Republicans seek to protect and promote individual freedom. So do libertarians of the right. The difference? Republicans recognise that the market is constructed through political, public action. Freedom in the republican tradition requires enjoyment of the fundamental liberties with the security that only a rule of law can provide. You must be publicly protected and resourced in such a way that it is manifest to you and to all that under local (not unnecessarily restrictive) conventions: you can speak your mind, associate with your fellows, enjoy communal resources, locate where you will, move occupation and make use of what is yours, without reason for fearing anyone or deferring to anyone. You have the standing of a liber or free person; you enjoy equal status under the public order and you share equally in control over that order. [This post is part of the Democratic Wealth series, hosted by Politics in Spires in partnership with Our Kingdom.]
Republican thinking today relies heavily on a classical conception of citizenship. Can this ever be compatible with modern commercial society? If there are resources in republicanism for re-thinking the contemporary economic order, it might be worth turning to a republican thinker who wrote on the topic of political economy. Jean-Jacques Rousseau in “A Discourse on Political Economy” articulated a key worry now held by various groups today, including the Occupy movement, dissatisfied with existing political responses on poverty, education, health care and economic opportunity.