Vignettes from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
links for 2007-03-28

John Holbo Deploys the Ultimate Weapon: Isaiah Berlin

John Holbo unleashes Isaiah Berlin and so wages intellectual thermonuclear war against Rudi Giuliani:

John Holbo: A point Isaiah Berlin makes very well... it is one thing to give up liberty for some greater good -- possibly even an increase in freedom along some other axis. (Giving up the freedom to murder in order to secure freedom from murder seems like a good deal.) It is quite another thing to call the sacrifice of liberty "liberty":

This paradox has been often exposed. It is one thing to say that I know what is good for X, while he himself does not; and even to ignore his wishes... and a very different one to say that he has eo ipso chosen it, not indeed consciously, not as he seems in everyday life, but in his role as a rational self which his empirical self may not know -- the "real" self which discerns the good, and cannot help choosing it once it is revealed. This monstrous impersonation, which consists in equating what X would choose if he were something he is not, or at least not yet, with what X actually seeks and chooses, is at the heart of all political theories of self-realization. It is one thing to say that I may be coerced for my own good.... It is another to say that if it is my good, then I am not being coerced, for I have willed it, whether I know this or not, and am free (or "truly" free) even while my poor earthly body and foolish mind bitterly reject it, and struggle with the greatest desperation against those who seek, however benevolently, to impose it.

As Matt[hew Yglesias] says: "[Rudi Giuliani is] still, I think, a pretty creepy authoritarian but the idea he's expressing has a reasonably distinguished lineage and isn't just some madness he dreamed up on his couch one afternoon." Yes, it's some madness that Hegel dreamed up on his couch one afternoon...

I thought it was Rousseau?