January 31st

istock_000016532528_largeToday marks 34 years since the seatbelt was made compulsory in the United Kingdom. It is at this point that it seems appropriate to recite Ian Carter’s analogy of freedom;

“Imagine a woman is driving a car through town, and she comes to a fork in the road. She turns left, but no one was forcing her to go one way or the other. Next she comes to a crossroads. She turns right, but no one was preventing her from going left or straight on. There is no traffic to speak of and there are no diversions or police roadblocks. So she seems, as a driver, to be completely free. But this picture of her situation might change quite dramatically if we consider that the reason she went left and then right is that she is addicted to cigarettes and is desperate to get to the tobacconists before it closes. Rather than driving, she feels she is being driven, as her urge to smoke leads her uncontrollably to turn the wheel first to the left and then to the right. Moreover, she is perfectly aware that turning right at the crossroads means she will probably miss a train that was to take her to an appointment she cares about very much. The woman longs to be free of this irrational desire that is not only threatening her longevity but is also stopping her right now from doing what she thinks she ought to be doing.”

Ian Carter’s full discussion on the topic of Liberty can be found in Political Concepts, edited by Richard Bellamy and Andrew Mason, from the Manchester University Press, 2009.


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