Friday, 14 October 2011


My comment below, delivered to the appropriate authorities in respect of tommorow's Occupy Taipei protest:


I write this in English since, although I know some Chinese, I'm afraid I'm not fluent enough to accurately write what it is I want to say. I hope that those of you who do read this can forgive that shortcoming.

Your protest in Taipei tommorow, if I may presume from association with the Occupy Wall Street protest, will be directed against ideas as much as against particular institutions and the effects variously attributed to them. Among these ideas may be the "free-market". Just today (Friday 14th October) in the Taipei Times for example, a Mr C.J. Wu (of Taiwan ThinkTank) wrote the following:

"...blindly believing in the free market results in a lack of freedom for 99 percent of people."

This, I put it to you, and with no other authority than that which I exercise over my own voice, is the most insidious and pernicious error of our times. It arises from the conflation of two aspects of freedom; "freedom from" and "freedom to" (or if you prefer, the negative and positive aspects of freedom). The realization of negative freedom stipulates the absence of obstacles to action, particularly coercion. Positive freedom necessitates the presence of choices and the power to act - even in the absence of obstacles. In everyday experience, these two aspects of freedom are inseperable. Analytically, however, they are distinct.

The global market economy in which governments, banks and corporations interpenetrate one another is "free" in one aspect only: the positive one; they are free to act in their own interests. In doing so however, these institutions violate the negative freedom of the very people they purport to serve, in that their operation ultimately depends on coercion.

It is right to challenge this nexus of institutions, but it is not right to do so on the wrong philosophical basis. The global market economy is not at all "free" - by any stretch of the imagination and to call it so can only be either an enormous intellectual error, or a deliberately dishonest tactic to attack the principles of free exchange, free association and free speech that are the founding basis of a civil and free society.

I urge those of you who are not already committed to one of the many "alternative" ideologies of State coercion, to conduct your protests in light of what I have written. I do not write to belittle or patronize, but only to oppose those among you who are intractably committed to some variety of State coercion and opposed to the negative aspect of freedom in principle.

Yours freely,

Michael Fagan.

I have no idea whether it will be published.

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