A War of Freedoms: Addressing Modern American Rights Talk



Mighell, Connor

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Modern American rights claims spring from a wide array of historical, legal, and metaphysical sources, but these different sources often lead to radically different ideas about which rights are most important. This confusion within American “rights talk” has led to the assertion of conflicting rights in the public square and a corresponding political entrenchment by opposing sides. I study the current state of American rights talk by arguing that rights are essentially “protective capsules” placed around various freedoms that modern liberal society finds essential, but which are in many instances incompatible due to the evolving nature of liberalism itself. I also examine the difference between positive and negative liberty, and the importance of a proper understanding of liberty to a proper understanding of rights. Given the reality of conflicting liberties, citizens today need to engage in sustained political discourse to determine which freedoms are worth armoring as rights and which are not. I also recommend a return to the negative, true understanding of liberty.



freedom, liberty, rights, positive liberty, negative liberty, liberalism