Is Liberty a Zero-Sum Game?

Here is what prompted me to post my zero-sum statement about freedom: I visited the page of a politician/author and noticed the statement (paraphrased) “It is sufficient if I can live to age 120 so that I may restore liberty to all people.” I found that sentiment foolish on a number of counts IF it was said in earnest. First of all what does it mean to say that all do not possess maximum liberty right now and what sort of world would this be if everyone had the liberty which the author envisions? Secondly, the statement strikes me as some kind of messiah complex. I do not honestly believe that any one person can save the world, or a nation or even a state. So my off-the-cuff zero-sum remark was more or less my way of thumbing my nose at the notion of a 120 year old person restoring all people to liberty. I agree with Viktor Frankl in “Man’s Search for Meaning” that the one freedom which can never be taken from us even in a concentration camp is our inner freedom to CHOOSE how we shall regard the circumstances imposed upon us by forces beyond our control. For me that sort of liberty is not zero-sum and yet it is limited by many factors such as illiteracy, cultural conditioning and any number of things which shackle the mind into seeing things only in one particular way.
Freedom is a zero-sum game. When one gains more others of necessity have less. The only freedom we share in equal measure is within the boundaries of our skulls. Everything said to the contrary is rhetoric and delusion.

If America increases in its freedom to “fight terrorists” then we see a corresponding loss of freedom in Iraq.

If I am free to smoke in the restaurant then you are not free from second hand smoke. If you are free from second hand smoke, then I am not free to smoke in the restaurant.

In game theory and economic theory, zero-sum describes a situation in which a participant’s gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s). If the total gains of the participants are added up, and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero.

Alan: I get your point William. A world of maximum individual liberty would be a Hobbesian state of of Nature. I can do whatever I want. You can do whatever you want. But without mutually agreed upon law of some sort then we both must fear harm from the other–as we both express our unfettered liberty.


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