It should be apparent by now that at the bottom of the liberal theory, the one thing which provides it with its foundation, there lies a peculiar picture of a human, a human qua individual.
One is tempted to trace this picture to Locke’s ownership postulate as one of our unalienable rights; that, however, would be a mistake. We have seen that the idea of ownership, in and of itself, is a fairly straightforward proposition (unless we be ready to do away with private property altogether as an inherent social evil); even Marx found no fault with it except that he wanted to make it communal, to be shared by all and all alike, especially the workers. If anything, it’s the positing of the ownership right to the exclusion of everything else – loyalty, commitment, sentiment, even affection, all the things, in short, which round up the full scope of human interaction – which is at fault here and produces the skewed picture. For in having declared all such influences artificial, a throwback to the past and of little or no effect on how the moderns tend to interact – transactions having essentially replaced relationships! – the founders of the liberal theory have virtually reduced a human to a market man, each and everyone subject to the very same impersonal forces, the forces of the market.
(That’s one basis for universal equality we find in Hobbes, the kind of equality which transcended the old hierarchical structures in terms of social ordering, rank and privilege. Even the rich were no less subject to the same market forces, according to Hobbes, than the poor were, property owners no less so than common laborers or slaves. It was a revolutionary idea in Hobbes’s time, a form of egalitarianism in a manner of speaking, though on the perverse side.)
Perhaps the distinction introduced in Part VII, between freedom “to” and freedom “from,” can serve to illustrate the one-sidedness of the underlying picture. Both appear to define the opposite ends on the freedom spectrum. The first asserts a fundamental right to act as one pleases, subject to the usual restrictions, of course; the second, a likewise right to resist all forms of coercion which might prevent the individual from acting freely, as defined by the former. Whereas the first is directed against individuals who might stand in one’s way, the second against all coercive institutions, including the state. We’re made to believe thus that these two positions preempt the entire spectrum, there being nothing in between.
Nothing could be further from the truth: both concepts fail for not taking responsibility seriously enough, the indispensable component of freedom.