Essay on Negative and Positive Freedom

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Individual freedom is often seen as the core value of Liberalism. Nevertheless, freedom can be divided into two categories: negative and positive. Negative freedom, which is traditionally associated with Classical Liberalism, advocates the belief in non-interference, the absence of all external constraints upon the individual. This implies that individuals should be free to pursue their own interests free from outside restrictions or pressures. Nonetheless, negative freedom does not mean that individuals should have absolute and unrestricted freedom. Classical liberals, such as J.S. Mill, believe that if freedom is unlimited it can lead to “license”, namely the right to harm others or to…show more content…
Laissez-faire capitalism is therefore commonly supported by Classical Liberals since it allows individuals to rise and fall according to their merit while ensuring prosperity. Positive freedom, on the other hand, is generally supported by `modern Liberals. It is the belief that freedom should allow individuals to develop their own individuality and is commonly linked to the achievement of goals or benefits, usually personal development, self-realization or self-mastery. Thus positive freedom is concerned more with the individual’s ability to gain fulfilment and achieve self-realization. In this way, Modern Liberals generally adopt a more positive view towards state intervention. The sate is seen as an enabling state, which places necessary constraints upon the individuals to allow them to grow and develop their unequal talents, without hindering others in the process. The main duty of the sate is therefore to remove inequality in society by allowing a “level playing field” for all. Modern Liberals therefore support entities such as the Welfare State since it aims to help the poor and disadvantaged by redistributing wealth in their favour. In addition, Modern liberals advocate state intervention in the economy, since economic freedom can lead to exploitation. For instance, in the case of businesses, which seek to maximise their own profits, negative freedom
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