Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996

* A Plea for Understanding--Beyond False Dilemmas on the Net, by Charles Ess

The Presumption of Positive Freedom in Modern Democracies

Modern democracies presume this capacity for positive freedom. Democratic theory from Locke through Habermas argues that especially if reason is involved in a public process of determining our shared goals, and the appropriate rules as means to those goals, consensus is likely to emerge. Given such consensus, democracy then emerges as the system in which people are most free--but not simply in terms of a negative freedom: rather, if I live in a society in which the defining goals and rules are genuinely self-chosen--I am most free in following those self-chosen rules as means towards achieving self-chosen goals.

But there is --another assumption that must be questioned.

[ []Douglas Birsch discusses the distinction between "license" (negative freedom) and "liberty" (positive freedom); []Wes Cooper discusses Locke]

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