More Democraphilia from Wilkinson
Looks like we’ve got ourselves a good old-fashioned libertarian throwdown! Wilkinson argued that democracy was key to “real freedom,” which charter cities cannot provide. Kling offers a definition of freedom, “absence of monopoly,” under which democracy was certainly not key. Now Wilkinson is questioning Kling’s definition, and goshdarnit, he’s standing up for the importance of voice. Now, if this were a debate round, I’d be happy to go line-by-line, but I do have a book to write, and Kling is perfectly capable of defending himself. So let’s just zoom in one part of Wilkinson’s post that is extremely revealing:
And I would also say, though perhaps Arnold would not, that citizens of a state do not have “real freedom” if they are denied the right to voice their opinion about the laws, or are denied the right to have some formal role in shaping the system in which they live their lives. (bold mine)
These are two completely separate things, and it’s bizarre for Wilkinson to lump them together, because they get to the heart of whether or not democracy is key to “real freedom.” I, and I think Kling, and Patri, and everyone else, would agree that you don’t have “real freedom” if you are unable to voice your opinion about the laws of your country. That’s freedom of speech.
However, whether or not you have a formal role in shaping the system in which you live your life is a question of power, not freedom. To borrow from Charles Stuart, by way of Mencius (ironically discussing this exact predilection of Wilkinson’s…)
Truly I desire their liberty and freedom as much as anybody whomsoever; but I must tell you their liberty and freedom consists of having of government, those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own. It is not for having a share in government, sir, that is nothing pertaining to them. A subject and sovereign are clear different things.
Do you feel less “free” in Amsterdam than you do in New York City? I don’t. I certainly feel like I have a lot more freedom in Amsterdam. But yet, by Wilkinson’s definition, I should feel less free – because I don’t have a formal role in shaping Amsterdam’s system.
Wilkinson might try to get out of that by saying that they should be able to shape “the system in which they live their lives.” But even under that interpretation, that would still mean that no expat could experience true freedom. As Patri wrote yesterday: democracy is a mechanism, freedom an outcome. If you define the right to shape your political system AS freedom, then congratulations, you’ve defined your way to victory, but you’ve hardly proven your point.