Lost Language, Lost Liberalism

A review of the changes 1880-1940 to the central semantics of liberal civilization.

Liberty  Confusions


Campbell, Sir George K. 1875. “The Tenure of Land,” The Fortnightly 17 N.S.(2): 43.

[43] In this, as in many other things in England, liberty means liberty of the individual at the expense of the public—liberty for the strong and rich and unscrupulous to aggrandize themselves—absence of protection for the interests of the many and weak who are without a bond of union—the shifting of public duties and the defence of public interests to the shoulders of private persons unable to bear the burden.

 

George, Henry. [1879] 1926. Progress and Poverty. Garden City Publishing: New York.

[542] Political liberty, when the equal right to land is denied, becomes…merely the liberty to compete for reemployment at starvation wages.

 

Stuart-Glennie, John S. 1876. Pilgrim-memories. Longmans, Green and Co.: London.

[349] But I would rather, and with the Idealist School generally, define Liberty as the faculty of choosing, among the various modes of fulfilling duty, those most in harmony with our own tendencies. Thus conceived, Liberty is a principle, not of individual rights merely, but of social duties. And it is thus a positive, not merely a negative principle. For Liberty, as the principle of individual rights, does no more than negative[1]  the interference of you with others, or of others with you. But Liberty, understood not merely as uninterfered-with action, but as spontaneously-fulfilled duty, conditionally only negatives interference. For Liberty, thus conceived, implies an authoritative Ideal. And evidently thus it proclaims itself as a means only, and not as an end.

 

Frederick William Robertson (1816 – 1853), known as Robertson of Brighton, was an English divine.

Frederick William Robertson (1816 – 1853), known as Robertson of Brighton, was an English divine.

Robertson, Frederick William. 1876. Lectures, Addresses and Other Literary Remains. Henry S. King and Co.: London.

[55] Now let us try the matter on the principle of Freedom. It seems to me that false notions respecting liberty are strangely common. People talk of liberty as if it meant the liberty of doing what a man likes. The only liberty that a man worthy the name of a man ought to ask for, is to have all restrictions, inward and outward, removed, which prevent his doing what he ought. I call that man free, who is master of his lower appetites, who is able to rule himself. I call him free, who has his flesh in subjection to his spirit; who fears doing wrong, but who fears neither man nor devil besides. I think that man free, who has learned the most blessed of all truths, that liberty consists in obedience to the power and to the will and to the law that his higher soul reverences and approves. He is not free because he does what he likes, for in his better moments his soul protests against the act, and rejects the authority of the passion which commanded him, as an usurping force, and tyranny. He feels that he is a slave to his own unhallowed passions. But he is free when he does what he ought, because there is no protest in his soul against that submission.

Some people seem to think that there is no liberty in obedience. I tell you there is no liberty except in loyal obedience—the obedience of the unconstrained affections, Did you never see a mother kept at home, a kind of prisoner, by her sick child, obeying its every wish and caprice, passing the night sleepless? Will you call the mother a slave? Or is this obedience the obedience of slavery? I call it obedience of the highest liberty, the liberty of love.

 

Sir George Cornewall Lewis, 2nd Baronet  (1806 – 1863) was a British statesman and man of letters.

Sir George Cornewall Lewis, 2nd Baronet  (1806 – 1863) was a British statesman and man of letters.

Lewis, George Cornwall. 1877. Remarks on the Use and Abuse of Some Political Terms, new ed. James Thornton: Oxford.

[141-142] It is sometimes imagined that all laws are a restraint on liberty; and that liberties, such as that of moving a man's body, or tilling his own field, are fragments of original natural liberty, which have been left untouched by the encroachments of the legislature, and which man would enjoy without the existence of a government. … In this view, liberty is made to seem independent of law, and all law as an abridgment of liberty. There is, indeed, no doubt that a wandering savage, who has occupied a plot of ground, possesses the power of using his limbs, and cultivating his land: but to suppose that these liberties are, under a settled government, only spared by the legislature, and not created and secured by it, betrays a complete misapprehension of the nature of legal rights, and the acts of a sovereign body. Under an established government, no absence of law can be beneficial; because every act which may be done by man must be either permitted or prohibited by the legislature. … All acts of persons living under an established government must be either lawful or unlawful; if they are unlawful, the law prohibits them from being done; if lawful, the law authorises them to be done, and guarantees the enjoyment of the right or liberty which it confers. Therefore, in a state of society, all liberty arises from the existence, and is secured by the protection, of law. The liberty of speaking, or of moving, is as much a right conferred by law, as the right of suing on a bill of exchange, or of arresting a debtor; for without law there would be no security for its enjoyment.

[144-146] Liberty, therefore, may mean both the possession of rights and immunity from duties; in both of which senses it appears to be taken by those who make liberty the end of government; i.e. they make it consist in the enjoyment of all beneficial rights, and the absence of all pernicious duties. From this explanation, however, it is at once seen that liberty cannot be the ultimate end of government, as there must be some measure by which the expediency and inexpediency of these several rights and duties is to be estimated. Persons who employ this phraseology are perhaps liable to be misled, by considering only the negative side of liberty, into an opinion that the removal of all restrictions is desirable, and that the goodness of a government is to be estimated by the absence of regulation. … It is such an absence of restrictions, abolished merely for the sake of promoting liberty, without any regard to the public good, that is termed licentiousness (when that word has a political sense), and sometimes improperly, anarchy, which word, though properly it means an absence or privation of government, is often used figuratively to express an insufficiency of restraint.


Theodore Dwight Woolsey (1801 – 1889) was an American academic, author and president of Yale College from 1846 through 1871.

Theodore Dwight Woolsey (1801 – 1889) was an American academic, author and president of Yale College from 1846 through 1871.

Woolsey, Theodore Dwight. 1877. Political Science of the State Theoretically and Practically Considered, Vol. I. Charles Scribners and Sons: New York.

[34n.] Mr. Bentham says in his rationale of punishment, that ‘Liberty being a negative idea (exemption from obligation), it follows that the loss of liberty is a positive idea.’ Is it not equally true, liberty being a positive idea (including the rights of free action), that the loss of liberty is a negative idea (viz., the absence, the actual non-existence of civil rights). The status of the slave consists in the loss of various free movements, one of which alone, the right of locomotion in an unrestricted degree, would destroy the slavery.

Would it not be better to say that a right is a power of acting in a certain specific way, and that as the sum of these powers constitutes liberty, the loss of liberty is the loss of the powers of acting in many specific ways, which loss certainly, and not liberty, is the true negation.

 

Browning, T. B. 1878. “Communism,” The Canadian Monthly 8(4): 478-488.

[484] We look on liberty as something to be enjoyed apart from governmental interference, and define it as an absence from restraint. In Greece and Rome, liberty was differently viewed. As the clansman had no status or right beyond his clan, the citizen had no liberty outside his city. To him liberty meant citizenship—the rights, privileges, and suffrages of a citizen; in fine, what the Romans called the civitas. When a Greek or Roman lost the civitas, he lost his liberty; when he regained the civitas, he recovered his liberty. To him liberty was a positive, tangible benefit, conferring on its possessor certain esteemed privileges; to-day it is a negative attribute, which may be summed up in the impossible words, ‘Laissez faire.’ Our liberty is looked upon as an abstraction which, now and then, especially in poetry, becomes clothed in the robes of the ancient world.

 

Lorimer, James. 1880. The Institutes of Law. William Blackwood and Sons: London

[368-369] If you analyse liberty you will find order, just as if you analyse order you will find liberty. Perfect order is liberty; perfect liberty is order. … The principle that the perfection of legislative, as of all other machinery, consists in its simplicity, and that so soon as a law becomes needless it becomes injurious, —a stumbling-stone in the way to liberty, an impediment in our progress towards the realization of the final end of life, —was the great discovery of the eighteenth century. … Theoretically, as we have seen, it led even men like Kant so to limit the sphere of legislation as to lose sight of its positive side; and this error speedily opened the door to the still more formidable conclusion that the negative side of it must be repudiated also. … The only answer, then, to a train of reasoning which has led to far graver results than even the substitution of order for liberty, consists in the denial that license ever is liberty in excess, or can, in any circumstances, stand to it in the relation even of a condition.

[371] Subjective liberty is something more than the mere negation of objective restraint. It is only by the help, the active aid and co-operation, of the object that the subject can be free; and were I to succeed, not only in robbing you of your liberty, but in annihilating the whole objective world, I should be more limited by my own impotence, more enslaved by myself, than I could possibly be by its encroachments.

 

Thomas Hill Green (1836 –  1882) was an English philosopher, political radical and temperance reformer, and a member of the British idealism movement. Like all the British idealists, Green was influenced by the metaphysical historicism of G.W.F. Hegel. He was one of the thinkers behind the philosophy of social liberalism.

Thomas Hill Green (1836 –  1882) was an English philosopher, political radical and temperance reformer, and a member of the British idealism movement. Like all the British idealists, Green was influenced by the metaphysical historicism of G.W.F. Hegel. He was one of the thinkers behind the philosophy of social liberalism.

Green, Thomas Hill. [1881] 1888. “Liberal Legislation and Freedom of Contract” in Works of Thomas Hill Green, Vol. III, edited by Richard Lewis Nettleship. Longmans, Green, and Co.: London.

[373] No contract is valid in which human persons, willingly or unwillingly, are dealt with as commodities, because such contracts of necessity defeat the end for which alone society enforces contracts at all. Are there no other contracts which, less obviously perhaps but really, are open to the same objection? In the first place, let us consider contracts affecting labour. Labour, the economist tells us, is a commodity exchangeable like other commodities. This is in a certain sense true, but it is a commodity which attaches in a peculiar manner to the person of man. Hence restrictions may need to be placed on the sale of this commodity which would be unnecessary in other cases, in order to prevent labour from being sold under conditions which make it impossible for the person selling it ever to become a free contributor to social good in any form. This is most plainly the case when a man bargains to work under conditions fatal to health, e.g. in an unventilated factory. Every injury to the health of the individual is, so far as it goes, a public injury. It is an impediment to the general freedom; so much deduction from our power, as members of society, to make the best of ourselves. Society is, therefore, plainly within its right when it limits freedom of contract for the sale of labour, so far as is done by our laws for the sanitary regulations of factories, workshops, and mines. It is equally within its right in prohibiting the labour of women and young persons beyond certain hours. If they work beyond those hours, the result is demonstrably physical deterioration; which, as demonstrably, carries with it a lowering of the moral forces of society. For the sake of that general freedom of its members to make the best of themselves, which it is the object of civil society to secure, a prohibition should be put by law, which is the deliberate voice of society, on all such contracts of service as in a general way yield such a result. The purchase or hire of unwholesome dwellings is properly forbidden on the same principle. Its application to compulsory education may not be quite so obvious, but it will appear on a little reflection.

 

Anonymous. 1881. “The Liberty of Law,” FriendsIntelligencer 38(38): 599.

[599] A Friend sends us the following condensation of a late discourse of Phillips Brooks, of Boston, deeming that the sentiments expressed are so fully in accord with the general line of thought in the Society of Friends as to be suitable for our columns.

‘That the reign of just law is the highest form of freedom, and that such a government has been pointed out by the apostle James as that of ‘the law of liberty,is so well known as scarcely to need assertion; yet, according to the conceptions and the experience of a large part of the human race, law is the restraint of liberty and liberty is the abrogation of law. … But we may justly claim that if liberty is taken in its highest meaning, that is, the ability of a living being to manifest its whole nature, without restraint, and law as an expression of the absolute right, then the perfect or normal being is found to be in accord with the perfect law, and such law becomes entire and perfect liberty. … The law of liberty, which has its source in his free moral character, takes its place. He is obedience, and so obeys. He is love, and so a thousand loving acts strew the calm pathway where her descending years must walk.’ …

The righteous is impelled to rectitude by the indwelling Deity who possesses him. He speaks, acts and thinks right simply because he is right, and no other course is possible to him. Liberty is positive, not merely negative—working, living and struggling, being driven by a princely compulsion to everything that is good.

 

William Edward Hearn (1826 –1888) was an Irish university professor and politician. He was one of the four original professors at the University of Melbourne and became the first Dean of the University's Law School.

William Edward Hearn (1826 –1888) was an Irish university professor and politician. He was one of the four original professors at the University of Melbourne and became the first Dean of the University's Law School.

Hearn, William Edward. 1883. The Theory of Legal Duties and Rights. Trubner and Co.: London.

[28] These limitations upon the powers of the State, both as regards their extent and their direction, constitute that which is termed political liberty. It is idle to suppose that liberty consists in the total absence of all restraint. Such a state of things is anarchy, and anarchy is not liberty. Political liberty implies such a well-ordered arrangement of the political organs that both the combined action which is sought shall be secured, and that the reasonable limits of that action shall not be exceeded.

 

Hosmer, George Washington. 1883. The People and Politics. Trubner and Co.: London.

[277] Liberty is the permission that the state accords to the individual to act on his own volitions. Commonly used as a positive term, and in opposition to a definite negative of the absence of liberty; it is none the less a relative term; that is to say, liberty is not present or absent absolutely, but relatively; it is greater or less in different states, according to the system and theory on which they are organized. It is never altogether absent. There is no state in which the people are not free as to some acts; and from the little liberty they have where they are least free, every gradation is to be found up to that large indulgence of individual impulses which only discriminates as to their sanity, or as to their inclusion in recognized categories of crime.

[280] Every society, every political community, stands on the assumption that the existence of men in communities is desirable. Opposed to this assumption is the idea of the so-called ‘natural liberty.’ Natural liberty depends upon the personal power of the individual; it is enjoyed or lost in the indulgence of those violences the correction and prevention of which is the main service that the state does to the many. Natural liberty, therefore, is yielded and given up in favor of that greater good—the organization of the political community. It is the estate of primitive humanity, part of the capital which is put into the hands of the government to be administered for the benefit of the whole; no individual has a claim to any portion save by designated instalments which the law accords as occasions may justify; and the instalments thus paid out are not natural liberty, for the natural condition has passed away, but civil or political liberty.

Coercion of individual impulses is the origin of states. Liberty, therefore, in its first extreme, is absolutely suppressed by the formation of the state; and that sort of original or ‘naturalliberty can only come under discussion in a train of ideas which disputes the advantage of the existence of men in communities; but that, as we have noted, is untenable ground, because every community assumes the advantage of its existence as a primary postulate. As related to politics and civilized communities, we can only discuss such liberty as exists, or can exist within a state, therefore not the moonshine of so-called natural liberty.

 

Kay, David. 1883. Education and Educators. Kegan Paul, Trench and Co.: London.

[241-243] We deem it necessary to say something here on the subject of liberty, the true nature of which is yet far from being generally understood; and some of the views that are prevalent respecting it are, in our opinion, detrimental to the improvement and spread of education. It is frequently advanced as an argument against any interference by the State in the matter of education, or, at least against the adoption of any form of compulsion with regard to it, that it is opposed to the ‘liberty of the subject.’ If we were to question those who use this argument as to the exact meaning intended to be conveyed by these words, they would probably fail to enlighten us. The terms ‘libertyand ‘subjectmutually restrict and limit each other. So far as one is subject he has not liberty, and so far as he has liberty he is not subject. The wild beast that roams the forest at will has liberty, as has also the untutored savage, who knows or acknowledges no will but his own, but when he becomes civilized, and comes to live in community, he must yield up a portion of his liberty in return for protection, mutual aid, and the other advantages that flow from living in society.

[249] We cannot, therefore, regard liberty as some do, as if no truth had been discovered, no knowledge had been attained, and that each should therefore have full liberty to experiment for himself, and to hold and advocate any opinions he may think right, however false or pernicious they may be deemed to be. Such views are contrary to reason, and subversive of all good government.

 

Medley, Dudley Julius. 1884. Socialism as a Moral Movement. B. H. Blackwell: Oxford.

[21-22] The spirit of individualism has fostered, more especially among the lower classes, a great belief in natural liberty. It is this belief which, as has already been pointed out, has achieved all the triumphs of modern liberal legislation, and which still promises, if kept within reasonable limits, to continue its schemes of judicious and consistent reform.

And if this is the dealing of Socialism with the negative liberty, what is likely to be its effect on the positive self-reliance? This touches the very centre of the principle of State interference. It has been acknowledged again and again already by English law, that the right of State interference extends over those who are powerless to protect themselves. What else is the meaning of the Factory and Education Acts? And unless we are to allow the principle of Competition to stamp out all that remains in us of humanity and sympathy for the weak, all those better instincts to which our higher nature makes appeal, we are bound to acknowledge the strict justice of such action.

 

Gronlund, Laurence. 1884. The Cooperative Commonwealth. Lee and Shepaud: Boston.

[100-101] Everybody calls not being oppressed, ‘liberty.’ That is undoubtedly an indispensable, and yet, as has been said, a most insignificant fractional part of human freedom. Then, again, we mean by ‘liberty,not being restrained; being ‘at liberty’ to do this or that. Now, that may be a good, thing, or otherwise. Whether it be the one or the other depends entirely upon the answer to the question To do what?

To be ‘at liberty’ to be a tramp, or to die of starvation, or to steal, or to be lodged in a jail, are not good things. We sometimes find a great lout in a railroad car who thinks he is ‘at liberty’ to spread himself over four seats, but occasionally he finds that he is not; that he must take his feet down and sit along. The liberty of this lout is the ‘libertywhich our shrewd, grasping, vulgar autocrats glorify, for it means the predominance of their interests over everybody's else interests, — over the general welfare. It is in the name of that ‘libertythat all fleecing is done.

 

Amos, Sheldon. 1885. The Science of Law. D. Appleton and Co.: New York.

[90-91] It is necessary here, however, to interpose a caution. At the first birth of a nation the growth of individual liberty is the only test of the possibility of moral and social life. Yet when the conception of liberty has been definitely framed, and the enjoyment of it has once been so largely diffused as to secure the permanence of the State, then the occasional loss of liberty in the case of individual citizens is not only compatible with the highest moral attainment in them, but may prove the condition for their loftiest development. Even here, however, the loss of liberty, to the extent to which it exists, implies a degradation of the State, and, if persisted in, can only lead to its dissolution. … ‘Liberty,’ indeed, is in itself only a negative term, and denotes the absence of restraint. But it also connotes a positive condition of the most momentous sort. It implies rest, meditation, imagination, slow and steady culture of the faculties, combinations and associations for all sorts of purposes, and especially that slowly-formed belief in the certain power of carrying resolutions into action, on which so much of human strength and greatness depends. ‘Liberty,then, on its positive side, denotes the fulness of individual existence. On its negative side it denotes the necessary restraint on all which is needed to promote the greatest possible amount of liberty for each.

 

Green, Thomas Hill. 1885. Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation. Longmans, Green, and Co.: London.

[n.18] Laws of this kind have often been objected to on the strength of a one-sided view of the function of laws; the view, viz., that its only business is to prevent interference with the liberty of the individual. And this view has gained undue favour on account of the real reforms to which it has led. The laws which it has helped to get rid of were really mischievous, but mischievous for further reasons than those conceived of by the supporters of this theory. Having done its work, the theory now tends to become obstructive, because in fact advancing civilisation brings with it more and more interference with the liberty of the individual to do as he likes, and this theory affords a reason for resisting all positive reforms, all reforms which involve an action of the state in the way of promoting conditions favourable to moral life.

 

Montague, Francis C. 1885. The Limits of Individual Liberty. Rivingtons: London.

[12-13] In the first place, the state has recently interfered enormously with the natural distribution of wealth. … These departures from the policy of former times, although regretted by many, are held by almost all to have been inevitable. Nobody doubts that they will be followed by innovations of the same kind, but upon a scale heretofore unknown. Nobody can justify them upon old-fashioned principles of liberty.

[15] But the party of progress are still embarrassed by exhausted traditions and obsolete watchwords. They are Liberals; Liberals are friends of liberty; and liberty means that everybody should do as he likes. Such freedom we may allow to be in some degree a requisite of all intelligent or moral life; but just now, and in England, it is not the thing most wanted, or the thing which rational Liberals should most strenuously endeavour to supply.

 

Politicus. 1886. New Social Teachings. Kegan Paul, Trench, and Co.: London.

[138-139] The compulsory sale of land for railways is an accomplished instance of curtailed freedom of ownership. But do these actual or possible restrictions reduce the quantum of liberty which the Individualist desires to maintain at the highest? It is an obvious fact that livelihoods can only be gained by access to the soil, and that just in so far as land is excluded from the hand of cultivation, either to secure more rent or to support game, so far is the labourer prevented from earning his living in the only way which nature has afforded to man. Could there not be a reduction of freedom if the landowners conspired to withdraw the whole of the land, except what they needed for their own sustenance, from cultivation? The reduction would then amount to a destruction, for the power to live would be withheld. Thus utter freedom for one class passes into perfect despotism for others. The legislation contemplated does not reduce freedom, but distributes it, that it may be more equally possessed. Again, the retailer is prohibited from adulteration of certain articles; but this restriction on the seller is an added freedom to the purchaser, who, unable to analyse the goods he buys, could never obtain the article he wanted, but only that commodity mixed with others. Now his liberty is increased.

[163-164] Whence is this liberty which stands chief among the alleged abstract ‘rights of man’? The answer is, that liberty is possible only in society. The Individualist conception of man as descending into society possessed of a liberty which shrinks as he arrives, is so far from the truth that without society free action is impossible.

 

Lacy, George. 1888. Liberty and Law. Swan Sonnenschein, Lowrey & Co.: London.

[29] The conception presumed to be conveyed when the word Liberty is made use of has rarely been submitted to actual definition. It seems to have been tacitly assumed that there could be no possibility of doubt as the real nature of Liberty, and that any definition or description would be a mere waste of words.

[53] Liberty is thus a pure abstraction… And thus, whenever we look in nature…we find no such thing as action undetermined by surrounding conditions; no such thing as Liberty. All we find…is Law.

[58] The conception of Liberty apparently cherished by great numbers of people is a pure abstraction, having no significance whatever if applied to conditioned things, or in other words, if applied to material or spiritual phenomena. The only intelligible meaning that can be given to it is that of the absence from some particular restraint of some particular section of society. To talk, therefore, of Liberty as a general principle, without any special reference to some special restraints, is to talk nonsense.

[72] All a law can secure is justice, it can never secure liberty, in the common meaning of the term; to assert as much is to affirm a direct contradiction in terms. To assert that liberty is secured when one man's freedom is enlarged by the restraint of that of another man, is a playing with words the hypocrisy of which no cause can justify.

[99] It would be useless to attempt to marshall any objections against this axiom that Liberty is the freedom to do what the Law permits.

[115] This, then, is our final verdict in respect of Liberty and Law as applied to human societies: Liberty is the freedom to do what the Law permits; and Law is human Reason.

[133] Man, therefore, as an individual, has a natural right to his life, his life including, in virtue of its nature, food, clothing, and shelter. Beyond this he has no natural rights, for the simple reason that here his possibilities cease. As there are no self-regarding actions, all his acts are social acts, and must be considered in his capacity as a citizen of a State, and not in his capacity as an individual.

As a citizen of a State he clearly has further natural rights. A State is not an accident, it is not a fortuitous concourse of atoms; it is an organism evolved by natural law, whose existence, like the existence of all other organisms, depends upon the harmonious interaction of its constituent atoms. The constituent atoms are individuals, and as the lives of these depend upon the life of the greater organism, they, as units of the State, have a primary right to demand that this harmonious interaction, by which alone the State can be preserved, should be enforced. In other words, they, as citizens of a State, have a natural right to demand that the interests of individuals should be so adjusted as to preserve perfect harmony in social communion, and to prevent any clashing of rival interests —in short, so that the interests of each should be in reality the interest of all, and the interests of all the interest of each. That is to say, that they, as citizens of a State, have a natural right to JUSTICE. This then is the word I propose to substitute for that much abused word Liberty.

[146-147] For with the majority of people conceptions of Justice are of the crudest, and have no philosophical basis. Mr. Spencer has been shown to derive his ideas of Liberty directly from the primary principle of Justice, but I hope to show that Justice is the very antithesis of Liberty, and that it is an absolute impossibility for the two to exist side by side. …Mr. Spencer has no such scruples. Justice and Liberty mean with him the supreme authority of strength and private property. ‘The hard creditor is,’ he says, ‘in strict justice entitled to the uttermost farthing.There is no limitation here: if the debtor dies in consequence, so much the worse for him; he dies in the sacred cause of Justice and Liberty. In the extraordinary maze which Mr. Spencer has planted for himself, and which he calls ‘limited by the similar liberty of others,he has apparently lost sight of the liberty of the unfortunate debtor, unless it should be his liberty to pay the uttermost farthing, whether he dies in consequence or not.

[151] To return to the point; it is Justice that must rule democracies, not that abstraction so many fall down and worship under the name of Liberty. Justice is the harmonious interaction of the individual atoms of the social organism, the organic action of the organism. Each atom mutually assists the others, and in the harmonious interaction thus set up consists the healthy life and solidarity of the organism. Each atom, equal in its rights to all other atoms, if not equal in fact, falls naturally into its place, and performs that part of the work of the organism which belongs to it, and the totality of which forms the life of the organism. Liberty, in the sense of freedom from particular restraints, is not thereby denied to the individual units; on the contrary, by no other means can it be secured in an equal degree.

[154-155] It is the greatest of all fallacies to suppose that liberty can be accorded to one person, or to one class without at the same time restricting the freedom of all other individuals, and all other classes. If one person is allowed to possess a certain thing, all other persons are restrained from possessing it; and if one class of persons (as landowners) is allowed to possess a certain thing, all other classes are restrained from possessing it… The liberty of the capitalist is the slavery of the wage earner.

[162] I have already dealt with the farce of ‘freedom of contract,’ and it will be found that the famous ‘equal liberty of allis of the same character. The liberty of the wage-earner to fight against capital is like the liberty of a man to sweep back the tide with a broom—he is quite at liberty to do it, but it is a physical impossibility for him to succeed.

[164] The formula of the Individualists is that each has liberty to do as he pleases, limited by the like liberty of all others. Now the least consideration must surely show that the only meaning that can be extracted from this is the realisation of a condition of things in which individual liberty is restricted in a degree greater than that under any form of government not an actual oligarchy. When the king is supreme all are slaves; when the nobles rise the range of freedom from special restraint is widened; still more so when the landowners join them; and more yet when the capitalists join the landowners, nobles, and king. But under the individualist formula no one is exempt from these particular restraints. If the liberty of each to do as he likes is limited by the liberty of all others to do as they like, then it must be clear that no one with certainty can do as he likes, for others might like to prevent him, and others in their turn like to prevent these from preventing the others, and so on, ad infinitum. It is the most outrageous jumble the mind of man ever conceived.

[165] Limited by the like liberty of all others cannot mean merely the liberty to try, but must mean the liberty to do. If it is only the liberty to try it is merely the liberty of the strong to crush the weak, to which no straightforward man would apply the term liberty.

 

Anonymous. 1889. “French and English Jacobinism,” The Quarterly Review 168(336): 532-558.

[550] We too in England have had our Revolution in these latter days. But it has been, in the Duke of Wellington's happy words, ‘a Revolution in due course of law.’ With us liberty has ‘slowly broadened down,during the present century; liberty not in the merely negative, but in the positive sense. As the conditions of our national life have changed, so have the forms changed, in adaptation to those conditions.

 

Philip Schaff (1819 – 1893), was a Swiss-born, German-educated Protestant theologian and a Church historian who spent most of his adult life living and teaching in the United States.

Philip Schaff (1819 – 1893), was a Swiss-born, German-educated Protestant theologian and a Church historian who spent most of his adult life living and teaching in the United States.

Schaff, Philip. 1889. Church and State in the United States. Charles Scribners Sons: New York.

[15] Finally—and this we would emphasize as especially important in our time, —the American system differs radically and fundamentally from the infidel and red-republican theory of religious freedom. The word freedom is one of the most abused words in the vocabulary. True liberty is a positive force, regulated by law; false liberty is a negative force, a release from restraint. True liberty is the moral power of self-government; the liberty of infidels and anarchists is carnal licentiousness. The American separation of church and state rests on respect for the church; the infidel separation, on indifference and hatred of the church, and of religion itself.

 

Sidney James Webb, 1st Baron Passfield  (1859 –  1947) was a British socialist, economist, reformer and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. He was one of the early members of the Fabian Society in 1884, along with George Bernard Shaw.

Sidney James Webb, 1st Baron Passfield  (1859 –  1947) was a British socialist, economist, reformer and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. He was one of the early members of the Fabian Society in 1884, along with George Bernard Shaw.

Webb, Sidney. 1889. “The Historic Basis of Socialism” Fabian Essays in Socialism edited by G. Bernard Shaw. The Fabian Society: London.

[40] Individual liberty, in the sense of freedom to privately appropriate the means of production, reached its maximum at the commencement of the century. No sentimental regulations hindered the free employment of land and capital to the greatest possible pecuniary gain of the proprietors, however many lives of men, women and children were used up in the process. Ignorant or unreflecting capitalists still speak of that terrible time with exultation.  ‘It was not five per cent or ten per cent, says one, ‘but thousands per cent that made the fortunes of Lancashire.

Mr. Herbert Spencer and those who agree in his worship of Individualism, apparently desire to bring back the legal position which made possible the ‘white slaveryof which the ‘sins of legislatorshave deprived us; but no serious attempt has ever been made to get repealed any one of the Factory Acts.

 

Anonymous. 1889. “French and English Jacobism,” The Quarterly Review 168(336): 532-558.

[535] But, at the outset, we are confronted with another question: what do we mean by human liberty? Shall we with Mr. Herbert Spencer, take ‘real freedom’ to ‘consist in the ability of each to carry on his own life without hindrance from others, so long as he does not hinder them?Surely that is a most inadequate conception of ‘real freedom.For such freedom is merely negative. It has no root in itself. It is the freedom of the wild beast, the savage; physical, not rational; chaotic, not constructive. Real freedom, positive liberty, means a great deal more than that: it means the possession of an interior rule, of a moral curb. It is the endowment which specially distinguishes the civilized man. It is the peculiar product, the chief object of polity.”

[550] “We too in England have had our Revolution in these latter days. But it has been, in the Duke of Wellingtons happy words, ‘a Revolution in due course of law.With us liberty has ‘slowly broadened down,during the present century; liberty not in the merely negative, but in the positive sense. As the conditions of our national life have changed, so have the forms changed, in adaptation to those conditions.

 

John William Burgess (1844 –  1931) was a pioneering American political scientist. He spent most of his career at Columbia University and is regarded as having been the most influential political scientist of the period.

John William Burgess (1844 –  1931) was a pioneering American political scientist. He spent most of his career at Columbia University and is regarded as having been the most influential political scientist of the period.

Burgess, John W. 1890. Political Science and Comparative Constitutional Law, Vol. I: Sovereignty and Liberty. Gin and Co.: Boston.

[174-177] Individual liberty has a front and a reverse, a positive and a negative side. Regarded upon the negative side, it contains immunities, upon the positive, rights; i.e. viewed from the side of public law, it contains immunities, from the side of private law, rights. The whole idea is that of a domain in which the individual is referred to his own will and upon which government shall neither encroach itself, nor permit encroachments from any other quarter. Let the latter part of the definition be carefully remarked. I said it is a domain into which government shall not penetrate. It is not, however, shielded from the power of the state. … Therefore we affirm that the state is the source of individual liberty. The revolutionists of the eighteenth century said that individual liberty was natural right; that it belonged to the individual as a human being, without regard to the state or society in which, or the government under which, he lived. But it is easy to see that this view is utterly impracticable and barren; for, if neither the state, nor the society nor the government defines the sphere of individual autonomy and constructs its boundaries, then the individual himself will be left to do these things, and that is anarchy pure and simple. …

We may express the most modern principle as follows: The individual, both for his own highest development and the highest welfare of the society and state in which he lives, should act freely within a certain sphere; the impulse to such action is a universal quality of human nature; but the state, the ultimate sovereign, is alone able to define the elements of individual liberty, limit its scope and protect its enjoyment. The individual is thus defended in this sphere against the government, by the power that makes and maintains and can destroy the government; and by the same power, through the government, against encroachments from every other quarter. Against that power itself, however, he has no defence. It can give and it can take away. The individual may ask for liberties which it has not granted, and even prove to the satisfaction of the general consciousness that he ought to have them; but until it grants them he certainly has them not. The ultimate sovereignty, the state, cannot be limited either by individual liberty or governmental powers; and this it would be if individual liberty had its source outside of the state. This is the only view which can reconcile liberty with law, and preserve both in proper balance. Every other view sacrifices the one to the other.

 

Ernest Belfort Bax (1854 –  1926) was an English socialist journalist and philosopher, associated with the Social Democratic Federation (SDF).

Ernest Belfort Bax (1854 –  1926) was an English socialist journalist and philosopher, associated with the Social Democratic Federation (SDF).

Bax, Ernest Belfort. 1891. The Religion of Socialism. Swann Sonnenschein and Co.: London.

[111] There are certain catchwords which have a marvellous charm to calm the breast political, a magic power to levitate the mind captivated by them, out of the regions of mere argument and recognition of facts. Such a hold do these words and the deified abstractions they cover have on the average man of the nineteenth century, that they and they alone are worshipped as the ultimate manifestation of goodness, beauty, and truth. To be opposed to these abstractions is to be condemned as blasphemous against the first principles of rectitude, moral and political.

Let us take Liberty. What a charming phrase that is, what a word to conjure with! What a thrill can be evoked from an average audience by the tub-thumper who waves his hand and pronounces the magic formula ‘liberty of conscienceor ‘liberty of contract.Little recks the applauding bourgeois whether he has the living reality itself, or merely the empty hull from which the soul has long since fled. Little recks he whether the thing he clasps be human or not. Liberty as expressed in Liberty of contract, of conscience, etc., as understood by the bourgeois of to-day, has been dead wellnigh this three centuries and buried since the French Revolution; the shibboleth that now stalks in its semblance is its vampire, and, like other vampires, it has but one function, to suck the life-blood from its living kin—real liberty.

[113] ‘Liberty’ in the sense of the orthodox economist is, then, in brief, an empty abstraction which stands in flagrant antagonism to the real, the concrete liberty of the Socialist. The abstract liberty of the economist is the liberty to die quickly of starvation or slowly of the same. The Socialist knows no such liberty as this. He cares not for the liberty to change masters with identical conditions in either case; he cares not for the liberty to refuse work and starve quickly or accept it and starve slowly. He would be glad to see such liberty for ever abolished. The liberty he values is the concrete liberty for individuality to assert itself, the leisure or freedom from work and care which is essential thereto, and which, with comfortable circumstances and good surroundings, make up the sine qua non of all real liberty. Thus the ‘libertywhich to the mind of the latter Middle Ages was an ideal, and which became a real in the earlier phases of the modern world, has evaporated to a sham in the world of to-day.


Bax, Ernest Belfort. 1891. Outlooks from the New Standpoint. Swan Sonnenschein and Co.: London.

[66] What is the crucial distinction between Liberalism or Radicalism and Socialism? This is a question very often asked. That they are actually often opposed is not to be denied. But the general opinion among advanced Liberals seems to be that Liberalism, if its principles are thoroughly carried out, is not in any necessary conflict with Socialism. We propose to examine this position with special reference to the economic basis respectively of Liberalism and Socialism. The Liberal party has always claimed to be the party of progress, to be the exponent of the progressive lines of social and political development at a given epoch, and, as such, to be opposed to the party of reaction. This may be termed the negative side of Liberal theory, and so long as it maintains this attitude as the party in the vanguard of progress, it must necessarily become identical with Socialism—i.e., from the standpoint of Socialists. But here comes the crux. If Liberalism becomes identified with Socialism, it surrenders bodily all that has hitherto formed the positive side of its theory, and, indeed, what has hitherto given it the reason of its being. It has up till now placed the freedom of the individual as the professed aim of all its measures, and as its basal principle. But does not Socialism also aim at the freedom of the individual we shall be asked? Certainly. But the question is, what do Liberals (for the most part) understand by their freedom of the individual, or individual liberty, and why have they always made it such a strong point in their political faith? The answer is, they meant by individual liberty, first and foremost, the liberty of private property as such, to be uncontrolled in its operations by aught else than the will of the individual possessing it. What was cared for was not so much the liberty of the individual as the liberty of private property. The liberty of the individual as such was secondary. It was as the possessor and controller of property that it was specially desired to assure his liberty. Indeed, in the extreme form of  ‘Liberal’ theory and practice, as embodied in modern legislation, the individual appears merely as the adjunct of property.

[69-70] But I shall hope to show, further, that progress has now turned a corner, so to speak; that the removal of all hindrances to the acquirement of wealth other than what is based upon conscious fraud or open force; that the absolute right of the individual over the property he has acquired or inherited—in short, that security and freedom in the tenure of private property is no longer synonymous with individual liberty, but often with its opposite; that individual liberty now demands the curtailment and the eventual extinction of the liberty of private property, and that Liberalism, in so far as it aims at maintaining the liberty of private property, is reactionary and false to the principle which it has always implicitly or explicitly maintained, of the right of each and every individual to a full and free development. In so far as Liberalism does this, in so far as it assumes as axiomatic a state of society based on unrestricted freedom of private property, and proceeds to adjust social arrangements solely or primarily in the interests of the owners of private property—in so far, Liberalism and Socialism are death enemies. Liberalism has been negatively described by Sir Henry James as being alike opposed to Toryism and Democracy, and this is, I think, no unfair description of Liberalism during this century. Liberalism has historically opposed itself alike to Toryism, landed interest, and democracy, working-class interest, whenever that interest appeared as a distinct political party. It has been the political creed of the middle-classes, which has used the war-shout of individual liberty as a means for the acquirement of individual property. The individual liberty now desired by the Socialist is the liberty of the individual as man, and no longer his liberty as mere property-holder.

[77] Liberalism was therefore now entering upon a new phase. The middle-class was beginning to see that its interest lay in a fuller carrying-out of its ground-principles, rather than as heretofore in their merely tentative and limited application. The working-man, like everyone else, must be freed from artificial restraints in the acquirement of wealth, must be allowed free liberty to make what contract he pleased; this was the claim, at least, of the more advanced section of the party. He must be made equal before the law. Now the working-man for a long time heeded the music of the Liberal syren. Chartism went to pieces. The new Liberalism carried all before it.

[77] We come now to our own day; we see now what was at one time an advanced wing of the Liberal party become the main strength of that party. Every representative Liberal is now prepared to go the whole length in the direction of individual liberty as founded upon a property basis. He is prepared to grant the full liberty of every individual to acquire property and to control property. But he is seldom prepared to go beyond this. The primary fact with him is still not the liberty of the individual man, but his liberty as property-holder. Now as we have said, before the rise of the great machine industry, even as late as the [78] last century, when work depended on skill and the individual workman still possessed his own tools, when in short a man could reckon upon making a tolerable livelihood at most times and in most places, the contradiction between individual liberty simpliciter and individual liberty secundum quid—that is, on the condition of possessing and controlling property—was not developed as it is to-day.

[81] It is sometimes said liberty is inseparable from property, and I agree. But the individualism of private property has to-day landed us in a state of things in which the majority have no certain property at all, and therefore on the individualist's own showing the majority are deprived of liberty. Liberty, in any society, is inseparable from property. Good, but this does not say it is inseparable from private property. It does not say that it is not in antagonism to private property as we contend it is, in any case, where that private property is used for the social functions of production and distribution. No! liberty may be inseparable from property, but nowadays it is assuredly inseparable from the common holding of property by the community.


David George Ritchie (1853 – 1903) was a Scottish philosopher who had a distinguished university career at Edinburgh, and Balliol College, Oxford. He was later elected professor of logic and metaphysics at St Andrews.

David George Ritchie (1853 – 1903) was a Scottish philosopher who had a distinguished university career at Edinburgh, and Balliol College, Oxford. He was later elected professor of logic and metaphysics at St Andrews.

Ritchie, David George. 1891. Principles of State Interference. Swan Sonnenschein and Co.: London.

[84-85] To exalt liberty, in the sense of ‘absence of restraint,’ at the expense of restraint, is, as Sir James Fitzjames Stephen says, like praising the centrifugal force in the solar system and blaming the centripetal. Enthusiasm about a negation is enthusiasm thrown away. Sir. J. Fitzjames Stephen says much about liberty having this merely negative meaning. It has this meaning in Mills book, but in ordinary language it means very much more. The liberty for which men have fought, and suffered, and died, is not the mere negative abstraction of ‘being left alone.Political liberty means not mere absence of restraint, but freedom from arbitrary, illegal, unconstitutional, unwise restraint, and implies the positive side of subjection to good laws, which those who submit to them recognise as in some way made by themselves, whether directly, or through representatives, or by trusted rulers. Liberty in its positive sense may therefore mean the sovereignty of law, as distinct from the sovereignty of individuals; and if liberty comes to mean the absence of all law, we regard that as a corruption or degradation of liberty, and call it more properly ‘licence.Such merely negative ‘libertywould practically mean the tyranny of the strongest.

[85] In the negative sense of absence of restraint liberty is obviously not an end but only a means; and, where there is a better result to be got by leaving alone, there that policy is to be chosen.

[94] The evil of such a tyranny of opinion is, however, no necessary argument against State control. On the contrary, it is sometimes only by a more effective State action that the individual can be saved from excessive social pressure. It is well to fight opinion with its own weapons; but stronger arms are sometimes needed. Thus the State, in taking education from the hands of ecclesiastical bodies, or of close corporations, or at least by controlling such sects and corporations, interferes in behalf of individual liberty.

[95] But, as we have just seen, State interference may mean individual protection; the State may interfere in order to prevent some lesser body interfering. Cormpulsory education may be regarded as interference with the liberty of the parents, but it is interference in behalf of the liberty of the child. Interference with the freedom of bequest may be prevention of the tyranny of the ‘dead hand.’ Interference with freedom of contract may be protection of those who cannot protect themselves. That we can call a measure  ‘interferenceis no proof that the measure is bad; we may be interfering with what is bad. It is no proof even that individual liberty—even in its quite negative sense—is being diminished.

 

Thompson, Daniel Greenleaf. 1893. Politics in a Democracy. Longmans, Green and Co.: London.

[14] The principle of social existence under any theory can only allow to the individual so much liberty as consists with the common liberty. And, indeed, without social liberty it can readily be shown that individual liberty cannot be secured. To assure the common freedom there must be law, which must be obeyed and enforced. This is recognized under a democratic as under any other government.

 

Edward Bellamy (1850 –  1898) was an American author and socialist, most famous for his utopian novel, Looking Backward, a Rip Van Winkle-like tale set in the distant future of the year 2000.

Edward Bellamy (1850 –  1898) was an American author and socialist, most famous for his utopian novel, Looking Backward, a Rip Van Winkle-like tale set in the distant future of the year 2000.

Bellamy, Edward. 1893. “Some Talk About Judge Brewer's Address,” The New Nation 3(28): 345-346.

[346] The question to be settled is, how the economic government of this country, its system of production and distribution, is to be carried on, whether by individual initiative as now, or by popular government, the voice of the community, as nationalists propose. Judge Brewer assumes that the present system of private initiative means individual liberty. Does it? On the contrary, it means that a few thousand great capitalists, and perhaps a hundred thousand lesser ones run the country, with no more liberty, at best, for the remaining 65 millions than that of choosing their bosses and putting up with whatever terms they are offered unless they wish to starve to death. … It is queer that so intelligent a man should not have put this and that together and recognized that far from proposing an invasion of individual liberty, the socialistic idea owes all its wonderful popularity to the fact that the people see in it the only escape from the yoke of irresponsible private persons.

[346] Let us once again clearly state this matter. The present business system of so-called private initiative, which Judge Brewer confounds with individual liberty, means the control and management of all the wealth-produciug machinery of the country and the labor of its people, by capitalists who form an infintesimal fraction of the nation and who exercise their lordship solely for their private and personal advantage without any reference whatever to the general welfare. This system meets the strict definition of a tyranny. It corresponds historically very closely to the feudal system of the middle ages in Europe, when the country and its people were similarly lorded over and exploited by the chiefs and barons.

 

Bernard Bosanquet (1848– 1923) was an English philosopher and political theorist, and an influential figure on matters of political and social policy in late 19th and early 20th century Britain. His work influenced – but was later subject to criticism by – many thinkers, notably Bertrand Russell, John Dewey and William James.

Bernard Bosanquet (1848– 1923) was an English philosopher and political theorist, and an influential figure on matters of political and social policy in late 19th and early 20th century Britain. His work influenced – but was later subject to criticism by – many thinkers, notably Bertrand Russell, John Dewey and William James.

Bosanquet, Bernard. 1893. The Civilization of Christendom. Swan Sonnenschein and Co.: London.

[379] Thus, then, I repeat, liberty, in the plainest and simplest sense of the word, does not depend on the absence of legislation, but on the comprehensiveness and reasonableness of life.

 

Sprague, Franklin Monroe. 1893. Socialism from Genesis to Revelation. Lee and Shepard: Boston.

[172-174] Spencer, in his ‘Social Statics,’ says that ‘every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the like freedom of any other man.If this means anything, it means that you have freedom to kill and eat me, provided you do not interfere with my freedom to treat you in the same manner. It is a gospel of muscle. It is a demand, in the language of Mr. Mill, ‘for an equal chance to everybody to tyrannize,in which case, of course, the strong have it all their own way. Professor William G. Sumner reiterates the same vicious principle, in his definition of civil liberty, which is, ‘A status created for the indivdual, by laws and institutions, the effect of which is that each man is guaranteed the use of all his own powers exclusively for his own welfare.’ …

Blackstone says, ‘Civil liberty is natural liberty, so far restrained by human laws as is necessary and expedient for the public good. These two conceptions of civil liberty, both in statement and in their logical outcome, are as far apart as the poles of the earth. Blackstone puts emphasis upon the terms ‘restrained,’ ‘the public good;Professor Sumner lays stress upon the ‘individual,’ ‘each man,and ‘his own welfare.

This is individualism with a vengeance; it makes a part greater than the whole, and is both unphilosophical and unethical. This atomistic conception of civil liberty furnishes the foundation and justification of almost every species of social wrong.

[176] It does not seem to occur to these gentlemen in their zeal for capitalism, of which it is the main support, that such a right belongs only to men in a savage state, or that this principle allows one man or set of men to gobble up all the real and personal property in a community or nation provided they are smart enough. They assure us further that equality, rights, liberty pertain only to chance, not to results. … The only right ‘guaranteedhim, the ‘personal liberty...to secure his well-being in his own way,is the right and liberty of himself and family to starve or become pauperized. Thus the votaries of personal liberty feel the fires of industrial cannibalism.

[177] To-day the arch-enemy of society, of Christianity, of an advancing civilization, is personal or individual liberty as against civil or social liberty. Its application to modern industry is now working injustice and hardship that is no longer tolerable. … Not long since personal liberty took possession of all the wheat in the country, raised the price of flour a dollar per barrel, and enriched itself, while multitudes went hungry.

[178] Personal liberty is summoned to the aid of every species of injustice and oppression. It boldly claims the right to corrupt public and private morals.

 

John Swinton (1829–1901) was a Scottish-American journalist, newspaper publisher, and orator. Although he arguably gained his greatest influence as the chief editorial writer of The New York Times during the decade of the 1860s, Swinton is best remembered as the namesake of John Swinton's Paper, one of the most prominent American labor newspapers of the 1880s.

John Swinton (1829–1901) was a Scottish-American journalist, newspaper publisher, and orator. Although he arguably gained his greatest influence as the chief editorial writer of The New York Times during the decade of the 1860s, Swinton is best remembered as the namesake of John Swinton's Paper, one of the most prominent American labor newspapers of the 1880s.

Swinton, John. 1894. Striking for Life: Labors Side of the Labor Question. American Manufacturing and Publishing Company.

[339-340] The next natural and inalienable right of every man is that to liberty. Glorious word! Meaning not merely the absence of the grosser oppressions of kings and aristocracies, but the full freedom of personal manhood—the right to use, and develop, and enjoy all the manifold faculties, powers, qualities, and opportunities so bountifully bestowed upon man.

It is in this view of man that we must consider the meaning and scope of mans liberty. We are apt to give a narrow or paltry meaning to the word; but we shall never grow up to it, or even turn our aim to it, until we see how it ought to expand and elevate our life. True enough, liberty is a political and social condition; but I repeat that its finest meaning is freedom for the growth of a full and generous manhood.

Liberty, then, in its every proper sense, is among the natural rights of man; and, consequently, when, in any way, he is deprived of it, he is the victim of wrong.

 

Bliss, William Dwight Porter. 1895. A Handbook of Socialism. Swan Sonnenschein and Co.: London.

[199] It is easy, as Mr. Spencer does, to catalogue ‘the sins of legislators,’ easier than to catalogue the sins of individuals, because this would be a much longer list. No; government with all its faults in the past, and we grant them all, has been an immeasurable blessing to mankind, and will be in the future. By doing away with government, you would have licence, but you would not have liberty.

 

Ritchie, David George. 1895. Natural Rights. Swann Sonnenschein and Co.: London.

[138] The last example suggests forcibly what is perhaps the most important of all the differences in the signification of the term ‘liberty’—the difference, namely, between negative and positive liberty. … When people praise liberty, it may simply be a way of expressing their strong detestation of some particular form of restraint; but more often, there is implied also in the praise the ideal of some positive powers of doing something which they consider worth doing.

[139] Positive or real liberty, as we might call it, to distinguish it from the negative or merely formal liberty of being let alone, means the opportunity or capacity of doing something. … That there is a natural right to liberty might be understood to mean…that every well-regulated society ought to secure to all its members, so far as possible, the opportunity of developing their various natural (i.e. inherited) gifts and powers so far as they can without detriment to one another or to the well-being of the society as a whole.

But this positive and qualified meaning of liberty has not always been recognised as clearly distinguished from the mere negative sense of being let alone; nor is it always realised how very much any real positive liberty depends upon the existence of elaborate social arrangements, and on a strong and stable government. In this country no one is hindered by law from reading all the works of Mr. Herbert Spencer. That is negative liberty. But if a man cannot read at all, or if he can read but has not any money to spare for the purpose of buying so many volumes, or if he has no access to any public library, or if the managers of any library to which he has access refuse to permit such works on their shelves, or if, having access to them, he has no leisure in which to read them, or if he has not had such an education as enables him to understand what he reads, he cannot be said to get much good out of the fact that the law of the land does not prohibit him from reading Mr. Spencers works. Thus, in order that the great mass of the inhabitants of this country should really enjoy the privilege of appreciating the philosophical basis on which Mr. Spencer founds his objections to State education, State libraries, and all such forms of interference with individual liberty, it is necessary that such forms of State interference with individual liberty—and a good many others —should be in active operation; at least experience has not yet shown us any instance in which opportunities of culture have been accessible to all, or nearly all, the inhabitants of densely populated countries without some such interference with the liberty of being ignorant, the liberty of keeping children ignorant, the liberty of working for excessive hours, and other individual liberties of that kind.

[139-140] Thus, liberty in the sense of positive opportunity for self-development, is the creation of law, and not something that could exist apart from the action of the State.

[147] Liberty in general is too ambiguous a term to permit us to decide how far the right to liberty is a right which ought to be recognised by a well-regulated society. The principle that the liberty of every one should be limited only by the equal liberty of every one else has been shown to be incapable of any literal application as a fundamental principle of society; on the contrary, it is a principle which is either absurd or anarchical, or both.

[258] The claim of equality, in its widest sense, means the demand for equal opportunity—the carrtire oucerte aux talents. The result of such equality of opportunity will clearly be the very reverse of equality of social condition, if the law allows the transmission of property from parent to child, or even the accumulation of wealth by individuals. And thus, as has often been pointed out, the effect of the nearly complete triumph of the principles of 1789—the abolition of legal restrictions on free competition—has been to accentuate the difference between wealth and poverty. Equality in political rights, along with great inequalities in social condition, has laid bare ‘the social question; which is no longer concealed, as it formerly was, behind the struggle for equality before the law and for equality in political rights. As in the case of liberty, our attention is called to the difference between ‘formalor ‘negativeand ‘realor ‘positiveequality. The abolition of legal restrictions on free competition allows the natural inequalities of human beings, in vigour of body and mind, to assert themselves.

[260] But the individualism, which asserts itself in the reaction against the old social system, seems to be too chaotic for humanity to rest in it; and the State can only secure the real well-being—I may add, the real liberty and equality (so far as these are socially useful ends)—of its citizens, by taking over the functions of which it deprives the family and performing them in a higher and better way. Is any State that yet exists anywhere prepared to do that, or fit to attempt it? Yet all modern States are consciously or unconsciously moving in that direction.

 

Henry Dyer ( 1848 – 1918) was a Scottish engineer who contributed much to founding Western-style technical education in Japan and Anglo-Japanese relations.

Henry Dyer ( 1848 – 1918) was a Scottish engineer who contributed much to founding Western-style technical education in Japan and Anglo-Japanese relations.

Dyer, Henry. 1895. The Evolution of Industry. Macmillan and Co.: New York.

[281] As J. S. Mill pointed out, ‘individuality is an element of wellbeing,’ and any organisation of society which attempted to run all individuals, all institutions and opinions in common moulds would be disastrous. But, after all, it must be remembered that real liberty is to be found in the conditions which enable a man to make the most of himself. What is too often called liberty at present does not do this. With not a few it means liberty to starve. With many it means liberty to engage in a fierce struggle with their fellows, not only for wealth but even for existence. With a considerable number it means liberty to exploit the community for their own selfish ends. With a small but increasing number it means liberty to devote a great part of their energy to advancing the welfare of the community or of humanity, for altruism becomes an impelling and governing power in human conduct when it is not swamped by conditions which tend to the encouragement of selfishness. They have become convinced of the fact that our individualism has lost us individuality, and they strive to obtain sufficient independence to regain this.

 

McKenchnie, William Sharp. 1896. The State and the Individual. James McLehose and Sons: Glasgow.

[308] Those who oppose the liberty of the individual to the authority of the government absolutely, proceed on two false assumptions, viz. (1) that liberty is always a good thing in itself, and coercion a bad thing; and (2) that to increase the one is necessarily to diminish the other. Each of these requires some examination. To say categorically that coercion is bad and liberty is good, is to make them ends in themselves instead of merely means to ends. Before a State endows the individual with full social and political rights, it is surely competent to ask what he will do with them when he has got them. … Liberty is here clearly enough seen not to be a good thing for the State. … Liberty to commit a crime is to him not a benefit but in every way a curse.

Again, it is difficult to see how it is right or expedient to allow a man liberty to hurt himself. Suicide is prohibited among all civilized nations. Sir James F. Stephen, in his criticism of Mill, eloquently maintains that liberty is either good or bad according to the use to which it is put, just as fire is good or bad according as it warms or burns us. Similarly, in his view, coercion is to be praised or condemned according to the object for which it is resorted to.

[317] Coercion in some form thus imposes its sway upon the individual. In a sense, therefore, he is never ‘free’; but the word liberty has two meanings, and these must be carefully kept apart. Negative liberty is impossible. … Positive freedom, however, is a different thing. ‘Know the truth and the truth will make you free.This is positive liberty in the moral or spiritual sense. That man is morally free who is the bond-slave of reason in place of selfish passions and desires.

 

Bosanquet, Bernard. 1899. The Philosophical Theory of the State. Macmillan and Co.: London.

[58] …[T]he restrictive influences of law and government, which are the measure of the constraint imposed, cannot be alien to the human nature which they restrict, and ought not to be set down as in their own nature antagonistic to liberty or to the making of the human self.

[128] …[L]ike the notion of liberty, the notion of nature is apt to be apprehended in a form so partial as to be practically negative, and in this form, to be given a hostile bearing against what are, in fact, completer phases of the same idea.

[130] …[T]he conception of Liberty has always drawn from experience a certain positive tendency to progress, and has never…maintained the full demand for isolation which its negative bearing might seem to imply.

[135-137] Thus the juristic meaning of the term liberty, based on the normal distinction between one self-determining person and another, we may set down as its literal meaning, and so far the English writers, of whom Seeley is the latest type, are on solid ground when they define liberty as the absence of restraint, or perfect liberty as the absence of all government (in the sense of habitual constraint by others). It is obvious that the above definition would be wholly inadequate to the simplest facts respecting the demands which have through all history been asserted and achieved under the name of political liberty. … But we will content ourselves at this point with the negative of juristic, and the varying positive or political conception of liberty. For the latter is, in its degree, a case of that fuller freedom which we are about to trace to its embodiment on the state; and the phenomena of political liberty are covered, of course, by the point of view we shall take in indicating the state as the main organ and condition of the fuller liberty. The connection, we said, between juristic and political liberty should be observed at this point. It is merely an example of what we shall find throughout, that the apparently negative has its roots and its meaning in the positive, and, in proportion as its true nature becomes evident, its positive aspects become explicit. There is no true security for juristic liberty apart from political liberty; and it has constantly been the infraction of juristic liberty that has been the origin of the demand for a share in highly positive political duties and functions.

[137-138] It is true, indeed, and must be maintained as a fundamental principle, that the ‘higher’ liberty is also a ‘largerliberty, presenting the greater area to activity and the more extensive choice to self-determination. … We cannot wholly exhaust the new meaning of liberty as applied to the law-abiding and moral life of a conscientious citizen even by changing the negative into the positive, and saying that, whereas mere juristic freedom was only freedom from constraint, political freedom means freedom to act. The higher sense of liberty, like the lower, involves freedom from some things as well as freedom to others.

 

Bellamy, Edward. 1899. Equality. Appleton and Company: New York.

[79] Now, the duty of the state to safeguard the liberty of citizens was recognized in your day just as was its duty to safeguard their lives, but with the same limitation, namely, that the safeguard should apply only to protect from attacks by violence. … Nevertheless, it was true in your day of liberty and personal independence, as of life, that the perils to which they were chiefly exposed were not from force or violence, but resulted from economic causes, the necessary consequences of inequalities of wealth. Because the state absolutely ignored this side of the liberty question, its pretense of defending the liberties of citizens was as gross a mockery as that of guaranteeing their lives.

 

King, James Marcus. 1899. Facing the Twentieth Century. American Union League Society: New York.

[62] Individual liberty can only exist wherever a citizen is subject to law, and this means public opinion crystallized into public will, which constitutes the sovereignty of law. The action of a free man is controlled by the custom of the people expressed in legislation.

[63] Liberty, applied to political man, practically means protection or checks against undue interference from individuals, from masses, or from government. True liberty is a positive force, regulated by law; false liberty is a negative force a release from restraint. True liberty is the moral power of self government.

Law is briefly defined to be a rule of order or conduct established by authority. Liberty is briefly defined to be the state of a free man. But neither law nor liberty can be thus abstractly defined. The enjoyment of valued rights and privileges is implied in liberty.

Liberty is something which cannot be made for the individual; he must make it for himself. Civil government does not make it for the citizen, but in and by the civil government citizens make it for themselves and formulate its privileges and limitations in what they denominate law.

Our government and our civilization are designed to guarantee impartial civil liberty protected by law. Lawless liberty means tyranny. Impartial liberty must be girded about with the restraints of law because our relations are mutual, and personal freedom among associations of men must be both self-governed and heedful of righteous and relative limitations.

The measure of our civil liberty as a nation is found in the extent to which our people obey law from choice. Education morality and religion have thus far determined the character of our civil liberty and shaped its legislative restrictions and protection and they must be depended upon to perpetuate it.

[66] Individual liberty is dependent upon the will of the state.

 

Charles Henry Vail (1866–1924) was an American Universalist clergyman and Christian socialist political activist and writer. Vail is best remembered as the first National Organizer of the Socialist Party of America and as a candidate of that party for Governor of New Jersey.

Charles Henry Vail (1866–1924) was an American Universalist clergyman and Christian socialist political activist and writer. Vail is best remembered as the first National Organizer of the Socialist Party of America and as a candidate of that party for Governor of New Jersey.

Vail, Charles Henry. 1899. Modern Socialism. Commonwealth Co.” New York.

[140] There would be no more curtailment of liberty under Socialism than under the present system, nor as much, for Socialism would provide work for all, while now if a man fails to secure employment at his particular trade he usually remains unemployed.

[143-144] The liberty that the Socialists emphasize is economic liberty. We want every man engaged in industry to have a direct voice in making the rules under which he must work. Nor is this all. Socialists recognize that the real restrictions upon liberty are economic. We are not prevented by governmental restrictions, but by limited resources, from doing the things we wish to do. … What Socialism proposes is that the workers shall own the means of production and regulate the rules they must obey. That this would secure to them greater liberty within the economic sphere no one can doubt. But what would be of greater importance is the liberty that the regime would secure to all outside of this realm. Socialism would increase resources, decrease the hours of labor, and thus give leisure which men could apply to the development of their faculties, to recreation, and to travel.

[146] The plea that Socialism would be destructive of liberty proceeds from the assumption that its government would be despotic. But in a social democracy where the government is really of and by the people, such a notion is seen to be absurd. It is hardly believable that the people would destroy their own liberty. Socialism would secure economic freedom, which is the basis of all freedom. There can be no liberty in economic dependence, and industrial democracy is the only escape from this servitude. The rulers industrially are the rulers politically, and only by obtaining self-government in industry can we obtain it in politics. Socialism would secure for mankind its redemption from this economic bondage. It would enable each industrial group to determine its own rules and regulations, and elect its own directors, thus securing within the economic realm freedom from autocratic oppression. That there would be less freedom outside the economic sphere no one contends. It is generally admitted that Socialism would allow full freedom in the larger leisure.

Socialism, then, so far from negativing liberty, contains the only hope of emancipation. True liberty and freedom can only be attained in the Co-operative Commonwealth.

 

James Ramsay MacDonald,  (1866 – 1937) was a British statesman who was the first ever Labour Party Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, leading a Labour Government in 1924, a Labour Government from 1929 to 1931, and a National Government from 1931 to 1935.

James Ramsay MacDonald,  (1866 – 1937) was a British statesman who was the first ever Labour Party Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, leading a Labour Government in 1924, a Labour Government from 1929 to 1931, and a National Government from 1931 to 1935.

Macdonald, James Ramsay. 1900. “The People in Power” in Ethical Democracy edited by Stanton Coit. Grant Richards: London.

[71] But for the future the purely liberal view of democracy must be modified. The view of democracy as the government of equally enlightened and capable citizens, the view which never suspected that the principle of differentiation of function applies in politics, has become untenable. The old formal conception of the term liberty will also be abandoned as being antiquated and of no present guidance. A conception of social liberty—organic individualism—must take the place of the conception of political liberty—atomic individualism—which has been the guiding thought of progress this century. Democracy in power will do something…to reconstruct the industrial state and remodel industrial methods. In other words, it must make an attempt to find practically how the private individual can best, so to speak, co-operate with himself as a citizen, to secure for himself and the greatest number of his fellows, the largest amount and the best quality of individual freedom.

[75-76] During the brief reign of democracy we have noticed the rise of new conceptions of state activity which have been disturbing to old ideas of individual liberty and to old notions regarding the way in which the moral law can be enforced. So powerful have these new conceptions become that the democratic ideal is no longer the rule of the whole people, but the wise use of political power to regulate and control conditions of life which used to be regarded as beyond political concern. The coming struggle in democratic politics is not to be for ‘rights’ but for authority, and it is to be raised mainly because after the enfranchisement of the masses social ideals enter into political programmes, and they enter, not as something which at best can be indirectly promoted by government, but as something which it is the chief business of governments to advance directly. … On all sides there is evidence that the co-operative idea touched with human emotion is raising in the horizon of the vision of even the average man the fair outline of the co-operative commonwealth, the liberty of which will not be individualistic but social, not atomic but organic.

[78-79] To say that on general principles ethics is a matter for the individual alone is absurd, and springs from a view of the state as a menace to individual liberty which has become untenable with the destruction of the theory of individual rights under the social contract. The state as a policeman or as an awkward limitation upon individual liberty which has to be tolerated by the individual forced by nature to live in a community, is not the idea we have to deal with at all. The state in free democratic countries has gone beyond that. It has begun to assume consciously the characteristics of the definition given to it by Aristotle as existing for the purpose of promoting good life.

 

Hobson, John Atkinson. 1900. “The Ethics of Industrialism” in Ethical Democracy edited by Stanton Coit. Grant Richards: London.

[99] Enlightened social policy requires the State, as the only adequate instrument of society, shall secure to all not an empty liberty to labour, but a positive economic opportunity of doing such work as to enable them to contribute, as much as they can, to their keep and to the social welfare.

 

Ritchie, David George. 1900. “Evolution and Democracy” in Ethical Democracy edited by Stanton Coit. Grant Richards: London.

[3] If progress depends upon a perpetual struggle for existence, there seems indeed a prima facie argument for liberty in the negative sense of laissez faire; but everyone else that may be included in democratic ideals appears to be condemned as hopeless or mischievous in its consequences. Nature produces not equality but inequality; nay, inequality is even requisite for natural selection to work upon.

[26-27] Liberty has indeed, been too often taken in the merely negative sense of absence of State-action—a principle which, if worked out consistently, would mean anarchy, and a return to savage life… Liberty however, admits of a positive ethical meaning—the fullest possible development of the individual’s physical, intellectual, and moral potentialities… In this sense of liberty, the state has very extensive functions.

 

Bax, Ernest Belfort. 1901. The Religion of Socialism. Swan Sonnenschein & Co.: London.

[112-113] What bourgeois sentiment really cares for and has cared for, in its revolt against status, is not liberty, but the development of the bourgeois world. ‘Liberty of contractwas essential to this development in its war with status, and therefore, received honour at its hands, not because of liberty, but because of contract—the power of contract being its only means of realization. Liberty is the bait held out to the proletariat fish covering the hook of contract. ‘Libertyin the sense of the orthodox economist is then, in brief, an empty abstraction which stands in flagrant antagonism to the real, the concrete liberty of the Socialist. The abstract liberty of the economist is the liberty to die quickly of starvation or slowly of the same.

 

Kelly, Edmond. 1901. Government or Human Evolution: Individualism and Collectivism.  Longmans, Green and Co.: London.

[203] The most formidable subjective obstacle to the adoption of a co-operative scheme of society is probably to be found in the false notions which prevail on the subject of liberty. … To these last, liberty generally means the right to do what they want; and as the environment created by commercialism is one of perpetual competition which sets every man on the task of getting the best of his neighbour, the right to do what one wants becomes reducible to the right to benefit oneself, even though it be at the expense of one's neighbour.

[204] One of the standard objections to collectivism is that it will interfere with liberty. But as to the meaning of this word ‘liberty,’ there is probably no subject on which men are so little agreed. Those who object to collectivism on the ground that it will interfere with the liberty of individuals regard liberty as the opposite of too much law and of too much government; so that according to them the more absolute government is, the less liberty there is. This view, however, is assuredly a mistaken one.

[207] True liberty is the most precious of the rights claimed by man; and in discussing what it is we must not allow ourselves to be misled by a form of government which keeps the word of promise to the ear and breaks it to the heart. A shirt-maker who cannot earn more than forty-eight cents a dozen in the city of New York, or a coal-miner who cannot work for more or less than the wage determined by a trade union to which he does not belong in Wales, may have less real liberty than a eunuch in the palace of the Shah.

[210-211] The economic expression of this Revolution is to be found in the doctrine of laissez faire. At the close of the eighteenth century both England and France were dominated by it: one of its most seductive formulae was Liberty of Contract; everybody was to be left perfectly free to make such contracts as he could; liberty was the order of the day, — liberty for the employer; liberty for the employee; liberty for the landlord; liberty for the tenant. What has become of that liberty to-day?

Liberty for the employer meant the destruction of the guild, and, with the guild, of all the safeguards which guilds had put round the isolated workingman so that he should not be at the mercy of the employer. And how did the employer use his liberty? He forthwith, by the operation of the law of Nature which furnishes more beings than she can nourish, in order out of the superfluity to select those most fit, profited by free competition between workingmen to reduce them to starvation wages. The workingmen were driven, by the ruthlessness with which the employer pushed his advantage, to combine in order to secure by combination terms which when isolated they were unable to secure.

 

Beatrix Potter (1866 – 1943) was an English author, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist best known for her imaginative children’s books featuring animals such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit which celebrated the British landscape and country life.

Beatrix Potter (1866 – 1943) was an English author, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist best known for her imaginative children’s books featuring animals such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit which celebrated the British landscape and country life.

Webb, Beatrice Potter and Sidney Webb. 1902. Industrial Democracy, new ed. Longmans, Green and Co.: London.

[847] It is, therefore, necessary to define Liberty before talking about it, a definition which every man will frame according to his own view of what is socially desirable. We ourselves understand by the words ‘Liberty’ or ‘Freedom,not any quantum of natural or inalienable rights, but such conditions of existence in the community as do, in practice, result in the utmost possible development of faculty in the individual human being. Now, in this sense democracy is not only consistent with Liberty, but is, as it seems to us, the only way of securing the largest amount of it. It is open to argument whether other forms of government may not achieve a fuller development of the faculties of particular individuals or classes.

 

Webb, Beatrice Potter and Sidney. 1902. Problems of Modern Industry. Longmans, Green and Co.: London.

[100] The common middle-class objection to Factory legislation—that it interferes with the individual liberty of the operative—springs from ignorance of the economic position of the wage-earner. Far from diminishing personal freedom, Factory legislation positively increases the individual liberty and economic independence of the workers subject to it.

[252-253] Most political students are, indeed, now prepared to agree with the Socialist that our restrictive laws and municipal Socialism, so far as these have yet gone, do, as a matter of fact, secure a greater wellbeing and general freedom than that system of complete personal liberty, of which the ‘sins of legislators’ have deprived us. The sacred name of liberty is invoked by both parties, and the question at issue is merely one of method. As each ‘difficultyof the present social order presents itself for solution, the Socialist points to the experience of all advanced industrial countries, and urges that personal freedom can be obtained by the great mass of the people only by their substituting democratic self-government in the industrial world for that personal power which the Industrial Revolution has placed in the hands of the proprietary class. His opponents regard individual liberty as inconsistent with collective control, and accordingly resist any extension of this ‘higher freedomof collective life. Their main difficulty is the advance of democracy, ever more and more claiming to extend itself into the field of industry.

 

Hobson, John Atkinson. 1902. The Social Problem. James Nisbet: London.

[vi] Especial attention is given to marking clearly the operation of those industrial and social forces which make for the larger and more various activities of the state in politics and industry, and those which on the other hand, directly tend to enlarge the bounds of individual liberty and enterprise.

 

Ritchie, David George. 1902. Studies in Political and Social Ethics. Swan Sonnenschein and Co.: London.

[58] In a genuine and honestly worked democratic State, State action and individual liberty will no longer be opposing principles, as they are under despotism tempered by partial anarchy; individual liberty will exist, not in spite of, but by means of State Action.

 

Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, (1852 –  1928) served as the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916. Until Margaret Thatcher, he had been the longest continuously serving Prime Minister in the 20th century.

Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, (1852 –  1928) served as the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916. Until Margaret Thatcher, he had been the longest continuously serving Prime Minister in the 20th century.

Asquith, H. H. 1902. “Preface” in Liberalism by Herbert Samuel. Grant Richards.

[ix] It may seem a truism to say that the Liberal party inscribes among its permanent watchwords the name of Liberty. … Freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of association and combination, which we in the latter days have come to look upon as standing in the same category as the natural right to light and air, were in point of fact privileges long denied, slowly attained, and hardly won. But liberty itself, like so many of the rallying cries in the secular struggle of parties, is a term which grows by what it feeds on, and acquires in each generation a new and larger content. To the early reformers it was a symbol of antagonism and almost of negation; it meant the removal of fetters, the emancipation both of individuals and of the community of legal and constitutional disabilities.

[x] …[W]ith the growth of experience a more mature opinion has come to recognize that Liberty (in a political sense) is not only a negative but a positive conception…. To be really free, they must be able to lake the best use of faculty, opportunity, energy, life. It is in this fuller view of the true significance of Liberty that we find the governing impulse in the later development of Liberalism in the direction of education, temperance, better dwellings, an improved social and industrial environment; everything, in short, that tends to national, communal, and personal efficiency.

 

Richard Theodore Ely (1854 – 1943) was an American economist, author, and leader of the Progressive movement who called for more government intervention, especially regarding factory conditions, compulsory education, child labor, and labor unions. 

Richard Theodore Ely (1854 – 1943) was an American economist, author, and leader of the Progressive movement who called for more government intervention, especially regarding factory conditions, compulsory education, child labor, and labor unions. 

Ely, Richard T. 1903. Studies in the Evolution of Industrial Society. The Macmillan Co.: New York.

[405-406] Our own familiar, everyday experience teaches us that restrictions upon our positive liberty of action are mainly due to the coercion of economic forces. … The freedom which thus expresses itself in contract is in certain cases like the freedom of a slave, who chooses to work rather than to suffer under the lash.

[409] The problem of liberty includes the problem of suitable control over the relations which exist among men; for these relations determine the conditions of our social existence. These relations may be considered individually and socially, and the social action may be either of private or public character. The action of a trade-union in its endeavor to secure favorable relations is private social action; a statute determining the length of the working day is public social action; and both alike aim, successfully or unsuccessfully as the case may be, to promote liberty. All action which endeavors to remove ignorance and superstition and to strengthen the individual, mentally, morally, and physically, is action which endeavors to promote liberty. Necessarily, social action which determines or regulates in any way the relations of men among themselves must restrict freedom of movement at some point, but where it is wise it increases it more than correspondingly at other points. … The employer may not hire the services of little children, and his liberty to do so is restricted; but the liberty of the children is increased. They are freed from toil, and when provision is made for their wise education and upbringing, their powers are increased, and they have many fold the liberty to employ themselves in the service of their fellows for their own benefit.

We thus have a vast body of legislation in and through which society seeks liberty. This legislation modifies and qualifies nominally free contract, because nominally free contract may mean servitude of various kinds and various degrees. The aim is the increase of liberty in the positive sense.

[412] Liberty cannot be an absolute ideal, because authority is needed in society, in order to secure the harmonious cooperation of its various elements; and without social authority we could have no production of wealth, and we should be without the material basis of that large and positive liberty which enables us to employ our faculties in the common service.

[423-424] It is something, at any rate, if I have at least made it clear that industrial liberty is a conception having a relative and not an absolute value; that it is to be conceived in a positive rather than in a negative sense; that it is not something which can be decreed offhand, by any legislative body, but rather that it is a social product, to be achieved by individuals working socially together, and that it comes, not all at once, but slowly as the result of a long- continued and arduous process. It is not the beginning of social evolution, but rather one of the goals of social evolution, and one which must be brought into harmony with other goals, such as equality, also relatively conceived, and fraternity, the only one of the three goals, liberty, equality, and fraternity, which can, in any way, be conceived absolutely.

 

Mills, Walter Thomas. 1904. The Struggle for Existence, fifth ed. International School of Social Economy: Chicago.

[309-310] The capitalist assumes that there can be no right to property of any sort which one may not buy and another sell. The answer is that the right to the means of producing the means of life is of the same nature as the right to life itself. The capitalist contends for the right to buy and sell productive property. The Socialist contends for the right to use productive property. The capitalist contends for the sacredness of trade, and he will admit no rights which will in any way imperil the continued possession of productive property in the hands of those who have it. The Socialist contends for the sacredness of life, and will admit no rights which will imperil either the fullest life or the completest liberty to those who need to use the means of producing the means of life.

 

Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse (1864 – 1929) was a British liberal political theorist and sociologist. His works, culminating in his famous book Liberalism (1911), occupy a seminal position within the canon of New Liberalism.

Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse (1864 – 1929) was a British liberal political theorist and sociologist. His works, culminating in his famous book Liberalism (1911), occupy a seminal position within the canon of New Liberalism.

Hobhouse, Leonard T. 1905. Democracy and Reaction. G.P. Putnams Sons: New York.

[217] Therefore, this kind of socialistic legislation appears not as an infringement of the two distinctive ideals of the older Liberalism, ‘Liberty and Equality.’ It appears rather as a necessary means to their fulfillment.

[219-221] So far, then, it appears that what seem on the surface to be the main departures from the principles of liberty and equality, which have commanded the approval of the average modern Liberal, are in reality departures by which the principles of liberty and equality are developed and extended. It results that the breach of principle between the Liberalism of Cobden’s time and the Liberalism of to-day is much smaller that appears upon the surface. … Men of Cobdens time…[had] the habit of looking upon Government as an alien power, intruding itself from without upon the lives of the governed. We, on the contrary, habituated by the experience of a generation to looking upon Government as the organ of the governed, begin to find even the phrases of Cobdens time unfamiliar and inexact expression of the facts…. The change which has taken place in the minds of popular statesmen since Cobdens day is due to the realization of the democratic principles for which the men of Cobdens time fought.

 

Frank William Taussig (1859 – 1940) was a U.S. economist and educator. Taussig is credited with creating the foundations of modern trade theory.

Frank William Taussig (1859 – 1940) was a U.S. economist and educator. Taussig is credited with creating the foundations of modern trade theory.

Taussig, Frank W. 1905. “The Present Position of the Doctrine of Free Trade.” Publications of the American Economic Association 6 (1): 29-65.

[31] Laissez-faire and freedom have had their day, and the future belongs to the conscious direction of industry at the hands of the state. International free trade has no more sanctity or authority than any other part of the obsolete system of natural liberty.

 

Edwin Robert Anderson Seligman (1861-1939), was an American economist who spent his entire academic career at Columbia University in New York City. Seligman is best remembered for his pioneering work involving taxation and public finance.

Edwin Robert Anderson Seligman (1861-1939), was an American economist who spent his entire academic career at Columbia University in New York City. Seligman is best remembered for his pioneering work involving taxation and public finance.

Seligman, Edwin Robert Anderson. 1905. Principles of Economics. Longmans, Green and Co.: New York.

[163] If we look more closely, however, we shall find that freedom is more than the mere absence of restraint or interference. In contrast to this mere negative conception of liberty, as advanced by Spencer and adopted by the average man, we must put the positive conception as framed by [Thomas Hill] Green and elaborated by recent thinkers.

[165] Real economic liberty, therefore, is constructive in that it implies not simply an absence of restraint, but such a positive complex of conditions, resting on law and custom, as to insure to the greatest possible number the opportunity of a free development of their faculties. Liberty, when based on equality and responsibility, means wealth for the individual and progress for society; liberty without equality and responsibility may mean advance for the few and retrogression for the many. Liberty as a negative concept is disruptive; liberty as a positive concept harmonizes society and the individual; the one is a menace, the other an aid, to lasting economic progress.

[171] The modern aim, however, is always to increase liberty through the attainment of equality and responsibility. Factory laws give the operatives a fair chance; railway regulation attempts to secure equal treatment of shippers; supervision of banks, insurance companies and other corporations is designed to enforce financial responsibility. In all these cases interference is justified only as leading to a surer and greater general liberty. We have to deal with the positive, not the negative conception.

 

Godard, John George. 1905. Racial Supremacy, Being Studies in Imperialism. Simpkin, Marshall and Co.: London.

[49] Associated with, if not involved in the fundamental principle, is the further principle of liberty; but herein it is worth noting that the former conception of liberty, the conception of the old Manchester school, the conception of Mr Herbert Spencer, has undergone considerable modification; and it is now seen that unrestricted liberty simply comes back to monopoly, and that individual liberty must be consistent with collective freedom or the equal liberties of all. Hence the once popular doctrine of laisser-faire has been frankly and freely abandoned, and the whole tendency of modern Liberal legislation…has been largely socialistic in its nature. For it has become more and more recognised that political liberty is merely a means to an end, and that what is primarily requisite is economic freedom; that the liberty which permits a man to go without a dinner if he has not the means of paying for one, must yield to the freedom which permits all to labour for the requisites of healthy existence and to retain the products of their industry.

 

Rappaport, Philip. 1906. “Law and Temperance,” The Liberal Review 3(9): 548-552.

[551] There is no positive standard of liberty. The conception of liberty is always relative to existing possibilities. Of course, the conception of liberty stands in close relation to the conception of government, and all conceptions are subject to change.

 

Stephen Butler Leacock, (1869 – 1944) was an English-born Canadian teacher, political scientist, writer, and humourist.

Stephen Butler Leacock, (1869 – 1944) was an English-born Canadian teacher, political scientist, writer, and humourist.

Lealock, Stephen. 1906. Elements of Political Science. Houghton, Mifflin, and Co.: New York.

[74] As thus conceived, liberty is not inconsistent with the exercise of coercive power. On the contrary, since the freedom from interference can only be enjoyed by the forcible prevention of interference, liberty is seen to be dependent upon the existence of authority. It is the state which guarantees this immunity to its citizens, whose ‘rights’ are thus brought, into legal existence by being clothed with the ‘sanction’ or compelling force of the power of the state. The apparent paradox between a sovereign authority and a free citizen is thus explained. No freedom, except for a single being, can be absolute and complete. Such freedom as can be enjoyed by all must from its nature imply a compulsory restriction on the action of each. It is the office of the state to effect this restriction, and in so doing to bring liberty into being. It is usual to attach to this conception of individual freedom effected by the existence of a coercive state the term ‘civil liberty.’

[75] Writers of various schools, and especially the individualists of the earlier nineteenth century, have held this to be the sole duty of government. The conception of liberty seemed to them to imply that no infringement of the principle could be justified. But the question naturally arises whether the state may not be warranted in exercising a positive as well as a negative coercion over its subjects. May it not with reason interfere with and curtail the liberty of a citizen, provided that the general good or his own advantage is thereby furthered? The full treatment of this question will belong to our discussion of the proper province of government. All that need be noted in the mean time is that, whether the state is called upon to maintain the liberty of the individual, or whether it is held advisable that the state should interfere with his actions in a positive form, the existence of liberty is not logically incompatible with the existence of the state, and can hardly be thought of as existing apart from it.

 

Henry Demarest Lloyd (1847 – 1903) was a 19th-century American progressive political activist and pioneer muckraking journalist.

Henry Demarest Lloyd (1847 – 1903) was a 19th-century American progressive political activist and pioneer muckraking journalist.

Lloyd, Henry Demarest. 1906. Man, the Social Creator. Doubleday, Page, and Co.: London.

[97] To have Liberty is to obey the laws of life, from animal to social. We are free to walk the earth because never for one instant does the law of gravitation let go its hold upon us. Liberty has acquired its colour of self-assertion, of resistance, from the temporary interference of tyrants with the pursuit by the people of the true laws of social life. In itself the essential idea of liberty is positive, not negative. It does not mean resistance; it means obedience.

 

MacKaye, James. 1906. The Economy of Happiness. Little, Brown, and Company: Boston,

[333] Liberty is a matter much discussed in our country and deem ourselves highly appreciative of it. In reality we have adequate apprehension of the value of genuine liberty—otherwise we should not be content to possess so little. We read good deal in the newspapers about civil personal or liberty and how jealous we should be about permitting the government to restrict it and we are led to the belief that it is something which the community acting in its collective capacity can diminish but cannot increase. Those who use the word liberty apparently confuse several different things together under the same name, and even Mill has written a long and interesting essay on liberty without telling us what it is. Demagogues frequently employ the term as a means of inducing the community to forego the thing; and it is equalled by few of the resources of our language as an instrument of political logo-mania. Some attempts have indeed been made to dissipate the equivocality of the term. Analytical commentators have done mankind the service of pointing out that there exists a critical distinction between liberty and license, the former being a species of freedom which they approve, the latter one which they disapprove. … By noticing the connection in which the word is used, it becomes clear that liberty has to do with the power of choosing alternatives and that it is something, or several things, capable of varying in degree — of being greater or less.

[336] We have seen that liberty is but a name for the happiness value of opportunity per unit of time. He who in any given period of time has the greatest opportunity of happiness has the greatest real liberty for that period.

 

Bax, Ernest Belfort. 1906. Essays in Socialism New and Old. E. Grant Richards: London.

[145-146] Hence the Socialist is not taken in as the bourgeois Individualist appears to be by mere external appearances. He does not believe for instance in the liberty of a man to deprive himself of liberty. The liberty he aspires to is not a formal liberty that exists in name merely, but a real liberty that exists in fact. To take a typical instance of this. Freedom of contract, as it is called, appears to be the acme of individual liberty. On the other hand regulation of the conditions of the contract by the State appears contrary to liberty. This case is the one most commonly adduced of the tyrannical action of modern Socialist tendencies. Capitalist advocates can see nothing fairer than that the workman should be able to sell his labour without let or hindrance in the open market. The Socialist sees that the contract in this case, despite its specious form, gives no freedom at all to one of the contracting parties, but involves on the contrary the grossest kind of coercion. The Voluntarist professes to take umbrage at the form of coercion involved in the regulation of this coercive contract because it is direct and exercised by the community. The Socialist objects to the real, though indirect, coercion exercised on the workman by the capitalist owing to his monopoly of the means of production. But, says the Voluntarist, the workman is not obliged to enter on the contract without he desires it. He has the option of not doing so and—starvation or the workhouse!! But no! the Voluntarist would abolish the poor law and hence the workhouse, so that starvation remains as the only alternative. If the Voluntarist were really consistent he would on the same grounds object to the forcible suppression of highway robbery as it was practised by the gentlemen of the road in the eighteenth century. … The Capitalist nowadays offers the workman the alternative of his labour or his life.

 

Whittaker, Thomas. 1907. The Liberal State: A Speculation. Watts and Co.: London.

[130] The interference of the State tempers the coercion exercised by organisations within it. It in no way limits the really self-chosen work of private persons. State-action in the form of factory-legislation can be seen in actual experience not to have diminished liberty, but to have prevented the subjection of those affected by it to what would have been practically a condition of slavery.

 

Smith, James Allen. 1907. The Spirit of American Government. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[291-292] The eighteenth-century conception of liberty was the outgrowth of the political conditions of that time. … Individual liberty as they understood the term was immunity from unjust interference at the hands of a minority. This was a purely negative conception. It involved nothing more than the idea of protection against the evils of irresponsible government. It was a view of liberty adapted, however, to the needs of the time and served a useful purpose in aiding the movement to curb without destroying the power of the ruling class. … The seventeenth and eighteenth century demand was not for the abolition, but for the limitation of irresponsible authority. It was not for popular government based upon universal suffrage, but for such modifications of the system as would give to the commercial and industrial classes the power to resist all encroachments upon their rights at the hands of the hereditary branches of the government. … This conception of liberty was realized for those represented in any coordinate branch of the government wherever the check and balance stage of political development had been reached.

[294] We have here a new conception of liberty. We see a tendency in these constitutional changes to reject the old passive view of state interference as limited by the consent of the governed and take the view that real liberty implies much more than the mere power of constitutional resistance—that it is something positive, that its essence is the power to actively control and direct the policy of the state.

 

Irving Fisher (1867 – 1947) was an American economist, statistician, inventor, and Progressive social campaigner.

Irving Fisher (1867 – 1947) was an American economist, statistician, inventor, and Progressive social campaigner.

Fisher, Irving. 1907. “Why has the Doctrine of Laissez Faire been Abandoned?” Science 25(627).

[19] Some men need enlightenment…and others need restraint…. Liberty is certainly indispensable in a healthy society, but liberty insensibly verges on license. While most of us would still agree that sumptuary laws are ill-advised, there is certainly good ground for maintaining that the liquor traffic should be put under some restraint.


Hobson, John Atkinson. [1909] 1974. The Crisis of Liberalism. Harper & Row Publishers: New York.

[92] The negative conception of Liberalism, as a definite mission for the removal of certain political and economic shackles upon personal liberty, is not merely philosophically defective but historically false.

[94] …[T]hough Liberalism must ever insist that each enlargement of the authority and functions of the State must justify itself as an enlargement of personal liberty, interfering with individuals only in order to set free new and larger opportunities, there need remain in Liberalism no relics of that positive hostility to public methods of co-operation which crippled the old Radicalism.


Ghent, William James. 1910. Socialism and Success. John Lane Company: New York.

[249-251] And now a brief word for liberty. To hear you speak of it as you sometimes do, one might suppose that all men now had this blessing, and that certain persons known as Socialists proposed to take it away from them. Who in truth has it now? This unattainable abstraction has been differently defined by every generation of men. The generation in which Socialist thought has permeated every branch of learning dismisses as illusory the medieval notion— though still held by anarchists and orthodox economists—of liberty as the absence of governmental restraint. Liberty so defined is a negation. Real liberty, in the words of T. H. Green, is a ‘positive power or capacity which each man exercises or holds ‘through the help or security given him by his fellow-men, and which he in turn helps to secure for them.The legal liberty to do things which economic conditions absolutely prohibit gives a word of promise to the ear only to break it to the hope. It is a liberty in phrase, but a subjection in substance. The liberty for which men now strive is a mutually exercised and mutually restrained power to do. You speak of the Socialists as though they were deliberately forging shackles for their own limbs. Why, these men and women love liberty as much as you do. But they have learned the hollowness of the medieval notion of liberty, and in its stead they have conceived a notion of liberty as a power for social achievement. The ordered restraints of Socialism will endow mankind with a liberty which it has never before known.


Hobhouse, Leonard T. [1911] 1994. Liberalism and other Essays. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, MA.

[18] …[T]he function of Liberalism may be rather to protect the individual against the power of association than to protect the right of association against the restriction of the law. In fact, in this regard, the principle of liberty cuts both ways, and its double application is reflected in history…. It was again, a movement to liberty through equality. … Upon the whole it may be said that the function of Liberalism is not so much to maintain a general right of free association as to define the right in each case in such terms as make for the maximum of real liberty and equality.

[19] I would, however, strongly maintain that the general conception of the State as Over-parent is quite truly Liberal as Socialistic…. Liberty once more involves control and restraint.

[41] To this it is been driven by the manifest teaching of experience that liberty without equality is a name of noble sound and squalid result.

[64]…[New Liberals] regard the State as one among many forms of human association for the maintenance and improvement of life…at which we stand furthest from the older Liberalism…the positive conception of the State…not only involves no conflict with the true principle of personal liberty, but is necessary to its effective realization.

[74] Liberty and compulsion have complementary functions, and the self-governing State is at once the product and the condition of the self-governing individual.

[93]  The rule of liberty is just the application of the rational method. It is the opening of the door to the appeal of reason, of imagination, of social feeling; and except through the response to this appeal there is no assured progress of society.


John Atkinson Hobson (1858 – 1940), was an English economist and critic of imperialism, widely popular as a lecturer and writer.

John Atkinson Hobson (1858 – 1940), was an English economist and critic of imperialism, widely popular as a lecturer and writer.

Bonar, James. 1911. Disturbing Elements in the Study and Teaching of Political Economy. John Hopkins Press: Baltimore.

[11-12] Economically, Ricardo, James Mill, and J. R. MacCulloch are representatives of this school of economists. Their emphasis lies on the equality (or identity) of the economic units. … Those men undoubtedly include in their programme the liberty advocated by Adam Smith; they are political reformers in this sense also. But the claim for equality was less generally conceded, and therefore they insist on it more. The equality is like Adam Smith’s liberty, negative in character. Remove obstructions and men are free; remove their differences they are equal. … It meant the survival of the economically strongest among those all equally competitors but not at all equal in the competition. This would be true even where the liberty in the negative sense was perfect, a state of things never realized, though more nearly approached now than formerly. The men who from the first felt the inadequacy of the negative idea both of liberty and equality were the social reformers.

[17] Our present notion of liberty, that has been gradually forming itself in the last twenty-five years, is of the command of opportunity for development rather than the confronting of a cleared course where all obstacles are removed. It is positive, not simply negative. In the same way our notion of equality is of equal opportunity.

 

Hobhouse, Leonard T. 1911. Social Evolution and Political Theory. The Columbia University Press: New York.

[203] The further development of the State lies in such an extension of public control as makes for fuller liberty of the life of the mind.

 

Bax, Ernest Belfort. 1912. Problems of Men, Minds, and Morals. Small, Maynard, and Co.: Boston.

[147] Socio-economic Liberty may be defined as the right of Society in its corporate capacity to freely regulate all matters directly concerning the commonweal without obstruction from other interests, vested or otherwise. It involves the right of a democratic state to organise production, redistribution, and exchange, to regulate the right of property-holding in the best interests of the community, etc. … The individualism of the Manchester school refuses to recognise this form of Liberty at all, on the ground that it conflicts with our third form of Liberty, namely, personal Liberty.

[132-133] Let us consider for a moment what Liberty means for Socialism. Socialism, in spite of the abusive assertions of its enemies, has for its end, I say, the realisation of human liberty. It is true the liberty it seeks to realise is a real liberty and not a sham liberty, a concrete liberty and not a merely formal and abstract liberty. Hence in the attempt to achieve the real thing it is often necessary to destroy the sham. In championing true liberty, Socialism is prepared to demonstrate the false liberty (e.g. the sham free contract between capitalist and workman demanded by the Manchester school) to be incompatible with liberty, in fact, the negation of liberty (such liberty being, in fact, the source and foundation of modern wage-slavery). Socialism can further show that real human liberty, for each and all, can only be secured by the economic conditions of human life being in the possession and under the regulation of the whole community. Any apparent sacrifice of liberty which this may entail on the part of some, Socialism can prove is the sacrifice of a merely empty and formal liberty in favour of a real liberty for each and all alike.

The allegations of the enemies of Socialism to the effect that Socialism implies the violent ruin of the heart and the destruction of all existing domestic relations…is, of course, a false and grotesque travesty respecting which an intelligent reader need not concern himself. Socialism, I repeat, stands for liberty. It means the emancipation of mankind from all forms of slavery. In its political and economic emancipation is included the emancipation from all other forms of slavery.

[156-157] Equality, understanding by the term social and economic Equality, is a condition of the universality of real Liberty, and Equality in any other sense is a chimera. Differences of temperament, of ability, and of character generally, must exist, but these are not incompatible with the most complete political and economic Equality. This Equality, based as it is on equal economic advantage and equal economic opportunity, is the Equality demanded by Socialism. This Equality, it need scarcely be said, in no way implies any dead level of mediocrity, such as haunts the imaginations of so many critics of Socialism. On the contrary, as I have elsewhere shown, it is the system of Capitalism which produces, and must necessarily produce, the dead level spoken of, a state of things which would be completely changed by Socialism. If to real Equality, Liberty in the three forms we have above discussed is necessary, it is no less true that to the full fruition of all forms of Liberty, Equality in the sense we have just indicated is equally essential. You cannot fully realise the one without the other.

 

Vedder, Henry Clay. 1912. Socialism and the Ethics of Jesus. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[313] Compare the liberty of the savage with that of the civilized man. For the savage there are almost no restraints save those of nature, but he speedily discovers that there is no despot like nature. Hence the savage has but a minimum of possibilities; he has no real liberty. The civilized man is surrounded by restraints — of habit, of custom, of law — but how indefinitely greater his real liberty, because of the indefinitely larger number of things he may do and enjoy.

 

(Julia) Vida Dutton Scudder (1861 - 1954) was an American educator, writer, and welfare activist in the social gospel movement. She was one of the most prominent lesbian authors of her time.

(Julia) Vida Dutton Scudder (1861 - 1954) was an American educator, writer, and welfare activist in the social gospel movement. She was one of the most prominent lesbian authors of her time.

Scudder, Vida D. 1912. Socialism and Character. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston.

[205] Only to-day are we beginning to realize that it is a term of social rather than of individual import, never to be realized by the one while the many are still bound. True liberty is positive, not negative, dealing less with the removal of restriction than with the imparting of power. It consists, not in the license of each person to indulge desire, but in the power bestowed by the community upon its every member to rise to the level of his richest capacity by living in harmony with the whole.

 

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924) was the 28th President of the United States, in office from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913. With the Republican Party split in 1912, he led his Democratic Party to control both the White House and Congress for the first time in nearly two decades.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924) was the 28th President of the United States, in office from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913. With the Republican Party split in 1912, he led his Democratic Party to control both the White House and Congress for the first time in nearly two decades.

Wilson, Woodrow. 1913. The New Freedom. Doubleday, Page, & Co.: New York.

[209] When I am fighting monopolistic control, therefore, I am fighting for the liberty of every man in America, and I am fighting for the liberty of American industry.

[222] We design that the limitations on private enterprise shall be removed, so that the next generation of youngsters, as they come along, will not have to become protégés of benevolent trusts, but will be free to go about making their own lives what they will; so that we shall taste again the full cup, not of charity, but of liberty, — the only wine that ever refreshed and renewed the spirit of a people.

[281] What is liberty? I have long had an image in my mind of what constitutes liberty. Suppose that I were building a great piece of powerful machinery, and suppose that I should so awkwardly and unskillfully assemble the parts of it that every time one part tried to move it would be interfered with by the others, and the whole thing would buckle up and be checked. Liberty for the several parts would consist in the best possible assembling and adjustment of them all, would it not?

 

Herbert David Croly (1869 – 1930) was an intellectual leader of the progressive movement as an editor, and political philosopher and a co-founder of the magazine The New Republic in early twentieth-century America. His political philosophy influenced many leading progressives, including Theodore Roosevelt.

Herbert David Croly (1869 – 1930) was an intellectual leader of the progressive movement as an editor, and political philosopher and a co-founder of the magazine The New Republic in early twentieth-century America. His political philosophy influenced many leading progressives, including Theodore Roosevelt.

Croly, Herbert David. 1914. Progressive Democracy. The Macmillan Co.: New York.

[426-427] The underlying assumption of live-and-help-live is an ultimate collectivism, which conceives different human beings as part of the same striving conscious material, and which makes individual fulfilment depend upon the fulfilment of other lives and upon that of society as a whole. The obligation of mutual assistance is fundamental. The opportunities of mutual assistance are inexhaustible. Wherever the lives of other people are frustrated, we are responsible for the frustration just in so far as we have failed to do what we could for their liberation; and we can always do something on behalf of liberty.

 

Gettell, Raymond Garfield. 1914. Problems in Political Evolution. Ginn and Company: Boston.

[201] In the eighteenth century men spoke much of natural rights. Life, liberty, property, the pursuit of happiness, and other similar privileges were considered inalienable rights under the laws of nature. A condition of perfect liberty, existing before governments arose, was conceived, often with a sigh of regret that this ‘state of nature’ could not last forever. Analysis shows the fallacy in such thinking. In a state of nature liberty would be impossible. Each person would have rights only as he could secure them by force. The natural rights of one would encroach upon the natural rights of others, thus destroying the liberty of all. That every person could have liberty to do as he chose in all things is obviously absurd. The greatest amount of liberty possible is the right to do as one pleases while encroaching least on the wishes of others. This secures the largest amount of liberty for all.

[201-202] Liberty in the associated life of mankind has therefore both a positive and a negative side. It includes right to free action and immunity from interference; but in order to maintain such a condition some authority is needed that can set bounds to the liberty of each and enforce the rights of all. The organization that arose for this purpose is the state. It is therefore the only source of real liberty. Since it is sovereign over all, it alone can create and enforce rights and obligations. Its laws are not only limitations on the freedom of individuals, but they are the only guarantees and defenders of individual freedom. Anarchy, instead of creating absolute freedom, would destroy it. Sovereignty and liberty are not contradictory terms, but correlative,—the same thing viewed from different aspects, the former from the state's point of view, the latter from that of the individual.

 

Gardner, Charles S. 1914. Assemblies,The American Journal of Sociology 19(4): 531-555.

[549] When the conception of liberty is chiefly negative, the appeal to this sentiment in its crude stage is apt to produce excesses, because it awakens the impulse to unregulated self-indulgence and arouses anger at the social forces that limit one's individual action—unchaining emotions that are primal, basal, crude and undisciplined. This is the true psychology of the French Revolution and of similar, though less intense, social convulsions in other lands. When the conception of liberty is positive, men may be deeply stirred by appeals to their desire for self-realization; but in this case the sentiment is more highly developed, and the emotions called forth are of a higher order, more ethical and amenable to rational considerations. As the impulse to unregulated living has been replaced by the desire for self-realization, so the emotion of anger evoked by appeal to this sentiment has been transformed into moral indignation.

 

Ely, Richard T. 1914. Property and Contract in Their Relations to the Distribution of Wealth, Vol. II. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[675] The majority decision of the court is based upon a primitive theory of individualism. The bakers were without liberty in the true sense for they were without the right to health. The statute represents their struggle for liberty, for freedom from restraint and oppression. And this liberty sought for the bakers was a liberty positive, constructive, and substantial, liberty for them to employ their powers, liberty to improve their faculties, a liberty which they had never known but which they sought because of its very positiveness. And the liberty which the courts gave them was nothing that they desired or which then" friends desired for them.

 

Rosenblatt, Bernard Abraham. 1914. The Social Commonwealth: A Plan for Achieving Industrial Democracy. Lincoln Publishing Corporation: New York.

[79-80] Indeed, the history of the last century and a half shows repeated efforts made decade after decade to define the scope of State Interference. Each age endeavors to settle this question according to its own light, only to find it reversed in the succeeding years. For, State Interference must ever remain a problem for each generation to solve anew, guided by its own light under the peculiar conditions of the times. There is no charmed circle around individual rights which may not be crossed by state interference. Liberty is not a static term but a dynamic concept—‘a path of progress.’ Individual liberty is not a negative term but a positive power, and the states may do much to enhance that power by enlarging opportunities and removing the burdens from the less fortunate in the struggle for existence.

[81] While there should be a sphere of individual activity into which the state ought not to intrude, this is not a fixed territory, but must be determined on this question: What is it necessary for the State to do or abstain from doing in order to achieve, for all of its citizens, the greatest possible amount of true individual liberty? What is ‘true individual liberty? Nothing more nor less than opportunity—the largest amount of opportunity for self-development, for bringing forth the best that is in each man, for ‘self-realization.The highest form of liberty is the opportunity given to the individual for as complete a development of self as nature will permit under any given set of conditions. As these conditions change, the concept of liberty must receive different interpretations from time to time. Ritchie, in his valuable discussion of the ‘Principles of State Interference,gives clear expression to such a view: ‘The State has not merely the policemans business of stepping in to arrest the wrongdoer, not the sole function of ruthlessly enforcing the fulfillment of contract, whatever these contracts may be and between whomsoever made; but the duty of providing such an environment for individual men and women as to give all, as far as possible, an equal chance of realizing what is best in their intellectual and moral natures.’

 

Fishback, William Pinckney. 1915. A Manual of Elementary Law. The Bobbs-Merrill Company: Indianapolis.

[9] This term ‘liberty’ is, as has been said, a negative term denoting the absence of restraint. But it is more—it implies the right to think, to speak, to act individually or with others, to labor for one's support without molestation from others; it means the right to the full exercise of one's faculties in lawful ways. Civil liberty, which is here meant, is liberty restrained so far as is necessary for the common good. Any interference with such liberty is a legal wrong.

 

Parmelee, Maurice. 1916. Poverty and Social Progress. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[422-423] But this highest possible degree of liberty is also needed for another purpose of democracy, and that is the greatest possible development of the personality of each individual.

 

Holcombe, Arthur Norman. 1916. State Government in the United States. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[378-379] The truth is that a profound change has been taking place in the dominant conceptins of liberty and justice. In the latter part of the nineteenth century the courts came much more completely than at any previous time under the influence of the individualistic social philosophy of the English utilitarians. They seem to have been especially impressed with the later form of that philosophy, formulated by Herbert Spencer. …This is a negative conception of liberty and justice, which was probably never consciously accepted by the American people as a whole, certainly not without important qualifications. … Such a conception made it possible for intelligent men sincerely to denounce plans ‘to equalize the inequalities which the rights of free contract and private property have brought about,’ that is, for example, laws levying a progressive income tax or regulating the hours of labor, as involving ‘confiscation or the destruction of the principle of private property.

The twentieth century has brought a more positive conception of liberty. It is coming to mean more than the mere absence of physical restraints upon the physical person, or of statutory restraints upon the legal person. Real liberty is not the antithesis of social control. Rather, rightly directed and effective social control is the condition of such liberty. Thus the modern conception of liberty is bound up with the modern conception of social justice, and social justice is understood to be an end in itself, not merely another name for justice to individuals. It involves the idea of the state itself as a person, as a subject of rights, the only idea of the state consistent with the origin of the American states and the nature of their political institutions. Thus it becomes possible for intelligent men sincerely to advocate plans to equalize at least some of the inequalities which the rights of free contract and private property have brought about, without doing violence to their faith in the fundamental principles of American government.

 

Sabine, George H. 1916. “Liberty and the Social System,” The Philosophical Review 25(5): 662-675

[662-663] The fatal weakness of the earlier liberalism lay in the fact that its theory created an antithesis between liberty of the individual and his restraint by social institutions. The theory of natural rights conceived the individual as the possessor of rights by virtue of his nature as a human being and hence prior to all forms of social organization. … The dilemma is indeed quite unescapable. If liberty consists in the absence of restraint, then liberty must grow progressively less as restraints are extended and organized. And since government is quite inconceivable without restraint somewhere, and the possibility of restraint nearly anywhere, liberty and government must be at daggers drawn.

 

Sellars, Roy Wood. 1916. The Next Step in Democracy. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[213] Now the socialist welcomes this liberty and seeks only to find and nourish the conditions which will make it universal and effective. He holds the same ideal as the individualist but is more realistic in his outlook on life as it is actually lived by the other half. His complaint is that the belated social organization of the time makes this desired liberty effective for the few only, while the many are handicapped in numberless ways. The enemy of liberty is no longer the government—in America it has never been the government—but lack of opportunity and of actual control of the conditions of life.

 

Bruce, Andrew Alexander. 1916. Property and Society. A. C. McClurg and Co.: Chicago.

[8-9] Individualism and personal liberty were, it is true, the backbone of the Germanic and Anglo-Saxon social bodies. But, though the backbone supports, it is itself dependent for its vitality upon the blood vessels and nerves which ramify throughout the whole body and connect it with the life-preserving and life-giving heart and lungs. In the same manner, as civilization developed and the needs and wants of men increased and foreign foes gathered and threatened the growing communities, it must have soon become apparent that the fullest liberty of the individual, that is to say, his fullest opportunity for self-development and for self- assertion, could only be secured in society; and if in society, with the growth and protection of it. We thus early find in, and running throughout the whole of the English and American Law, the legal and metaphysical but feudal theory of relationship which reasserts the doctrine of individual liberty but which opens the way for the protection of the community as a whole, and for all manner of governmental control.

 

Young, Jeremiah Simeon. 1917. The State and Government. A. C. McClurg: Chicago.

[35] Only the all-powerful person can do as he pleases; and this is apt to destroy the individual liberty of all others. Hence there arises the need of an umpire as between conflicting ideas of individual liberty. This umpire is found in the political power called sovereignty. Many persons argue that when sovereignty exists liberty declines and when liberty exists anarchy appears; but the opposite is true. Sovereignty and liberty are not opposing terms. It is through the state that the highest welfare of all individuals is reached. This makes it possible for each individual to enjoy a maximum of personal liberty. Sovereignty, then, is the foundation of personal liberty. The positive side of personal liberty consists of a large sphere for the play of self-determination and activity. The negative side is restraint from interference with the rights of others. Personal liberty is of two kinds, civil and political.

 

Cooley, William Forbes. 1918. “Wanted: An American Policy,” The Bookman 47(1): 1-9.

[7] What more do Americans need in the way of a national end of endeavour for the future than just these aims enlarged and universalized? … Within our own borders our great task is still the full realisation of liberty. The positive and larger meaning of that word must be worked out into fact intelligently and patiently through a system of provisions for ever enlarging individual opportunity in industry and commerce, in science and art. If, when need arises, the body of the people are to fight for liberty, it must be made sufficiently valuable to them to be worth fighting for. It must stand for precious things in the experience of the average citizen. But this task, while it is in a special sense our own, is not, and should not be, merely for our own benefit. America is the world's great experimental field in freedom, and the interest of the world in our results should never be forgotten.

 

Clay, Henry. 1918. Economics. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[473] Liberty used to be conceived as freedom from external control, and in this sense it was the aim of the movement which swept away the old system of protection and many other restrictions on freedom of action in the nineteenth century; when these had been swept away, the great majority of people were still not conscious of possessing liberty, and the old negative conception has given way to a positive conception, which is best expressed by the word ‘opportunity.’ Wealth gives liberty in this sense; it increases opportunity, giving the possessor more choice in the use of his time and fuller means of self-determination or self-expression. A man with wealth enough to live without working is, we say, ‘independent; a person who has to rely on another for all wealth is that persons ‘dependent.’

 

Richard Henry "R. H." Tawney (1880 – 1962) was an English economic historian, social critic, ethical socialist, Christian socialist, and an important proponent of adult education.

Richard Henry "R. H." Tawney (1880 – 1962) was an English economic historian, social critic, ethical socialist, Christian socialist, and an important proponent of adult education.

Tawney, Richard Henry. 1918. “Conditions of Economic Liberty,” in Labor and Capital After the War edited by S. J. Chapman. John Murray: London

[101-102] Stated in its most general form, therefore, the first problem of industrial organisation is to create in every industry which is not a matter of individual handicraft or shop-keeping a constitution securing its members an effective voice in its government. The conditions of economic liberty require, in fact, like the conditions of religious liberty, to be restated. For the last two centuries economic freedom has been interpreted to mean the right of each individual to be unfettered by authority in pursuing whatever occupation he pleases in the way which he may think best, just as religious freedom has meant merely absence of interference with the right of the individual to believe and worship as he may choose. This negative conception of liberty requires to be set in its place as one element in a more positive and constructive interpretation. Freedom, to be complete, must carry with it not merely the absence of repression but also the opportunity of self-organisation. It must confer the right to associate with others in building up a social organisation with a consciousness and corporate life of its own. Economic freedom must develop, in short, through the applications of representative institutions to industry.

 

Mary Parker Follett (1868 – 1933) was an American social worker, management consultant and pioneer in the fields of organizational theory and organizational behavior.

Mary Parker Follett (1868 – 1933) was an American social worker, management consultant and pioneer in the fields of organizational theory and organizational behavior.

Follett, Mary Parker. 1918. The New State. Longmans, Green and Co.: London.

[138] As an understanding of the group process abolishes ‘individual rights,’ so it gives us a true definition of liberty. We have seen that the free man is he who actualizes the will of the whole. I have no liberty except as an essential member of a group. The particularist idea of liberty was either negative, depending on the removal of barriers, or it was quantitative, something which I had left over after the state had restrained me in every way it thought necessary. But liberty is not measured by the number of restraints we do not have, but by the number of spontaneous activities we do have. Law and liberty are not like the two halves of this page, mutually exclusive — one is involved in the other. One does not decrease as the other increases. Liberty and law go hand in hand and increase together in the larger synthesis of life we are here trying to make.

 

John Rogers Commons (1862–1945) was an American institutional economist, progressive and labor historian at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

John Rogers Commons (1862–1945) was an American institutional economist, progressive and labor historian at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Commons, John Rogers. 1919. Industrial Goodwill. McGraw-Hill Company: New York.

[37] The anarchistic idea of democracy is equal liberty for every individual, but not for any associations of individuals.

[43] Only through organization can the modern industrial worker, whether capitalist or laborer, have an effective voice either in industry or government. His liberty is bound to be limited anyhow by the liberties and powers of opponents or competitors. In his individual weakness he gains greater power and liberty through organization.

[58] Thus compulsory compensation, with compulsory insurance, enlarges liberty more than it restrains it. It enlarges it in a different direction. It opens up a new field for initiative, individuality, enterprise and even profit.

[87] Does group insurance promote the laborer's welfare at the cost of his liberty? Liberty is not an empty idea, but is the laborer’s means of getting higher wages when times are good and employers are competing for labor. The laborer's liberty may be worthless to him in hard times but it is valuable in good times. The well-known increase of labor turnover in good times is a rise in the market value of liberty.

[123] Liberty is progressive.

 

Webb, Sidney and Beatrice Webb. 1920. A Constitution for the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain. Longmans, Green and Co.: London. 

[154] Democracies based on vocation or, as we say, on production, whether Trade Unions of manual workers or Professional Associations of brain workers, have proved equally successful, but in another sphere. They have achieved far-reaching results, not only in maintaining and improving the conditions of employment, but also in protecting the personal freedom of the worker in and outside the working hours. They stand for full livelihood, personal dignity and individual initiative in the exercise of a vocation. The liberty they assure and develop is an intensive liberty, applying to the more continuous and more specialised factors in each member’s life, as against the extensive and diffused liberty typical of the Democracy of Consumers, applying to fragmentary and changing parts of the life common to all men. Further, this form of Democracy does what the Capitalist System and Democracies of Citizen Consumers fail to do: namely, supply machinery by which the consciousness of consent and active cooperation in the productive process may be evoked among the workers.

 

Brown, William Jethro. 1920. The Underlying Principles of Modern Legislation. E. P. Dutton and Co.: New York.

[55] Broadly speaking, as society grows larger, as the economic structure becomes more complex, and as the possibilities of collective human action increase, the more elaborate must be the system of legal regulation if the liberty of the individual is not to be endangered. If it were true that the liberty of each individual was in inverse proportion to the amount of state regulation, the savage would be freer than the modern citizen. … It is only through the existence of such restriction that he has any liberty at all beyond ‘the desolate freedom of the wild ass.’

[56] The negative aspect of liberty as immunity from governmental interference has its roots in the positive element of governmental regulation. That thinkers of our own day, who would be the first to admit that the regulation of the feudal lord by government was a phase of liberty, should maintain that the regulation of the modern capitalist by government implies a necessary departure from liberty, must surely be regarded as a curious example of the limitations of the human intellect. The mistake of such thinkers is to confuse liberty in its concrete and abstract senses. … It would have been more rational to say that liberty is only possible through the diminution of liberties. …[Regulations] may impose restrictions upon each citizen in the interests of the liberty of all citizens.

[59] My discussion of the various ways in which State regulation may promote the liberty of the citizen has been parenthetic. I wished to show that the rejection of a legislative policy of laissez faire is not inconsistent with an ideal of liberty, but should rather be considered as a transition to a more adequate understanding both of the nature of liberty and of the means of its realisation.

[60] The conflict of law and liberty is seen to be accidental, not essential. … In either case, liberty presents a positive as well as a negative aspect, although the negative aspect may at first be more apparent. If old laws have to be repealed, new laws have also to be enacted. Hence, in a truly progressive society, law and liberty grow together.

[62] While the newer interpretation of liberty differs from the doctrine of laissez faire, the difference should not blind us to the continuity of political idealism in the nineteenth century. The rejection of laissez faire was due to the fact that it gave to the spirit of liberty a merely partial expression dictated by provisional necessities. Statesmen and thinkers, in seeking to give expression to national aspiration, mistook the part for the whole. Their mistake must not be taken to indicate a lack of continuity in our political development.

 

Charles Edward Merriam, Jr. (1874 – 1953) was a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, founder of the behavioralistic approach to political science, and an advisor to several U.S. Presidents.

Charles Edward Merriam, Jr. (1874 – 1953) was a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, founder of the behavioralistic approach to political science, and an advisor to several U.S. Presidents.

Merriam, Charles Edward. 1920. American Political Ideas. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[368-369] Organization and discipline as well as individual liberty of action were now the standard types of the time. Liberty was a formula to which men adhered, but its application was by no means clear. It tended more and more to pass from a purely negative idea that less government meant more liberty, to a positive and constructive form — to a doctrine of individual and social advantage gained through the government or through organization. Fear of strong government, and unbounded belief in unrestrained competition, both declined; and in their place came the recognition of the need of well organized and equipped government, with broad powers to regulate unfair competition and to promote social efficiency and general welfare.

In America as elsewhere this was the transition process by which the form of democracy was filled out with a content of social and industrial meaning. It was the reconciliation of liberty not merely with government, but with the grim facts of industrial and social life.

 

Morris Hillquit (1869–1933) was a founder and leader of the Socialist Party of America and prominent labor lawyer in New York City's Lower East Side during the early 20th century. In November 1917 running on an anti-war platform, Hillquit garnered more than 100,000 votes as the Socialist candidate for Mayor of New York City.

Morris Hillquit (1869–1933) was a founder and leader of the Socialist Party of America and prominent labor lawyer in New York City's Lower East Side during the early 20th century. In November 1917 running on an anti-war platform, Hillquit garnered more than 100,000 votes as the Socialist candidate for Mayor of New York City.

Hillquit, Morris and John A. Ryan. 1920. Socialism – Promise or Menace? The Macmillan Company: New York.

[85] And finally Dr. Ryan expresses the fear that a socialist regime would curtail the individual liberty of the citizen. … Under the present regime the capitalist minority dominates the non-capitalist majority in all matters at all times. … On the whole, it seems to me that the ‘tyranny’ of Socialism cannot but afford a very substantial relief from the ‘individual libertyof Capitalism.

 

Carlton, Frank Tracy. 1920. The History and Problems of Organized Labor, revised. D. C. Heath and Co.: Boston.

[331-332] The exaggeration of the non-interference system and the glorification of the ideal of negative liberty was due to the enthusiasm and the hopes of a strong and aggressive class of English merchants and industrialists who were at that time leading the world in commerce and industry. … At the very time when a weak and growing wage earning class needed protecting legislation to guard it from the aggressions of the economically stronger employing class, the laissez faire philosophy was invoked to prevent the erection of adequate protecting barriers. Sailing under the motto of liberty and freedom, the laissez faire philosophy is favorable to the interests of the economically strong, and inimical to the interests of the economically weak.

[333-334] What is Liberty? The older view of liberty was purely negative; the concept which is gradually winning favor is a positive one. According to the older idea liberty consisted  in the absence of restraints; the savage, unhampered by the legal restraints, social conventions, and ethical imperatives of modern life, was a free man par excellence. Liberty in its negative aspect is like a geometrical area, and every law restraining the individual in any manner signifies a reduction in the extent of this area. The modern positive view conceives of liberty as thriving in the presence of law. Laws regulating the mutual relations between individuals of various classes and interests may increase liberty, instead of interfering with the rights and privileges of men. The savage or the solitary frontiersmen may rationally cherish the negative ideal of liberty, but the member of a modern crowded and interdependent industrial nation finds that the negative type of liberty leads to the coercion of the weak by the strong. Negative liberty carried to its logical extreme leads to anarchy. Liberty does not mean the same today that it did yesterday, and tomorrows interpretation will be made in the light of tomorrows industrial and social conditions.

 

Walter Lippmann (1889 – 1974) was an American public intellectual, writer, reporter, and political commentator.

Walter Lippmann (1889 – 1974) was an American public intellectual, writer, reporter, and political commentator.

Lippmann, Walter. 1920. Liberty and the News. Harcourt, Brace and Howe: New York.

[21-22] There are, so far as I can discover, no absolutists of liberty; I can recall no doctrine of liberty, which, under the acid test, does not become contingent upon some other ideal. The goal is never liberty, but liberty for something or other. For liberty is a condition under which activity takes place, and men’s interests attach themselves primarily to their activities and what is necessary to fulfill them, not the abstract requirements of activity that might be conceived.

[24] The word liberty is a weapon and an advertisement, but certainly not an ideal which transcends all special aims.

[32] So incidental are they, so little do they impinge on his mind, that the arguments of [John Stuart Mill,] this staunch apostle of liberty can be used honestly, and in fact are used, to justify the bulk of the suppression which have recently occurred.

[35-36] The moral is…that the traditional core of liberty, namely, the notion of indifference, is too feeble and unreal a doctrine to protect the purpose of liberty, which is the furnishing of a healthy environment in which human judgment and inquiry can most successfully organize human life. Too feeble, because in time of stress nothing is easier than to insist, and by insistence to convince, that tolerated indifference is no longer tolerable because it has ceased to be indifferent.

[67-68] That, I think, constitutes the meaning of freedom for us. We cannot successfully define liberty, or accomplish it, by a series of permissions and prohibitions. For that is to ignore the content of opinion in favor of its form. … A useful definition of liberty is obtainable only by seeking the principle of liberty in the main business of human life, that is to say, in the process by which men educate their response and learn to control their environment. In this view liberty is the name we give to measures by which we protect and increase the veracity of the information upon which we act.

 

May Gorslin Preston Slosson (1858 – 1943) was an American educator and suffragist.

May Gorslin Preston Slosson (1858 – 1943) was an American educator and suffragist.

Slosson, Preston. 1921. “Reaction and the Way Out,” The Independent (Feb. 26): 210-211.

[211] Liberalism, of course, means the principle of liberty. But what is liberty? Perhaps we may define it as ‘the power and range of personal choice.’ Obviously the more things, and the more important things, a man can do or refrain from doing according to his own will the greater the radius of his freedom. A slave is unfree because his master may at any moment interfere with any choice he may make. A hermit is unfree in another way; he can do anything he chooses, but there is such a limited range of things for him to do! It is important to emphasize this positive side of freedom, opportunity to choose, as well as the negative side, permission to choose. This is the reason why law may sometimes secure more freedom than anarchy can. By forbidding people to rob and steal an atmosphere of personal security is created in which people can move about more freely and do what they please to a greater extent than if they were always on guard to protect themselves. Even a prohibition law, tho in itself abhorrent to liberalism, may be justified in a country where the saloon has grown to be a menace to the public safety by becoming a focus for lawlessness and disorder.

 

Wera, Eugene. 1921. Human Engineering. D. Appleton and Co.: New York.

[116] The aim of all revolutions has been to overthrow class dependency. Peoples have succeeded in part in getting rid of coercion. But this constitutes only negative liberty, since it is mere liberation from restrictive, alien power. Positive liberty, the object of present aspiration, consists in the attainment of a constructive system for the self-determination of individuals, of groups, and of nations. This cannot be gained by revolution, but only by organizing human forces for ultimately attaining greater union. This is the task of democracy.

 

Barnes, Harry Elmer. 1921. “Some Contributions of Sociology to Modern Political Theory,” The American Political Science Review 15(4): 487-533.

[517] Liberty, both in its normal manifestations and in its temporary fluctuations, is a function or product of ‘circumstantial pressure’ coming from the social environment. Further, sociologists have recognized that it is unscientific, if not futile, to talk about some vague generalized liberty. There are many types of liberty, all of which must be provided for in a truly liberal state, as for example, civil liberty, economic liberty, religious liberty, personal liberty and so on. Professor Hobhouse, in particular, has attempted to classify and define the various types of liberty and to give greater precision to this line of discussion. The most significant recent sociological contribution to the doctrine of liberty is contained in WallasOur Social Heritage. He makes it clear that any socialized theory of liberty must provide, not only for the removal of all obstructions in the way of using ones faculties, but also for the conscious and organized will to use them. Liberty is, thus, a positive as well as a negative concept. On these grounds Wallas finds that the Periclean notion of liberty is far more helpful than the negative definitions of John Stuart Mill and Sidney Webb.

 

James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce (1838 – 1922) was a British academic, jurist, historian and Liberal politician.

James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce (1838 – 1922) was a British academic, jurist, historian and Liberal politician.

Bryce, James. 1921. Modern Democracies, Vol. I. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[55-56] It is hard to draw any line of demarcation between Civil Liberty and Individual Liberty. The distinction is rather historical than theoretical. Both consist in Exemption from Control, i.e. in the non-interference of State authority with the unfettered exercise of the citizenswill. But the conception of Civil Liberty was older than that of Individual Liberty. When men were fighting against oppression by kings or oligarchs, they assumed that there were certain restrictions to which every one must be subject by law, while there were certain other restrictions which must be abolished. It was against the latter, which nearly everybody felt to be oppressive, that they strove. … Enough to say that although the conception of Individual Liberty may be made to include the exemptions our ancestors contended for in the seventeenth century, and though every kind of individual liberty may be called a Civil Liberty, there is this significant difference that the Civil liberties of those older days were extorted from arbitrary monarchs, whereas what we call Individual Liberty to-day has to be defended, when and so far as it needs defence, against the constitutional action of a self-governing community.

 

Muir, Ramsay. 1921. Liberalism and Industry. Houghton Mifflin: Boston and New York.

[19] The essence of Liberalism, as its very name suggests, is a deep concern about the preservation and enlargement of Liberty as an essential condition of the highest human value. This may not seem to tell us very much; for the great name of Liberty may be used in different senses…. Liberalism itself has gradually learnt to give this great word a deeper and fuller meaning…. Real liberty is not the mere absence of restraints; it is security in doing, by a man’s free choice, all or any of the things that are worth doing, and that are not harmful to his felloes; and it can only be enjoyed in its fullness in a society where all men are equally free, because equally protected by the common action and opinion of the community.

[28] In [the older Liberal’s] zeal for liberty and their belief in the potency of individuality they failed to realize that the mere removal of restrictions was no enough for the establishment of real liberty…[and] meant that the weak were left too much at the mercy of the strong. It meant that the liberty of many men became in fact unreal.

[30] Liberty is not merely a negative thing, a mere absence of restraints; it is a positive thing. No man is really free until he possesses, in a sufficient degree, the material basis of liberty, so that he is free from the chains of constant anxiety about the livelihood of himself and his family.

 

Dell, Edward Robert. 1922. Socialism and Personal Liberty. Tom Seltzer: New York.

[18] The conception of personal liberty set forth in the previous chapter is that of all liberals, but liberals make the mistake of assuming that it can be realised merely by the absence of legal restrictions on liberty. They do not take into account the fact that certain economic conditions are necessary to make liberty positive.

 

Hobhouse, Leonard T. 1922. Elements of Social Justice. George Allen and Unwin: London.

[61] Liberty is not founded on the personal right of the individual as opposed to, or as limiting, the right of the community.

[62] The liberty of each then must, on the principle of the common good, be limited by the rights of all. … Thus, in the body of rights, we have found a system of restraints which is the basis of a system of liberties.

[62] If…A’s ends and Bs cannot be reconciled, a different question arises. We now have to think not only of their respective wills, characters, opinions, etc., but the results in which these issue, and, as the results are incompatible, we have to choose between them…. Whichever end is supported by the common welfare is a ‘right,which sets a limit to any liberty that might encroach upon it, while itself carrying the liberty to pursue it.

[67] Liberty rests on the spiritual nature of the social bond, and the rational character of the Common Good.

[82] It has been absolutely necessary in modern times to extend the functions of the State in two directions. One is the better protection of personal rights—particularly in the economic sphere. The other is the organization of public resources for certain common objects, e.g. education and for the sharing of economic burdens and the advantages as by Unemployment Insurance. Neither of these developments involve any true loss of personal liberty. The first is…a better definition of liberty. The second, if financed on a proper basis, is not…a mulcting of individuals or a taxation of one class for the benefit of another, but an appropriation to common ends of wealth which arises out of common efforts.

[83] The ultimate foundation of liberty is that it is a condition of spiritual growth. This is the ‘general’ liberty underlying, inspiring, and also transcending all ‘liberties.But there would be no liberty for us all if any fool, rogue, or fire-eater had liberty for his part to develop his folly, roguery, or violence at our expense… It is here that physical restraint becomes necessary and that ‘libertymust be particularized into ‘liberties.Liberty—we come back to the initial paradox—itself demands restraints.

[90] We defined Liberty at the outset negatively as the absence of external constraint, positively as self-determination. Our discussion of social liberty has shown that the two definitions are intelligible and applicable if taken in close connection with one another. There must be restraints in any society, but in a free community they are those which human wills in co-operation impose on themselves for the sale of their common end, and, since this end is Harmony, in proportion as it is approached. Thus the principle of Liberty is a project of social harmony and the realization of livery the measure of success.

 

Stone, Gilbert. 1922. A History of Labour. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[242] That power is founded on the right residing in the majority of the people, irrespective of class or wealth, to decide how the country shall be ruled, what laws shall be made, and how obedience to those laws shall be secured. That is a priceless heritage. It constitutes at present what we call our liberty.

 

Thilly, Frank. 1923. “The Individualism of John Stuart Mill,” The Philosophical Review 32(1): 1-17.

[15] The liberty enjoyed by one person or group of persons may mean the coercion of the other, while interference with the liberty of some means the deliverance of other from restrain: the interference with the liberty of the slave-holder brought freedom to the slave.

 

Wilde, Norman. 1924. The Ethical Basis of the State. Princeton University Press: Princeton.

[210] [Genuine liberty] cannot be absolute, but must involve interdependence and mutual limitation on the part of the members of the social whole….

 

Morrell, W. P. 1924. “The Development and Significance of the Fascista Movement,” Journal of the British Institute of International Affairs 3(1): 1-19.

[18] If so, and if the political organization of the Fascisti, when the time of transition marked by the dictatorship comes to an end, is also based on the commune, the association of communes, and the region, then they may be able to prove that they have given Italy not only better and stronger government but also a more real liberty.

 

Commons, John R. 1968 [1924]. Legal Foundations of Capitalism. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

[151] The citizen is a person who is a member of many concerns, and his transactions with other citizens constitute, on one hand, his personality, property, liberty, and citizenship, and on the other hand, his share in the going business and public business of all concerns and of the state.

 

Small, Albion W. 1925. “The Sociology of Profits,” The American Journal of Sociology 30(4): 439-461.

[456] This, by the way, is aversion of what men of the social type of mind have always inarticulately reached for under the name ‘liberty,’ i.e., room for achievement of larger dimensional values, or values for more people, than the values by prevailing conventions or monopolized by privileged classes.

 

John Dewey (1859 –1952) was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey is one of the primary figures associated with philosophy of pragmatism and is considered one of the founders of functional psychology.

John Dewey (1859 –1952) was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey is one of the primary figures associated with philosophy of pragmatism and is considered one of the founders of functional psychology.

Dewey, John. 1927. The Public and Its Problems. Henry Holt: new York.

[150] Liberty is that secure release and fulfillment of personal potentialities which take place only in rich and manifold association with others: the power to be an individualized self making a distinctive contribution and enjoying in its own way the fruits of association.

 

Harold Joseph Laski (1893 – 1950) was a British political theorist, economist, author, and lecturer. He was active in politics and served as the chairman of the British Labour Party during 1945–1946, and was a professor at the London School of Economics from 1926 to 1950.

Harold Joseph Laski (1893 – 1950) was a British political theorist, economist, author, and lecturer. He was active in politics and served as the chairman of the British Labour Party during 1945–1946, and was a professor at the London School of Economics from 1926 to 1950.

Laski, Harold J. [1930] 1972. Liberty in the Modern State. Augustus M. Kelley: New York.

[19] The way to conditions which make liberty possible seems to me to lie through the kind of functional federalism of which, thus far, the Tennessee Valley Authority has been an outstanding example.

[19]Liberty, and therefore civilization, we must remember, is still a matter of the existence of an adequate food supply, equitably distributed; and this we have not yet attained in the history of the world.

[22-23] The means of a new and fuller security lie at our disposal, and, with its advent, the means, also, of a new and fuller liberty. For what has characterized our liberty in the past, in almost every significant field, has been its limitations by the implications of the economic system under which we have lived. Liberty for us has been always hindered and hampered by its necessary subordination to the claim of property.

[33] I mean by liberty the absence of restraint upon the existence of those social conditions which, in modern civilization, are the necessary guarantees of individual happiness.

[34] By making liberty the absence of restraint, I make it, of course, a purely negative concept.

 

Laski, Harold Joseph. 1930. The Grammar of Politics. Yale University Press: New Haven.

[148] By economic liberty I mean security and the opportunity to find reasonable significance in the earnings of one’s daily bread. I must, that is, be free from the constant fear of unemployment and insufficiency which, perhaps more than any other adequacies, sap the whole strength of personality. I must be safeguarded against the wants of tomorrow. … Economic liberty, therefore, implies democracy in industry.

 

Tawney, Richard Henry. [1931] 1979. Equality. Unwin Books: New York.

[164] If liberty means, therefore, that every individual shall be free, according to his opportunities, to indulge without limit his appetite for either, it is clearly incompatible, not only with economic and social, but with civil and political, equality, which also prevent the strong exploiting the to the full advantages of their strength, and, indeed, with any habit of life save that of Cyclops. But freedom for the pike is death for the minnows. It is possible that equality is to be contrasted, not with liberty, but only with a particular interpretation of it.

[165] Liberty implies the ability to act, not merely to resist.

[168] In conditions which impose co-operative, rather than merely individual, effort, liberty is, in fact, equality in action, in the sense, not that all men perform identical functions or wield the same degree of power, but that all men are equally protected against the abuse of power, and equally entitled to insist that power shall be used, not for personal ends, but for the general advantage.

 

Laski, Harold J. 1932. “The Present Position of Representative Democracy,” The American Political Science Review 26(4): 629-641.

[631] What alone can be said to remain if the Victorian political ideals are the final eclipse of aristocracy and the recognition that no church can dominate the life of the nation. The advocates of lasses-faire have been driven to admit that liberty of contract has no meaning in the absence of equality of bargaining power. … In many countries, the ideal of representative democracy has been frankly abandoned; and that feeling for liberty which was characteristic of the Victorian period is everywhere at a discount.

 

Callcott, Mary S. 1932. Principles of Social Legislation. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[2] Adherents of the laissez faire tenets called loudly for ‘individual liberty.’ But as Jethro Brown puts it, ‘What the Opponents of factory legislation called liberty was the privilege of the manufacturer to exploit his workpeople.’

[9] The great principle in social legislation is the promotion of social welfare, and conditions must be studied carefully to ascertain whether the results sought can be best attained by private agency or government action. In cases where restraint or compulsion are needed obviously only government action will suffice. In order to give the new liberty…state interference is necessary. Restraint is needed. … Liberty is not attained through relief when one has been overcome by his struggle with unequal forces. The greater liberty, that which makes for self-respect, which makes the highest pinnacle of success possible of attainment, can be brought about only through the protection and opportunity that a well-rounded concept of government can give.

 

Slichter, Sumner H. 1932. Modern Economic Society. Henry Holt and Co.: New York.

[851] Probably the claim which is most frequently made on behalf of modern industry is that is provides more liberty than could any other arrangement. But much liberty in modern economic society is appearance rather than reality. … The modern workman is said to be free because he posses the right to quit his employer at any time. His ancestors did not enjoy this right. But from the mere fact that the worker is free to quit, may we infer that he has liberty? Most workers have no direct voice in making the shop rules under which they work. Is that liberty? And much of the consumer’s liberty is a delusion. The consumer, it is true, is free to spend his money as he sees fit, but in many cases he knows precious little about what he is buying.

 

Herbert Clark Hoover (1874 – 1964) was the 31st President of the United States (1929–1933). He achieved American and international prominence in humanitarian relief efforts in war-time Belgium and served as head of the U.S. Food Administration during World War I. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted partnerships between government and business under the rubric "economic modernization".

Herbert Clark Hoover (1874 – 1964) was the 31st President of the United States (1929–1933). He achieved American and international prominence in humanitarian relief efforts in war-time Belgium and served as head of the U.S. Food Administration during World War I. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted partnerships between government and business under the rubric "economic modernization".

Hoover, Herbert. 1934. The Challenge to Liberty. Scribners Sons: New York.

[46] We witness tragedy after tragedy to American aspirations and ideals. Abuses of Liberty through betrayal of trust or through economic domination, whether they be called ‘unfair competition,’ special privilege, monopoly, exploitation, vicious speculation, or the abuse of property to oppress others, are all sins against the whole system and ideals of Liberty.

[159] In regulation there must be the minimal necessary to attain true public ends. That is sound economics as well as liberty.

 

Pei, Mario A. 1935. Freedom under Fascism,Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 180(Jul.): 9-13.

[9] Concepts of liberty, like concepts of morality, are not fixed and permanent; they are changeable; they are not absolute, but relative. Complete liberty may well be defined as anarchy. Complete liberty would simply lead to phenomena of the personality of any person in the audience. I should be at liberty to shoot that person. That is what liberty amounts to, as a philosophical concept.

[9] Even at the present time our concept of liberty is definitely changing. The idea of rugged individualism, the idea that prevailed during last century of the individual striving for himself alone, often infringing upon the rights of his fellow man and being protected by the state in that constant infringement, is no longer looked upon with approval. We have today in the United States the New Deal and the NRA, which are forms of restriction upon liberty.

[10] What was the state of affairs in Italy at the time when the Fascists took over the power of the state and, as the anti-Fascists would have it, suppressed liberty? … It is a matter of record that in a town hall of the City of Bologna, the minority, composed of Liberals and Fascists were, without warning, attacked by the Communist-Socialist majority and butchered. Such was liberty in Italy under a democratic regime.

[11] The only condition that is laid upon the Italian people is that they do not infringe upon the rights of others and particularly upon the supreme right of the state to live and develop; that they do not attempt to overthrow the state by violent means against, possibly, the will of the majority. There is no longer liberty in Italy to carry on those disastrous, destructive strikes that used to paralyze the life of the nation. But on the other hand, there is liberty to the workers, under Fascism, to join organizations which deal collectively with the employers under Government supervision, and safeguard their rights.

[13] The Italian people today are enjoying a new and different type of liberty. They are enjoying the liberty of feeling themselves members, part and parcel, of a powerful, organic state, which is ruled for the welfare of everybody and not in the interests of a chosen few, a state which has social justice within and international prestige without its borders.

 

Hocking, William Ernest. 1935. “The Future of Liberalism,” The Journal of Philosophy 32(9): 230-247.

[237] A strong central government may be a tyranny: but if so that is a consequence not of its strength but of its perversity. A strong central government need not be perverse: it may be a right government—whereas a weak government is necessarily a wrong government—and if it is right, it will appear as the first condition of a new liberty. For where there is no power to act, there can be no liberty. Given this power, the economic unity lacking to laissez faire can be brought about; and it is hard to see how otherwise it can be created.

 

Dewey, John. [1935] 1963. Liberalism and Social Action. Capricorn Books: New York.

[48] Today, [liberty] signifies liberation from material insecurity and from the coercions and repressions that prevent multitudes from participation in the vast cultural resources that are at hand.

[56-7] The liberal spirit is marked by its own picture of the pattern that is required: a social organization that will make possible effective liberty and opportunity for personal growth in mind and spirit in all individuals renascent.

[88] …[T]he recent policy of liberalism has been to further ‘social legislation’…. It marks a decided move away from laissez faire liberalism, and has considerable importance in educating the public mind to a realization of the possibilities of organized social control…. But the cause of liberalism will be lost for a considerable period if it is not prepared to go further and socialize the forces of production, now at hand, so that the liberty of individuals will be supported by the very structure of economic organization.

 

Soule, George. 1935. A Planned Society. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[86] [Freedoms] most important characteristics are found in the way it is ruled, both by its own government and by the industrial and social institutions which have come into being with it. If this government and these institutions do not now accomplish well the purposes which matters most to people, they are no more worthy of uncritical preservation that ere the governments and institutions against which liberals first directed their fire. To say that we must be denied the liberty to change them, in the interest of Liberty, is to utter an absurdity. … Natures part in the affair is not to prescribe a natural right of Liberty, but to prescribe the circumstances of the choice of liberties.

[87] The absolute conception of Liberty would force us to accept, for example, the absurd proposition that drivers of automobiles ought to be free to use either side of the road as they please, to cross crossing regardless of opposing traffic, to stop anywhere and for any length of time, to choose whether they shall or shall not carry lights at night.

[91-92] We are now thwarted…by the dogma of absolute Liberty, by the chaos of indeterminateness which is the natural accompaniment of planless ‘freedom.’

[266] Yet there is no such thing as abstract and universal Liberty. It is a physical impossibility to be free to do everything at once: some liberties obstruct others. We must choose which liberties we want most.

 

Soule, George. 1936. The Future of Liberty. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[14] What is liberty? The quick answer that it is the absence of restraint upon the individual. But with a moment’s analysis that conception disappears into the fog.

[17] Since liberty itself requires the imposition of some restraint, the question becomes, what restraints shall be imposed, and by what authority and means. Here enters our conception of democracy, which is a corollary of equality.

[18-19] But as the idea of political liberty developed, there came a fear of tyranny by any government, representative or democratic. The minds of the thinkers were still preoccupies with the negative aspect of liberty, with the attempt to avoid restraint. … These mechanical and negative conceptions of liberty in society, however, give rise to just as many confusions as the negative conception of absence of restraint in the individual. They continually plague us today.

[25] Thus the merely negative concept of liberty is not only useless, it is also actively dangerous.

[30] Negative liberty, liberty as the absence of restraint, is meaning less and self-contradictory, whether for the individual or for society. Such liberty, put into action, may eventually destroy equality and negate democracy.

[164] We have seen that if liberty is to mean anything—if, indeed, it is not to destroy itself and carry down with it equality, democracy, reason and persuasion—it must be organized about specific purposes. It must be incorporated in a social order, designed to serve these purposes.

 

Tate, Allen. 1936. “Notes on Liberty and Property” in Who Owns America? Edited by Herbert Agar and Allen Tate. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston.

[80] If property is a relative term, so is liberty, and in the exactly same way. For to the extent to which a man or a social group controls the property by which its welfare is insured is the man or group possessed of liberty.

[83-84] A true property system will be composed of a large proportion of owners whose property is not to be expresses solely in terms of exchange-value, but retains, for the owner, the possibility of use-value. Pure liberty would be the power of the owner to choose between selling and using. Actual liberty is the power of choice relative to ‘conditions.’ But as the freedom to ‘use’ disappears, liberty begins to disappear.

 

Leighton, Joseph Alexander. 1937. Social Philosophies in Conflict: Fascism & Nazism, Communism, Liberal Democracy. D. Appleton-Century Company: New York.

[325] In most of the current discussions about liberty—especially on the part of those who proclaim that we are being robbed of our precious American heritage of liberty, proclaimed by the Declaration of Independence to be as inalienable a human right as life itself and guaranteed by the Constitution, there is usually a failure to specify just what liberties are being destroyed. There is a magic aura of majesty and mystery about the words ‘liberty’ or ‘freedom’ that seems to create a highly emotional state of alarm. They are words to conjure with, hobgoblins with which to frighten people—like ‘Radical,’ ‘Red,’ ‘Communism.’ To say that a proposal or a legislative act is socialistic is to damn it as an insidious menace; whereas it only means that something is to be dome for the common good by the chosen agents of the people as a whole. Freedom, or liberty, then, is a very ambiguous word.

 

Merriam, Charles Edward. 1938. “The Assumptions of Democracy,” Political Science Review 53(3): 328-349.

[336] Liberty, Bryce has said, is an end in itself, but it is more than that. It is also a means of arriving at other ends, a method of expression of personality—a mode of obtaining recognition and possibly rising in the heirarcy of values in society.

When the procedures of alleged liberty stand in the way of the throbbing interests of life, it is time to reconsider their form and application, to see whether what was intended as a release has become a restriction…. When the rich or powerful publicly invoke liberty, it is time to examine the nature of the forms and procedures and the spirit in which they are applied before we accept these invocations at their full value. The variation of social forces must be accompanied by a co-variation of the libertarian forms that express them; otherwise liberty becomes only a convenient word twisted to the purposes of tyranny.

 

Coyle, David Cushman. 1938. Roads to a New America. Little, Brown and Company: Boston.

[7-8] The confusion of political argument since 1929 has been chiefly caused by the fact that no clear national ideas were visible except Democracy, Liberty, and Justice, which were floating so high among the clouds that no measurements could be taken from them. They served as starting-points for hot arguments, but not for practical discussion of how to get from point A to B. With no objective more definite that a general desire for prosperity, the New Deal was deprived of constructive opposition, with great detriment to its effectiveness. … The ideas of liberty, democracy, and justice are too vague for common sense. They need to be brought down closer to earth where their practical meaning and their relation to everyday problems can be more clearly seen.

 

Clark, John Maurice. 1939. Social Control of Business. McGraw-Hill Company: New York.

[91] Personal liberty is largely guaranteed by the right of personal security. All alike are free from injuries by violence or threats of violence, and all have equal access to the courts for redress, at least in theory. Actually the costs and delays of the law amount to depriving the poor of equal access to justice. And legal justice affords no more than formal liberty. A person may possess this and still have no real liberty of action. The substance of liberty, as distinct from the mere form, has an economic basis. … A person who does not have a job or any other source of income, and who does not know where to her one and how to go about canvassing the market effectively, does not possess the substance of liberty.

 

Merriam, Charles Edward. 1939. The New Democracy and the New Despotism. McGraw-Hill Book Company: New York.

[77] In democratic theory, however, liberty is not merely negative, but also positive in its nature. Liberty connoted the fullest and richest possible development of the possibilities of the personality of the citizens.”

[80] “In a sense, liberty is life. In a political sense this liberty is attained in the framework of mechanisms, procedures, understandings we call ‘government.It is not primarily negative, although there is an element of negativism in it, but primarily positive. It is not no, but yes, in the main—not prohibition, but release.

 

Lewis, John D. 1940. “The Elements of Democracy,” The American Political Science Review 34(3): 467-480.

[474] The suggestion that the positive control of the state over economic regulation might be greatly expanded for the sake of greater opportunity of development for many individuals meets two objections. It is argued, first, that increasing regulation of economic activities must mean decreasing civil liberty… I see no evidence. The evidence would seem to prove the opposite. That increasing economic control need not destroy civil liberties would be demonstrated by the fact that the increasing control of the past quarter-century in the United States has not been destroying or curtailing civil liberty. To assume that expanding economic control must mean decreasing civil liberty is to apply a deterministic economic interpretation to a new purpose.

 

Sulzbach, Walter. 1940. “Tolerance and the Economic System,” Ethics 50(3): 290-313.

[292] If democracy aims to insure liberty of as many individuals as possible, it is evidently a system with strong centrifugal tendencies. The ideal, as far as liberty is concerned, would of course be the absence of any government whatever. It is toward this ideal that anarchism aims. Actually there must be some form of government, and that type of government in which the majority rules insures liberty to the greatest number of individuals.

 

Barker, Ernest. 1942. Reflections on Government. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

[16] Liberty will then be that essential condition; and the essence of liberty will be that it is a condition, or status, or quality, which individual personality must possess on order that it may translate itself from what it is to what it has the capacity of becoming.

 

Bronisław Kasper Malinowski (1884–1942) was a Polish anthropologist, one of the most important 20th-century anthropologists. He has been also referred to as a sociologist and ethnographer.

Bronisław Kasper Malinowski (1884–1942) was a Polish anthropologist, one of the most important 20th-century anthropologists. He has been also referred to as a sociologist and ethnographer.

Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1944. Freedom and Civilization. Roy Publishers.

[45-46] The claim that liberty is the absence of restraint, of trammels, and of hindrances is persistent. … A modified and moderate insistence on lack of trammels runs through a whole group of explicit and circumstantial arguments and definition, characteristics of liberal and libertarian thinkers. They argue, define and interpret facts so as to make liberty synonymous with the absence of chains, removal of restraints, and the minimum control of behavior. John Stuart Mill might be taken as representative view. … Mill, however, and many other liberal thinkers, who insist that ‘more liberty and less law’ are directly related, often forget that it is not the quantity of law which matters, but its nature. The extreme position verging on anarchism adopted by some liberals fails to give sufficient recognition to the fact that the degree to which discipline is necessary depends on many factors besides human goodwill.

 

Polanyi, Karl. 1957. The Great Transformation. Beakon Press: Boston.

[253-4] Out of the ruins of the Old World, cornerstones of the New can be seen to emerge: economic collaboration of governments and the liberty to organize national life at will. Under the constrictive system of free trade neither of these possibilities could have been conceived of, thus excluding a variety of methods of co-operation between nations.

 

George Bernard Shaw (1856 –1950) was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics.

George Bernard Shaw (1856 –1950) was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics.

Shaw, Bernard. 1971. The Road to Equality: Ten Unpublished Lectures and Essays, 1884-1918. Beacon Press: Boston.

[39-40] So much for the theory of ‘liberty.’ … The notion that the absence of legislation means the absence of compulsion is an old fallacy of anarchism.


4L is authored by Daniel B. Klein, Professor of Economics, JIN Chair at the Mercatus Center, George Mason University, Associate Fellow of the Ratio Institute; email: dklein@gmu.edu

Quotations compiled by Ryan Daza & Daniel B. Klein