(Robin 2011) Reclaiming the politics of freedom

Robin, Corey. Reclaiming the politics of freedom. Nation. 2011 Apr 25; 292(17):18–22. Internet version: 2011 Apr 6. Available from: http://www.thenation.com/article/159748/reclaiming-politics-freedom.

Robin argues that the Right has dominated politics in the USA for the past three decades by positioning itself as the manifestation of the American quest for freedom: “the market equals freedom and government is the threat to freedom.” Liberals and leftists have failed to recognize the seriousness of this challenge and the centrality of freedom as a value in American politics. They have attempted to steal the Right’s fire by appealing to traditional values like thrift, responsibility, and security, or have appealed to other Left values such as equality and justice. Robin believes, on the contrary, that freedom is the most basic value for the Left:

Security and equality are critical values, but they are means to an end. The reason we value security is that it enables us to act freely, without fear. The reason we value equality is that inequality is the throughway of domination: someone with vastly more resources than I—an employer, for example—can coerce and control me, abridge my freedom. By emphasizing security and equality, we focus on the means and lose sight of the end.

To Robin, the market “freedom” offered by the Right is only the freedom for the strong to exploit the weak, and must be exposed as such. He emphasizes that this coercive power applies not only at the level of market as a whole, but in the lives of individuals subject to the dominion of employers. He urges the Left to “develop an argument that the market is a source of constraint and government an instrument of freedom” that liberates individuals by placing limits on the tyranny of bosses.



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