Digest of terms

Liberty

Liberty can be seen either as the core value of liberalism, or as key to the achievement of other values liberals may regard as central, such as individual well-being. Much debate centres on a distinction drawn between freedom from (negative liberty) and freedom to (positive liberty): freedom from constraint, e.g. by law or entrenched custom, freedom to pursue one's personal goals and ideals. Pushed to their limits, the former implies the minimal possible state government of libertarianism, the latter some form of socialism, with government ensuring that resources are available to individuals to enable them to exercise their liberty more fully. The distinction remains a controversial one, not only in respect of quite where the line between negative and positive lies, but even over whether, upon close inspection, the distinction does not collapse altogether.

From a different perspective, debate surrounds the liberty-limiting principles to be invoked in the social practice of liberty.

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