Freedom-talk is an important influence in American rhetoric, but it—and especially its self-consciously antiquarian cousin liberty-talk—has nothing to do with any analytically respectable conception of freedom. It has to do with safeguarding the perceived self-interest, lifestyle, and social status of the right sort of people. . . . Why shouldn’t “liberty” mean the liberty of rich suburbanites to ban medium-density construction? Here’s a group of people being forced to do something they don’t like and they don’t like being forced to accept urbanization any more than conservatives like being forced to let gay couples get married or the conservatives of yore liked being forced to integrate the Montgomery bus system. Change feels coercive to people.I think that last little sentence explains more about actual American political behavior than a bookshelf full of political science.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Change as Coercion
In America we have the amusing phenomenon that the people who cry the most about "liberty" are opposed to all sorts of actual liberties, from the liberty of gay people to marry to the liberty of developers to build apartment buildings. Matt Yglesias explains: