Sat, 21 Oct 2006

Pinker 1, Lakoff 0

Doc Searls links to George Lakoff's Whose Freedom?, Daniel Pinker's review trashing the book, and George's response. Sorry, Doc, but Pinker definitely won this argument. Just take positive rights (the right to something good) and negative rights (the right not to be subjected to something bad). George totally gets them wrong. Here's what he wrote:

In Whose Freedom?, I discuss the difference between freedom from and freedom to (page 30). Then, throughout the book, I show that both the progressive and conservative versions of freedom use both freedom from and freedom to. For example, progressives focus on freedom from want and fear, as well as from government spying on citizens and interfering with family medical decisions; they also favor freedom of access to opportunity and fulfillment in life (e.g., education and health care). Conservatives are concerned with freedom from government interference in the market (e.g., regulation) and they are concerned with freedom to use their property any way they want. In short, the old Isaiah Berlin claims about the distinction do not hold up.

Clearly George has no conception of the difference. The "freedom from want and fear" are both in fact the freedom to coerce somebody else into supplying resources to satisfy your wants, and coerce somebody else into protecting you. That's backwards. His "freedom of access to" is an attempt to wiggle out of saying "freedom to coerce others into supplying you with" (education and health care).

The "freedom to use their property" is in fact a freedom from interference. Again, he gets this totally backwards, and yet not only expects us to believe him, but he uses these as evidence that he understands the concept after Pinker says he doesn't. That's like (to use a metaphor) saying that you understand math, being challenged on it, and then saying "Oh yeah?? Well two plus two is five; anybody can see that I know math."

Doc calls it good reading. I call it painful reading, because George is making a fool of himself.

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