Freedom is Just Another Word for Universal Paid Vacation

Posted: Apr 29, 2010 11:13 AM

It came out recently that the European Union wants to declare that tourism is a basic human right and, if you have neither the money nor the vacation time, your government should provide both for you.

Why is this important? Because it is the modern Left's conception of "freedom." There is a concerted effort on the part of many to muddle the concept of freedom to the point that it means almost nothing at all. (For a discussion of this by people far more intelligent than I, see Cato Unbound's series on liberty.)

[# More #] Matt Yglesias has now written about how "freedom's just another word for I'm an orthodox conservative."

Beyond narrow electoral considerations, I also think it's a mistake to too-closely identify the right's freedom-rhetoric with the formal philosophical conception of libertarian-style negative liberty. It is, rather, a slogan that's invoked as a gesture of ideological identity and solidarity that's largely devoid of semantic content… Consider that the proponents of right-wing "freedom" are not even slightly inclined to back elements of a libertarian agenda that conflict with conservative identity politics.
He then discusses John Boehner's myriad held views that are in staunch opposition to what may be called a "freedom" agenda. And he's right; Boehner does hold these views.

The first mistake he makes is confusing conservatism with elected GOP politicians. And elected politicians are far more prone to using empty words with no real meaning no matter what they're talking about, be it freedom or change or reform or equality or safety.

I think it's a mistake to too-far-divorce the Right's freedom-rhetoric from its freedom agenda. And the policy areas that Yglesias cites as not being on the libertarian-ish side of things are hardly settled dogma in the conservative movement. Recently we've seen many debates: Paul Ryan discussed the need to cut military expenditures yesterday. Andrew Napolitano had an extended segment on the dangers of a national ID card. Tim Carney has made a career (and a persuasive case, mind you) of the effects of big business influence and the need to disentangle from them. Yesterday we here at Townhall hosted the "conservative" solution to immigration reform.

Republicans do tend to be more supportive of some establishment and status-quo agendas that, if they were opposed, would lead to more freedom. The conservative movement is far more conflicted on these matters. There's been much written about the conservative movement rediscovering its libertarian strands. That's easy to do while out of power, and the trick is to keep the momentum going whilst in power. But we can all hope for it.