Topics: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Political philosophy, Social contract Pages: 17 (7132 words) Published: May 5, 2013
1. Rousseau said that people are "forced to be free", and Satre said people are "condemned to be free" Discuss these views on freedom

Ever since reading Rousseau's Social Contract last year, I have been somewhat uneasy by his ambiguous comment that certain classes of people would need to be "forced" to be free by the state. Thomas J. DiLorenzo captured the problem well in his article"Hamilton's Curse: How Jefferson's Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution — and What It Means for America Today".  

"Rousseau" said DiLorenzo "thought that society should be guided by the "general will," but what exactly that concept entailed has perplexed later commentators. It cannot be equated with what the majority of a certain society wishes: it is only when the people's decisions properly reflect the common good, untrammeled by faction, that the general will operates. But if the general will need not result from straightforward voting, how is to be determined? One answer, for which there is some textual support in Rousseau, is that a wise legislator will guide the people toward what they really want. Those who dissent will "be forced to be free."  

The problem is that Rousseau is confusing freedom with government provision. As the legislator provides what he really knows is the general will, he is offering freedom, even if it is freedom at the point of the sword.  

Such has also been a familiar theme within American political discourse. The confusion of freedom with provision may have been inevitable once the Declaration made the pursuit of happiness a self-evident universal right. Franklin Roosevelt built on the tendency to confuse freedom with provision in his 1944 State of the Union address when he justified what he called a “second Bill of Rights” on the grounds that “Necessitous men are not free men”. The state, he went on to argue, must provide a “new basis of security and prosperity” which included “The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.”  

Of course, the corollary of believing that “necessitous men are not free” is that any measure of government control, provided it relieves necessity, is a sacrifice we should be willing to make for the sake of “freedom” or, as Rousseau would say, for the sake of the general will.  

When freedom is confused with provision and when intervention is necessary in order for that provision to be delivered (as it inevitably must be, since the government can only give what it first takes away), those individuals who resist intervention become the enemies of freedom. Like those in Rousseau’s utopia, they be forced to be free. Put another way, the state must force citizens to surrender those liberties which hinder government from optimizing its provision potential.  

It is not hard to see the implications that Rousseau's categories have for the current health caredebate. Notice the Rousseau-like tones with which Faith Fitzgerald (professor at the University of California at Davis Medical Center) described the health conscious state in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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I MEAN to inquire if, in the civil order, there can be any sure and legitimate rule of administration, men being taken as they are and laws as they might be. In this inquiry I shall endeavour always to unite what right sanctions with what is prescribed by interest, in order that justice and utility may in no case be divided. I enter upon my task without proving the importance of the subject. I shall be asked if I am a prince or a legislator, to write on politics. I answer that I am neither, and that is why I do so. If I were a prince or a legislator, I should not waste time in saying what wants doing; I should do it, or hold my peace. As I was born a citizen of a free State, and a member of the Sovereign, I feel that, however...
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