Freedom is an Open-Ended Discovery Procedure
Discovery through political competition is not without risks, and it cannot guarantee the absence of severe error, but it is still the best way (1) to incorporate knowledge generated in civil society, (2) to keep politically dominant views exposed to ongoing corroboration, and (3) to include the largest possible number of interest groups in the permanent sequel of repeated games that produce effective trust in society, thus bringing about the dynamic equilibrium of dissension and pacification which defines feasible freedom.
Monadic Rights versus the Constant Rewriting of the Social Contract
Classical liberalism tends to misunderstand or ignore the political logic of freedom, owing to a monadic conception of the rights underlying personal freedom. In theory, these rights are absolute, immutable, and monadic, i.e. attached to and owned by the individual in inalienable form. Under feasible freedom, however, people, in exercising their liberty, negotiate and renegotiate these rights, both in politics and in private transactions. Free citizens constantly renegotiate new permutations of feasible freedom, thereby constantly rewriting the social contract.
Open Discovery Processes Underlying Economic and Political Freedom
We detect an unexpected and rather incongruous similarity of deficiency in socialist ambitions for central planning and liberal calls for a depoliticised society. Both desiderata are based on incomprehension of a vital spontaneous order which concerns politics and the state in the case of liberalism and also the economy in the case of socialism. Both political camps underrate or misconstrue the need and the logic of the indispensable discovery procedures required for strong economic performance (socialism's defect) and the feasibility of civil society at large (classical liberalism's defect).
Search by Free Persons versus Automatisms
As there is no single person or group of persons capable of registering all inputs needed to calculate an efficient allocative distribution, Hayek suggests inclusion of all citizens in a free economy to approximate far better the needed range and quality of information. Analogously, no single person or group of persons is capable of registering the inputs needed to take better political decisions than are available from a regime that guarantees the possibility for all citizens to make their contribution to political decision making. Incongruously, liberalisms akin to Hayek’s insinuate the equivalent of an impersonal central planer by suggesting that observance of certain rules activates automatisms in a free society, notably the market mechanism and the rule of law, that reduce the need of politics to such an extent as to render freedom a state of affairs distinguished by the absence of significant levels of politicisation - a visionary predilection that amounts to the disenfranchisement of the public.
Decentralisation versus Disenfranchisement
A free society, I contend, is akin to a free economy, in so far as only the mobilisation of dispersed knowledge lodged in decentralised units (citizens and their organisations) can bring about a discovery process capable of sustaining human relations that make freedom feasible.
Freedom's Boundaries of Contingencies
Liberalism cannot fulfil its role in a free society unless it acknowledges that its leadership in matters of constitutional integrity does not carry over into the area of legitimate political discretion. And liberalism must recognise that within the boundaries of constitutional integrity there is substantial leeway for political discretion by players of quite distinct emphases of vision. Freedom remains an open-ended project.
Feasible Freedom - A Dynamic Equilibrium Balancing Dissension and Peaceableness
In order to establish her meaning and detailed shape, liberty depends on a political infrastructure that engages contestants in a competitive discovery process that is likely to result in eclectic policy outcomes deviating from puristic ideological positions. Adaptability is a survival requirement for any agent participating in the political discovery process. Puristic ideologies fail to stay in touch with the diversity of interests and views that push toward concrete policies. Feasible freedom may be conceived of as a dynamic equilibrium balancing dissension and peaceableness. Approximating the balance requires that the competing agents continuously search for new information about the prospects of their agendas, swiftly adjusting the latter to sustain support and the power to exercise influence. Precise and consistent accounts of freedom such as endeavoured by classical liberalism play an important role in clarifying the rules of the discovery game and the inalienable contours of freedom, but they are too abstract and too general to be able to prejudge the differing aims that people ought to be free to pursue within the competitive political framework of an open access society. Ideologies lend impetus to freedom’s sine qua non: discovery by political competition, but they do so fruitfully only when being capable of changing and renewing themselves in response to the findings elicited by the search.
The success of politics under feasible freedom is to be judged by the ability to balance dissension and peaceableness under the auxiliary conditions of high levels of personal autonomy, productivity, and wealth. We may register good performance and even progress along these lines in the very presence of states of affairs that appear insufferable from a classical liberal point of view. But it should not be forgotten that classical liberalism is just a set of hypotheses, some of which are rejected by freedom. Freedom is not identical with liberalism. Freedom is not identical with liberalism‘s account or expectations of her.