Being Free and Making Choices

Does the state save us from ourselves?

Both democracy and liberal economics rely on free choice. Yet we are all influenced by cultural norms, advertising and vested interests. Might our freedom be an illusion, and if so how can we respond? Or are our current choices sufficient to make us freer than we have ever been?

Julian Le Grand is an academic specializing in public policy. He is a professor of social policy at the LSE and was a senior policy advisor to Tony Blair. He is the author of a number of books, including The Other Invisible Hand.

Here Le Grand speaks to the IAI about choice, freedom, and the role of the government in individual decision-making.

What did you feel was the concept of freedom during your debate?

The context in which we discussed it was in terms of the welfare state, and people having choices in schools or hospitals. I think there was a general feeling that people ought to have those

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bretthar123 14 July 2016

This article is frankly paternalistic, and opens the door to all sort of state sponsored abuse. It makes the extraordinary claim that a rational human being is not responsible for their own decisions, and the state must intervene for their own good. The fact that individuals make choices in the present which are non-optimal in the future is how we learn, as an individual or as a society. How is a State authority going to determine the best outcome for an individual? They may value personal freedom and autonomy more than longevity, that is their right. But even allowing for personal fallibility, surely the best people to help or disuade someone are those closest, family, friends, collegues, and their doctor.

The errors of the state are far greater in scope. The state makes bad decisions that effect people in the here and now, because the State does not fundamentally care about individuals, only as collective means to dubious ends. The fact that the auther boasts as being a formet advisor to Tony Blair, only illustrates his hubris.