By Paul Spicker
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Extra resources for Liberty, Equality, Fraternity
This is a difficult injunction to accept, because at root most of us think the moral choices we make are better than the alternatives – that is why we make them. The idea that moral codes and norms apply only to ourselves and no one else is incoherent. The argument for tolerance is partly that we should do as we wish to be done by, and partly that tolerance is itself a virtue, but also that we all need to understand that we just might be mistaken. Some people would argue that, beyond tolerance, diversity should be valued in itself.
There is also a practical argument, 30 Liberty that prohibition does not work. But the argument from capacity runs against this: the choice to become addicted, like the choice to be a slave, denies freedom for the future. Defending that in terms of freedom is self-contradictory. This is not an exhaustive list. Other examples include consent to serious bodily harm, restrictions on the sale of body organs, and a range of measures taken to protect children from exploitation. If there are certain actions which deny freedom, it must be true that preventing those actions enhances it.
A persuasive argument can certainly be made that a nation with a market economy or a free press is more likely to be ‘free’ than another, but it does not follow that more freedom is fostered effectively by the most libertarian position (unregulated trade, or the freedom claimed by pornographers). The reason for this is that the freedoms of each person have to be viewed in context: freedom in one sense has to be set against freedom in others, the freedom of one person may infringe on the freedom of other people, and the value of freedom depends on the value of the actions it is protecting.