Some political debates revolve around how important liberty is. Should we protect liberty, even at the cost of inequality? Or should the sacrifice go the other way around? Before even getting to that question, though, it is important to make sure that we have the same understanding of what liberty is. This video explains two influential strands of thought about the nature of liberty.
The first concept goes back to Thomas Hobbes, and is sometimes called a negative concept of liberty. The key idea is that being free involves not being interfered with.
The second idea – republican liberty – is attributed to some ancient Roman writers, but in recent times has been defended by Philip Pettit in particular. The essence of this idea is that freedom requires more than just the absence of interference, it involves being secure in one's non-interference. For instance, constitutional protections and bills of rights ensure that not only are we free now, in Hobbes’s sense, but that we shall remain free of interference, because the government cannot easily create laws that will interfere in certain domains of our life. That is the republican idea of freedom.