How the State Can Assist with Self-Development

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Although freedom is arguably a universal desire, how best to achieve it is a highly contested concept. Some would argue that state action is needed for liberty to be truly realized, while others believe that individual autonomy is paramount. The dichotomy of these concepts can be understood as positive and negative liberty. In order to evaluate the validity of these notions I will look first at the differences and similarities between both, and then how each is reconciled with the ideas of a liberal democratic society. I will also address how they manifest in the political community, namely in their application to the market, and in the social services provided by the state. I intend to illustrate that an absolute of either of these forms of liberty is counter-productive to achieving freedom for the greatest number of people; therefore a balance of positive and negative liberty must be maintained so that individual liberty does not impede upon collective equality.
John Locke used the idea of the “state of nature” to illustrate that when we were absolutely free from the state we were unable to settle disputes, therefore we needed government to bring order and protect life, liberty, and property (Mintz, Close, and Croci 53). The need for such protection can be clearly seen in Somalia which without an effective government has caused its citizens to live in constant fear of violence (29). Since it has been established that some form of government is needed for societal organization, the question of how liberty is most fully recognized becomes tied to what degree governments should intervene in the lives of its citizens. In a very broad sense positive liberty constitutes freedom to – achieve self-realization, or act as one wants; w...

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Beyond the regulation of the economy the government should also support individual development through funding or subsidizing different activities such as education, welfare, and health care. This notion supports the idea of the equality of opportunity which provides an equal chance for all people to advance in life, regardless of their situation, to achieve an outcome of equality where there is an equal distribution of wealth, income, power, and other goods. (63). John Stewart Mill believed that democracy is important not only to defend personal rights, but also as a means of self-development. He argued that by participating in a democracy citizens become more knowledgeable, informed, and have a greater capacity to participate in society as democratic citizens. Within this view it becomes important to ask how the state can assist with self-development (lecture).

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