Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Liberty is NOT Slavery

In George Orwell's best known book,1984 ,we are introduced to "doublethink" and "newspeak" which have been combined in modern usage into "doublespeak". Basically the meaning of "doublespeak" is: language used to deceive usually through concealment or misrepresentation of truth. Orwell's examples in the book are the mottos:
Ignorance is Strength
War is Peace
Slavery is Freedom

This use of words to mean their opposite is usually a deliberate--and effective--way to be unobtrusive about your desire to make people believe something that isn't true. Even if the juxtaposition of the words makes an oxymoron, it is touted as a new "breakthrough" in understanding.

For example, I was completely taken aback when I ran across this site proclaiming Noam Chomsky as a "Libertarian Socialist". And then I noticed in Pejman's Yousefzadeh's TCS column on "Choice and its Enemies" discussed the phrase "libertarian paternalism" which is the term some are using to limit freedom of choice. Here is an excerpt from that excellent column:

H.L. Mencken famously defined Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone somewhere may be happy." Being a libertarian-conservative means being possessed of the haunting fear that someone somewhere is itching to play busybody on a level one might have once thought was inconceivable.

That fear becomes justified when one reads articles like this one by the New York Times ("Choice is Good, Yes, No or Maybe?"), which informs us that there is a movement afoot to limit our choices as consumers and citizens. You see, the fear is that we may not have the capacity to "choose properly" or that we may simply "refuse to choose." As a result, "government should limit people's choices. That is, choose for them." This is because "More choice can be worse than less choice," according to Columbia University psychologist Sheena Iyengar.

Given that the article begins by informing us that "choice has claimed a prominent new position as a policy tool: the prescription for everything from improving public schools to paring bloated health care costs to saving Social Security," one can be forgiven for suspecting that this new effort to limit the choices of the citizenry by advancing the premise that the citizenry does not have the capacity to "choose properly" is a political effort designed to take various and sundry policy options -- like "improving public schools" through increased school choice of "saving Social Security" through the introduction of greater personal choice -- off the table. Two advocates of the effort to limit choice -- Richard Thaler, an economist at the University of Chicago and Cass Sunstein, who teaches at the University Of Chicago Law School -- even have a name for this nascent busybody program; "libertarian paternalism." "Libertarian paternalism," according to Professor Thaler, is based on the belief that "[p]eople have to know what their preferences are and they have to know how the options they have map onto their preferences."

It takes an incredible amount of chutzpah to advocate this kind of anti-choice movement while claiming that there is anything "libertarian" about it.

Chutzpah is too kind a word for this sort of language abuse. This is Doublespeak--the worse kind of PROPAGANDA. It is a deliberate attempt to mislead and to disguise the real motives of the speaker. If you link the idea of socialism with liberty enough; or the idea that making choices for people's own good is a form of freedom--some people may actually begin to believe that socialism and paternalism are aspects of LIBERTY. Let us be clear. They are not. They will never be.

But by saying the two words together, the speaker hopes to disguise his real agenda. And do you imagine that his real agenda is to actually increase freedom for the individual? No? I don't either.

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