Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Liberty? Agency? You tell me 

by NA
Logan asked me, in response to some offhand comments on T&S, to talk more about "laws not getting in the way of agency." I responded (maybe a little too quickly) that "we can distinguish between the capacity to make choices (agency) and the extent to which laws punish our choices (liberty). I'd agree with you that laws can limit our liberty, but I probably wouldn't say the same for agency."

I wish I'd spoken a little more carefully, because the distinction here is important. Many LDS people speak of government intervention in various domains as "infringing on our free agency" or worse, as if it's similar to what Satan's plan would have been like. I wonder if this tendency could stem from an inability to distinguish between agency and liberty. Clearly, if we identify regulation or legislation with something that affects the subject matter of the War in Heaven, that would lead us to bristle at the thought of it. But God legislates and regulates our lives all the time -- commandments and laws are all over the place, including divine taxation, and yet we say we have our agency. So anyway, I think it's careless to interchange liberty and agency. Could the commingling of the concepts be a source of LDS predispositions for/against certain political parties?
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