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Giulaini: Freedom is about authority?
Posted by: mcq on Thursday, March 22, 2007

Andrew Sullivan has this Rudi Giuliani quote from 1994 up:
"We look upon authority too often and focus over and over again, for 30 or 40 or 50 years, as if there is something wrong with authority. We see only the oppressive side of authority. Maybe it comes out of our history and our background. What we don't see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do," - Rudy Giuliani, March 1994.
I think I know what he's trying to say, but if so he's misstated it badly.

Freedom is not about 'authority'. Freedom has to do with responsiblity. And that responsibility is grounded in your rights as mentioned the other day. What that means is your freedom ends at the other person's nose. You are free to do whatever you like as long as it doesn't infringe or violate another person's rights. That is the beauty and utility of inherent universal rights.

When we constitute government, and this is where I think he was going, we cede to government the role of protecting our rights. We give it that "authority" to protect us from force or fraud. But make no mistake, that authority is given for one purpose and one purpose only, to serve us.

Sullivan leaves it there, but there is, in fact, more:
At the core the struggle is philosophical. There are many, many things that can be done in law enforcement to protect us better. There are many things that can done to create a government that is more responsive and more helpful. The fact is that we're fooling people if we suggest to them the solutions to these very, very deep-seated problems are going to be found in government. . . .
Here Giuliani is talking about the limits of government, and he seems to be saying it has a role in law enforcement (rights protection) but that we should not look at government as the solution for everything. In fact, in the next paragraph he points out society's role in our daily life, and even goes as far as saying that the schools play one of the most vital role in developing responsible American citizens (transmission of culture):
Schools exist in America and have always existed to train responsible citizens of the United States of America.
I'm not going to put words in Giuliani's mouth, but to me a responsible American citizen would be one that a) understands his or her rights b) understands his or her responsibilities as they pertain to their rights and c)understands the limited role government plays in their protection/enforcement.

In his own mangled way, I think this is what Giuliani is trying to say.

Matt Yglesias almost gets it, although he calls Giuliani's quote, "creepy":
The cause of political liberty is not, in fact, served by living in an underpoliced city. Generally speaking, while freedom does require that authority not overstep its proper bounds, it also very much requires that properly constituted authorities be reasonably strong and effective. The absence of effective state institutions does not make contemporary Baghdad freer" than Boston in any way that makes "freedom" denote a worthwhile political ideal.
Again, freedom does not "require that authority" in theory, it instead requires responsible actors. Because there are many irrational actors out there who have no problem violating the rights of others, we cede authority to government to protect ours.

Crooked Timber's John Holbo points to Yglesias' "partial defense" and mostly agrees with its sentiment but disagrees that Giuliani was saying that:
But this isn’t what Giuliani said. A point Isaiah Berlin makes very well in “Two Concepts of Liberty”: 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’.
And that's what Holbo contends Giuliani was calling for. I can't agree. Although certainly not well stated, I don't see in Giuliani's words a call to sacrifice liberty in the name of "liberty". I see a misuse of the word "authority".

Ron Chusid of "Liberal Values" has this to say before going into some weird riff about "libertarians (or not) for Giuliani:
This is being interpreted different ways by different bloggers. Even if we concede, as Matthew Yglesias does, advantages of ceding some discretion to authority, this is hardly a satisfactory view of what freedom means, especially in light of Giuliani’s poor reputation with regards to civil liberties.
I assume that reference to his "poor reputation with regards to civil liberties" refers to his law and order rep as Mayor of NY. I haven't bothered at this point to really look deeply into Giuliani's background and I'm certainly not backing him (again, it's way to early to be doing stuff like that), but I'd be interested in any examples of Chusid's assertion could be provided. It may see me modify my analysis.

Sullivan then reacts to Yglesia's post:
Matt is, of course, right that order precedes liberty. If that were Rudy's entire gist, I'd agree. (And Hegel was, in my view, a liberal, properly understood.) But any New Yorker will tell you that Rudy has never been content merely to establish order and let freedom reign. He's never secured a liberty he wouldn't like the power to meddle with further, an underling he hasn't tried to bully, or a rival he hasn't tried to undermine. I'm still open to his candidacy. But my eyes are open this time. I've learned my lesson from 2000.
Sullivan is wrong, of course ... liberty cedes authority. Tell me a single "authoritarian" regime which has ever voluntarily ceded liberty. The fact is free people decide to form governments to protect their rights. But rarely do governments decide to "free people". That is why authority must grudgingly ceded and strictly limited by any people who wish to remain free.

Robert Farley
of "Lawyers, Guns and Money" says:
Now, as Sully points out there's something mildly scary about a man with Rudy Giuliani's record making this argument, but I nevertheless strongly prefer a coherent defense of the role of authority in political community to the libertarian silliness that often seems to prevail in this kind of discussion.
Well the libertarian silliness above is a "coherent defense" of what government should be and why its authority should be strictly limited.

Now, Sullivan (and Farley) may have a point about Rudy's propensity to go to far in seeking authority, however I'm not sure that's uncharacteristic of any politician. But, as he points out, it is something which should be researched and considered. As to the quote itself, while I can see the more rabid on the left (and some on the right) trying to make hay with this quote, I think it is mostly much ado about a badly stated nothing.
 
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Those of us who lived or worked in New York City during Hizzoner’s tenure can warn you — Mr. Giuliani meant exactly what he said. He is authoritarian, my-way-or-the-highway, to the bone. Attempts to re-interpret the quote in a libertarian light are amusing, but naive.

I suggest you google the keywords "Rudy Giuliani authoritarian" and start reading.
 
Written By: maha
URL: http://www.mahablog.com
Freedom is not about ’authority’. Freedom has to do with responsiblity
To whom?

I figure if you can answer that question, you’ll have an idea what he’s talking about.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
Context is everything.

Judging something based on an excerpt of an excerpt, from a forum, which we don’t have any info on.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com/
I suggest you google the keywords "Rudy Giuliani authoritarian" and start reading.


ooh, feisty. Maha is an expert on drive by smears so I take it that mcq struck a nerve to get this response.
 
Written By: cap joe
URL: http://
How does that quote from one of the Batman movies go? "Judge me not by what’s inside, but by my actions", or something like that?

By that standard, I won’t support Rudy. Right up to the time he decided to go for national office, and realized that he couldn’t get the nomination without gunnies support, he was for *EVERY* single "gun-control" measure there was, and thought up a few on his own. Now, all of a sudden he’s RTKBA to the core. Yeah, right. "How do you know a politician is lying? - His lips are moving."

He’s elitist and authoritarian, and very much the "man on a horse" that would bring destruction to even more of our liberties than we’ve already had.
 
Written By: bud
URL: http://
It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.
Yeah, it’s been on HBO a lot the past few weeks.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
Well the libertarian silliness above is a "coherent defense" of what government should be and why its authority should be strictly limited.
Giuliani used a heavy hand in bring law and order to New York. That may have been needed. Enforcement of the law is a duty of a Mayor. He made his “bones’ as a tough Federal Prosecutor. In the past he has supported gun control laws and other measures that are anathema to the Libertarian philosophy. He is running away from those positions like a robber from a bank. I worry if elected he will not revert back to the old law and order Giuliani, trying to make the trains run on time.

 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
One quibble for now...
Tell me a single "authoritarian" regime which has ever voluntarily ceded liberty.
Well, Deng Xiaoping’s government, to start. You may argue that Deng was simply dismantling the totalitarian regime of Mao (and friends) and replacing it with a more selectively repressive authoritarian government, but liberty did increase in many aspects (although he also attacked other liberalizing elements), and this change didn’t bubble up from below and force his hand. Deng tried this multiple times in his career, often improved life for the people he ruled as a result, and was serially purged for his troubles. A switch from "moonless night" to dark grey may not be much, but it’s something.

And actually, that’s not the first time that one of China’s rather authoritarian governments ceded some liberty. The Qing dynasty, in its final trials and tribulations, tried several liberal reforms because they were reeling from an awful array of challenges that their government couldn’t deal with in the usual ways. Now, you may not call that "voluntary," but a good number of these reforms really can’t be said to have been directly forced on them by foreign powers or domestic "people power." Several of these reforms were quashed by other elements of the government (e.g., the empress dowager and the Hundred Days reforms) or proved fruitless, but liberty increased for a time anyway.

Gorbachev increased liberty in some ways, too... and ended up deposed for it. Also for pragmatic reasons—just a series of reforms designed to strengthen Russia but leave him and his apparatus in power.

And it wasnt just in Russia. Several Eastern European governments under Communism liberalized in certain ways simply because, e.g., central planning wasn’t working out. They tried to liberalize prices in certain consumer-based sectors, for example, while maintaining central control for heavy industry. So several times we see increased liberty under authoritarian Communist governments for pragmatic reasons—decreasing repression in one or two areas at a time so as to maintain the seat of power. Ultimately, a couple of them may be remembered by history for starting processes which ended the party-states they led.

Now, you may say this wasn’t "voluntary" because they were mostly (perhaps always) doing it to maintain power, but how else should we measure the level of voluntarism in a government’s actions? Do you mean, "out of the goodness of their hearts"? It seems enough to me that liberty is seen as being of practical value in addition to whatever romantic or philosophical appeal it may have for some people. (Actually, I listened to a very good podcast about the differences in authoritarian versus democratic governments that could apply very nicely here.)
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
And actually, that’s not the first time that one of China’s rather authoritarian governments ceded some liberty. The Qing dynasty, in its final trials and tribulations, tried several liberal reforms because they were reeling from an awful array of challenges that their government couldn’t deal with in the usual ways.
I would point out that I used the word "voluntarily", which to me means something done freely, without need or pressure. I think most of the examples you give best describe situations where the regime was all but forced to cede liberty or face less desirable outcomes.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Well, Deng Xiaoping’s government, to start. You may argue that Deng was simply dismantling the totalitarian regime of Mao (and friends) and replacing it with a more selectively repressive authoritarian government, but liberty did increase in many aspects
Tell the Falun Gong about all the freedom in China. In 1992 the Peoples Republic of China outlawed the group. Many have been jailed and tortured. China has liberalized economic activity, but any perceived threat to the Communist Party is harshly repressed.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
McQ - That may be, but doesn’t everybody who changes his behavior do so to avoid less desirable outcomes? The same pressures that applied to Mao and Hua Guofeng should have applied to Deng, but Deng was smarter, could see farther than his contemporaries, and was more pragmatic. After the Great Leap Forward, Deng and Chen Yun and others cleaned up after the mess Mao had caused, but Mao came back and purged Deng, then proceeded to roll back the reforms and got back to screwing everything up.
-=-=-=-=-
James - I didn’t say China was a free country at the end of Deng’s reign. I said they had liberalized somewhat, because the party-state had withdrawn to varying degrees from virtually every aspect of Chinese life. Much of that continued after he left, too, although Tiananmen in ’89 was a serious setback to the non-commerce aspects.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net

 
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