Most, if not all, things can be measured in two ways: quantitatively and qualitatively. Freedom is no different.
Today, with all the variety of art and innovation set before us, we have quantitatively more freedom (that is, options and freedom to select options) than probably ever before. I wonder, however, what’s to be said of our current quality of freedom as compared to times before.
Assuming that quality of freedom matters, let’s see how we might execute this comparison.
First, how am I differentiating between quantity and quality of freedom? By quantity, I mean some objective, numerically countable measure of freedom(s). By quality, I mean some measurement of characteristics about those individual freedoms which make up the quantity of freedom (like frequency, intensity/potency/impact/scale, variance, duration, etc).
I’m writing this post without much forethought, other than that I conceived of this idea of measuring freedom in these two ways. I assume that I’ll come away from this writing having implied that the quality of freedom is poor in our world of an overabundance of a quantity of freedom. However, I’ve proven myself wrong…probably more often than not.
In fact, I presently hold a thought which might undermine my assumption altogether. I’ve written previously about how we are free whether we like it or not. That particular freedom I refer to is freedom on the macro-level (essentially, Free Choice). Even if I have a gun pointed at my head and am told that if I do not make a specific choice, the gun holder will execute me…I still have the choice.
Then again, when I say “I still have the choice”, I’m referring to a quantity of freedom (one choice). This says nothing of quality, but does provide a great (if exaggerated) place to start exploring approaches to measuring quality of freedom.
Is that freedom (to chose whether or not to be executed), of more or less quality? Well, right now we’ve got nothing to compare. Let’s build a more proper comparison.
Let’s say I’m home alone, and I have to chose between watching a movie or playing a video game. I decide to watch the movie.
Now, let’s say I have a gun to my head, and I’m told that I must watch the movie or I’ll be shot and killed.
We’d probably reasonably assume that I was more free in the first instance than in the second. Why? The quantity hasn’t changed. Therefore, I think it’s safe to assume that something has changed about the quality.
Previously, I stated that quality of freedom might be related to characteristics like frequency, intensity/potency/impact/scale, variance, duration, etc. Does the above scenario differ in quality according to any of those characteristics? Frequency seems irrelevant. My first inclination is to lean toward the drop in quality being associated with intensity/potency/impact/scale.
But how can we measure such a thing? What does the intensity of a freedom look like? What does the intensity of a choice look like?
What is worse (or not as good in quality) about the freedom in the 2nd scenario as compared to that in the 1st?
Ooo! I think I just thought of something!
The size of the freedom. How much of a choice does the person in the 2nd scenario have in comparison to that person in the 1st.
Perhaps the greatest quality of freedom is that freedom for which the individual has least external force influence the individual’s choice toward one option over others. This maybe is more closely related to the term “scope.”
The size of the scope of a given freedom may be directly proportional to the capacity for an individual to chose a selection among choices freely unimpeded from forces external to his own accord.
Sitting in my room on my own, completely free (free from external constraints) to chose whether to watch a movie or play a video game, it can be said that such a freedom is of high quality.
Having a gun pressed to my head by a force dictating that I make a particular choice – that freedom (being impeded by a strong external force [threat to life]) is of low quality (certainly lower quality than that in the first scenario).
We have an abundance of quantity of freedom(s). For any given freedom, however, we might say that such a freedom is of more or less quality depending on external circumstances (that is, thing external to the individual’s natural autonomy).
Maybe a way to measure the overall…measurement of freedom (at the macro) involves taking the product (or some other measuring function) of both the quantity and quality of freedoms (at the micro).
This is fun to think about. Thoughts?