Negative Liberty Vs. Positive Liberty Essay

Length: 4 pages Sources: 4 Subject: American History Type: Essay Paper: #88969339 Related Topics: Stealing, Freedom Of Speech, Due Process, Child Abuse
Excerpt from Essay :

Negative Liberty

Much is made about freedom and liberty in the United States. Indeed, this stretches all the way back to the founding of this nation. That founding was spurred and motivated in large part by the lack of freedom and representation that the British colonists felt they were receiving with the British crown. Over the years, one of the subtopics that has developed is negative liberty. Generally, negative liberty is the idea that someone has the right to not be bothered or pestered by people or authorities. While the idea of negative liberty sounds good and should generally be extended to people with no question, there are very specific instances where the concept of negative liberty is abused and should not be extended because it would indeed be wrong.


Negative liberty is a subject that has evolved and changed over the years. The modern manifestation of negative liberty are people that are a tad too aggressive and unrealistic when it comes to people not meddling in their affairs. Common examples of this would be non-payment of taxes, abuse of children, sexual crimes of any sort and not keeping one's property safe and well-kept. However, the converse argument is that some government agencies and/or regular people are entirely too prudish and self-entitled when it relates to the affairs of others. People that snoop, sneak, eavesdrop and monitor with no good reason and/or legal basis typify this group. The author of this report shall offer more on this after consulting and citing some scholarly sources on the matter.

One such scholar was Isaiah Berlin....


He penned some treatises on the subject of liberty in the 1950's and 1960's. Berlin makes his general perspective quite clear when he asserts that "political theory is a branch of moral philosophy" (Berlin). However, he also asserts that while one cannot simply use such philosophy to reduce and deduce specific things from history. Rather, he says that one can deduce and see the different perspectives involved. Berlin gets straight to the point and makes much the same deduction noted above. He asks two questions to the reader. The first is when it is acceptable and proper to leave a person to their own devices and allow him to do what he or she may. The other question, and the inverse of the first, is when interference and confrontation of some sort is necessary. The latter would be the "positive" liberty argument while the former would be the "negative" liberty argument. Regardless of where something falls in that duality, Berlin asserts that one's freedom (in a political sense) is the extent to which he can operate and function without being accosted, interfered with or stopped. The question becomes when any interference is allowable and proper and why it is just unnecessary. Deciphering what situations are one and which are the other is something that is not so easy to pin down and intentions towards interfering can vary as well. As Berlin states it, "the criterion of oppression is the part that I believe to be played by other human beings, directly or indirectly, with or without the intention of doing so, in frustrating my wishes" (Berlin).

About ten years after Berlin made his case, another man by the name of Charles Taylor asked aloud, via his writing, what is wrong with negative liberty. He echoes Mr. Berlin when he says that defining and quantifying freedom is quite hard. What someone has the freedom to do and what they do not have the freedom to do is not the easiest question to answer and…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited "Constitution of the United States - Official." National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives and Records Administration, 20 Feb.

2015. Web. 20 Feb. 2015. <>. "Bill of Rights - Official." National Archives and Records Administration.

National Archives and Records Administration, 20 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Feb.
2015. <>.

Cite this Document:

"Negative Liberty Vs Positive Liberty" (2015, February 19) Retrieved January 20, 2022, from

"Negative Liberty Vs Positive Liberty" 19 February 2015. Web.20 January. 2022. <>

"Negative Liberty Vs Positive Liberty", 19 February 2015, Accessed.20 January. 2022,

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