Political Liberty: Who Needs It?

This paper concerns the question of whether the political liberties tend to be valuable to the people who hold them. (In contrast, we might ask whether the liberties are valuable in the aggregate or are owed to people as a matter of justice, regardless of their value.) Philosophers have argued that the political liberties are needed or at least useful to lead a full, human life, to have one’s social status and the social bases of self-respect secured, to make the government responsive to one’s interests and generate preferred political outcomes, to participate in the process of social construction so that one can feel at home in the social world, to live autonomously as a member of society, to achieve education and enlightenment and take a broad view of the world and of others’ interests, and to express oneself and one’s attitudes about the political process and current states of affairs. I argue that for most people, the political liberties are not valuable for these reasons.