — should simply be eliminated. To my mind, that would mean we’d be living in a very different political community, one that I wouldn’t like nearly as much. I want to live in a political community that chooses to take care of others, one that is committed to the idea that no one should go hungry or be unable to get critical medical attention.

This is a very different choice in its substance from the ones that libertarians tout as being of principal importance … but it is no less a choice and thus I feel no less free at the end of the day than I would if I had some extra money in my pocket. What’s more, I feel protected in case I run into some bad luck — or someone close to me does — and I feel good about my small stake in making sure that others are similarly protected.

At first I thought we were just talking past each other, that we had fundamentally different values and beliefs, but perhaps I should be wondering instead if these people (who prize individual choice so highly) simply don’t respect my choices. Maybe the choices in which they’re seemingly so invested are only the choices they make.

That's a great point using libertarian logic. I usually argue that being born in a certain place isn't a choice, its random luck. And that is true until you become a largely self sustaining adult. At that point you are making a choice to live where you do. I also usually argue that its really difficult for poor people and even some middle class people to choose to move. And I stand by that argument. But libertarians don't seem to agree with me, at least in part. So if they don't agree with me that people aren't completely making their own choices in life, they must be using the logic Kohen uses, and thus would have to acknowledge that they are making the choice he lays out.

Perhaps the problem for many libertarians is that the places they could choose to move in order to try and get away from the oppressive taxes and policies of the US are often more oppressive than the US, or in other words, they are more liberal and socialistic than we are. So since they don't like their options, they ignore that they are making a choice at all and just make their normal argument.

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