Matthew Yglesias pens a partial defense of Giuliani’s statement that “freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.” Matt: “The cause of political liberty is not, in fact, served by living in an underpoliced city. Generally speaking, while freedom does require that authority not overstep its proper bounds, it also very much requires that properly constituted authorities be reasonably strong and effective.” But this isn’t what Giuliani said. A point Isaiah Berlin makes very well in “Two Concepts of Liberty”: it is one thing to give up liberty for some greater good – possibly even an increase in freedom along some other axis. (Giving up the freedom to murder in order to secure freedom from murder seems like a good deal.) It is quite another thing to call the sacrifice of liberty ‘liberty’.
This paradox has been often exposed. It is one thing to say that I know what is good for X, while he himself does not; and even to ignore his wishes for its – and his – sake; and a very different one to say that he has eo ipso chosen it, not indeed consciously, not as he seems in everyday life, but in his role as a rational self which his empirical self may not know – the ‘real’ self which discerns the good, and cannot help choosing it once it is revealed. This monstrous impersonation, which consists in equating what X would choose if he were something he is not, or at least not yet, with what X actually seeks and chooses, is at the heart of all political theories of self-realization. It is one thing to say that I may be coerced for my own good, which I am too blind to see: this may, on occasion, be for my benefit; indeed it may enlarge the scope of my liberty. It is another to say that if it is my good, then I am not being coerced, for I have willed it, whether I know this or not, and am free (or ‘truly’ free) even while my poor earthly body and foolish mind bitterly reject it, and struggle with the greatest desperation against those who seek, however benevolently, to impose it.
As Matt says: “He’s still, I think, a pretty creepy authoritarian but the idea he’s expressing has a reasonably distinguished lineage and isn’t just some madness he dreamed up on his couch one afternoon.” Yes, it’s some madness that Hegel dreamed up on his couch one afternoon.
In other news, I’m in the market for a new scanner. It has to work well with mac and have the best OCR capability I can buy for under $200. Googling around, it seems that the most of the stand-alone software packages (OmniPage) are not getting rave reviews from consumers, and are rather expensive. If I have to choose between paying $400 for semi-functionality and just using whatever semi-functionality is bundled with a cheap scanner, I guess I’d go with the latter. I have Adobe Acrobat, which has some ok – not great, I think – OCR capability. What do you think?