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vacuousaptitude wrote

If we have an unequal society, where some people are given access to superiour choices and opportunities and others are denied those things - or at the very least made to work substantially harder to achieve them, you cannot say that society is free. If only some people have the practical access to something that is not a freedom but a privilege.

Here's an example, Republicans in the United States are all on about school choice. They believe that the ability to take the tax dollars which fund public education and have them refunded as a check which they can take to a private school is a matter of freedom, of free choice. But that is either a misunderstanding of the word freedom, or an outright lie. Not everyone has access to private schools. Poor families who don't pay a lot of school tax nominal value would not have the "freedom" to send their children to a private school based on this voucher. They simply could never afford the tuition even with the voucher. And the schools are selective, these schools can simply choose not to admit certain individuals based on whatever reasoning they come up with.

In addition to that taking money out of the local school systems and sending it to private schools only further serves to disadvantage poor children. Only more well off families can take advantage of these programs. These are families that pay a larger amount in taxes. When their tax dollars are taken out of the school system the per-capita funding in that school system decreases. This means that the overall school district has less money to use educating each individual child, each child unable to access this private schooling is disadvantaged by receiving a lower quality education than they previously were. On top of which the wealthy kids access a superiour education getting an advantage, so it's a bit of a double whammy.

This is a big part of the problem with families even just moving to better school districts. Only better off families can afford to do this, when they do they give their kid an advantage, and also disadvantage everyone in the less well off neighbourhood they used to live in by lowering the per-capita funding. This is why funding, for everything, needs to be collected at the highest possible level and distributed to locales based on a combination of population and need. But in the US we fetishize the smallest possible unit and by doing so create a situation where educational inequality, as well as inequality in all public services and infrastructure, is inevitable.

define freedom as the absence of obstacles imposed by agents

And they do that because they tend to face the fewest obstacles from other individuals, and from mere institutions. There isn't an agent which forces inequality in schools - and this is why conservatives and liberals often miss the point. There isn't an individual lawmaker loudly and willfully announcing that they're choosing to deprive poor and minority children of a quality education. For the most part that talk will only ever happen behind closed doors. Instead it is institutions that people rarely ever question which were set up for the purpose of enforcing this inequality covertly.

It isn't usually an individual hiring manager saying "your name sounds black so I didn't look at your resume" it's a complicated web of social conditioning that creates an implicit bias in the minds of everyone in our society, which ultimately results in a hiring manager, even if subconsciously, giving preferential treatment to white sounding names on applications while binning the ethnic ones.

The problem with that view of freedom is that it doesn't respond to a world where it is institutions that enforce inequality, it is really only applicable to people who are only restricted by specific laws, and who view those laws to be unfair. For example a business that believes environmental regulations or a unionized workforce are an obstacle to their will. It doesn't consider the other side that without those restrictions businesses will harm the very lives of many people impacted by their pollution, and all of their workers impacted by an abusive workplace.

It is a very individualistic conception of the term freedom, where the individual is viewed in a vacuum and the question is asked who stands in their way. Instead of a collectivist conception of the term, where the community is viewed in the context of the real world wherein they live and the question is asked how can we ensure they all have the same opportunity to succeed.

So do you thind we should change our definition of freedom for basic political discourse?

Yes, I think it is nearly always better to have a collectivist mindset than an individualistic one. An individualistic mindset protects those who already have power, while acting as a barrier to those who do not. In fact this mindset is often used to disregard people who have not had opportunities to succeed by suggesting it is their own fault for somehow not willing themselves beyond every barrier our society has to offer, while the successful person they are compared to merely had to apply themselves to any one of the copious and innumerable opportunities they were presented with to succeed.

Evaluating success as individual or personal failure is a very bad lens to use, as we all live in the context of our society rather than in a vacuum of ourselves.

Fundamentally the point is this, something can only be considered a freedom if every person has equal access to it. Otherwise it is a privilege. Mind you it may be a privilege afforded to many, even most members of society, but if it is not equally enjoyed by all it cannot be considered a freedom to any.

For example, the ability to take several months off, without working, to explore the world is not a freedom it is a privilege. It is not afforded to everyone, though some have access to it. Similarly the ability to take several days off of work to explore a specific location away from home is not a freedom, it is a privilege not afforded to everyone.