Friday, February 25, 2011

On Liberty

Matt Yglesias:
[quoting] The Georgia dissidents rallied behind the revealing slogan “Liberty and Property without restrictions”—which explicitly linked the liberty of white men to their right to hold blacks as property. Until they could own slaves, the white Georgians considered themselves unfree. [/quoting] It’s a very interesting quirk of rhetoric. Freedom-talk tends, in practice, to have very little to do with any respectable notion of freedom.

Provides an occasion for two of my favorite quotes.

Samuel Johnson, on Americans: "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?"

Orlando Patterson, on the general phenomenon:
The basic argument of this work is that freedom was generated from the experience of slavery. People came to value freedom, to construct it as a powerful shared vision of life, as a result of their experience of, and response to, slavery or its recombinant form, serfdom, in their roles as masters, slaves, and nonslaves.