Kalb, the author of the Tyranny of Liberalism, points out that both liberals and "conservatives" have the same false view of freedom: they just apply it differently. For liberal liberals and for liberal "conservatives," freedom means "freedom to choose freely." "Freedom is freedom to go after whatever it is you happen to want." In his book, Atheist Delusions, theologian David Bentley Hart describes this modern view of freedom as "the perfect, unconstrained spontaneity of individual will—is its own justification, its own highest standard, its own unquestionable truth."
It is higher, says Hart, even than reason:
Freedom for us today is something transcendent even of reason, and we no longer really feel that we must justify our liberties by recourse to some prior standard of responsible rationality.Kalb points out that this view of freedom is accepted by both sides in our political culture:
Even the battle between liberals and conservatives is mostly a dispute between two groups of liberals. The two sides may differ in their interpretation of freedom, but they agree that it comes first, and that in essence it’s freedom to do whatever you want.But there are differences between the two kinds of liberals in American politics today. For the progressive conservatives (the ones we commonly call "liberals") the idea of freedom is "a sort of Burger King 'Have It Your Way' vision of freedom":
... [I]t’s freedom to choose from a menu that’s as long as possible and available equally to everyone. For that kind of freedom to exist, the choices must be independent of the choices other people make. The menu therefore emphasizes choices that can be made individually and separately, like consumer goods and private lifestyle options. Freedom turns out to mean “access” and “tolerance”—a state of affairs in which people are given what they choose from a set list, and they have a right to have other people go along with their choices.The Obama campaign has personified this in "Julia":
[Julia's] goals are completely private—even when she has a child it’s an entirely personal choice that has nothing to do with anyone else—and her concern as a voter is to have the government give her what she needs to attain her personal goals reliably and comfortably. The campaign makes her an Internet entrepreneur who creates jobs, and so gives her something of a public role, but the description is unpersuasive.A successful entrepreneur" Kalb slyly observes, "is not likely to be someone whose big political concern is whether other people pay for her birth control pills and provide her with a comfortable retirement."
For "conservative" liberals (those we still persist in calling conservatives, but who are really libertarians), freedom is "freedom of action rather than freedom to choose among private satisfactions":
They therefore favor a setting in which the rules of property and contract, along with public services like roads, schools, and national defense, allow people to form whatever goals they want and pursue them with whatever means they can put together. Everything’s open-ended, and the sky’s the limit, but it’s up to the individual to figure out where he wants to go and how to get there. The conservative version of Julia would therefore be more like an Ayn Rand heroine. Where Julia wants secure enjoyment of daily satisfactions, an Ayn Rand heroine wants adventure, struggle, and creativity. She is as single-mindedly interested in doing whatever it is she wants to do as Julia, but in a very different style.The personification of this "conservative" libertarian Kalb designates "Ayn." Both Julian and Ayn, says Kalb, "are remarkably bad models to follow":
Both ignore the transcendent dimension of human life. Ayn Rand’s romantic capitalism is a fake transcendent if ever there was one, and the faith, hope, and (government-administered) charity the Obama campaign offers Julia have very little to do with the Christian virtues. Also, both are essentially unsocial. Progressive concern for those at the bottom doesn’t include taking them seriously as actors, and the conservative appeal to traditional morality is shaky because it’s not grounded in a serious understanding of the good life. Hence the depressing effects of the progressive welfare state on how people live, and hence the routine abandonment by conservative politicians of issues such as abortion when they become mildly inconvenient.Read Kalb's article here.