Upper Left Quadrant Details Upper Right Quadrant Details Lower Left Quadrant Details Lower Right Quadrant Details Details



Liberty is the most widely desired condition of mankind, the absence of external restraint and the power over one's own domain.
The main axes capture most of what leading theories of liberty are all about. The vertical axis, state/autonomy, is a rendering of Hobbes' and Locke's state-of-nature: a dialectic between autonomous individuals mixing labor with nature to create value, versus a state to which they contractually yield part of their absolute property right in return for protection of what remains. The horizontal axis -- individual/collective -- refers to the two main valences of liberty, negative liberty and positive liberty, the former stressing the Anglo-Saxon liberal liberty and the latter stressing the more radical, European, associational, democratic liberty.
The URQ describes limitations on state power expressed as rights -- indeed rights of each individual. And these rights are specified by rules defining those areas of conduct in which individuals can engage with a minimum of fear of encroachment. The LRQ shares the "liberal democracy" universe with the upper right quadrant, but it also shares the "capitalist democracy" universe with the lower-left quadrant. Rules in this quadrant are self-imposed and contractually agreed-upon and are entered into voluntarily by the contracting parties "in the market" rather than imposed on all parties by the state. The characteristics common to all conduct in the LLQ have to do with the group, indeed the incorporated group -- that is, groups that have an existence independent of the individual members. The penultimate case is the corporation, because it is given a legal (in the U.S. a constitutional) status as a person, a legal fiction but with all the rights of real persons. The main point here is that "voluntary association" is itself a means of establishing, expanding and defending liberty but that it has a dangerous side to the extent that free association in an organized group may gain liberty for the group at the expense of the members. Last, liberty in the collective environment of ULQ, with its emphasis on equality, necessarily pursues some universal principle of welfare that puts this version of liberty at a great distance from the individual liberty of the upper right quadrant.