References (17)



Freedom, Capitalism and Human Behavior Chapter 2: Human Rights and the Meaning of Freedom

Michael C. Jensen

Social Science Electronic Publishing (SSEP), Inc.; Harvard Business School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

William H. Meckling

Simon School, University of Rochester (Deceased)

June 30, 1999

Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 1999

With the possible exception of love, probably no word in the English language generates a more sympathetic response than the word freedom. Everyone favors freedom. We prize it not only for ourselves, but also as a characteristic of our society. Most of us, however, have given little thought to what we mean by freedom. We use it to describe virtually everything we believe is good or right. Freedom is a hurrah word. Advocates of all persuasions characterize their programs as enhancing freedom. In the extreme, we find spokesmen for the most tyrannical states boldly claiming that theirs is true freedom because it provides freedom from want, a logic equivalent to arguing that prisoners are free as long as they are well fed and sheltered.

Any unambiguous conception of freedom should distinguish between choices such as 1) Give me $20 and I'll give you a sirloin steak, and 2) Give me your wallet or I'll shoot you with the gun I have pointed at your midsection. These transactions both give you a choice. One might be tempted to say that the second is inconsistent with freedom because the choice I'm giving you makes you worse off. But there are many transactions that seem perfectly consistent with, and even required by, freedom that have this characteristic. Consider the offer I make you on the expiration of your lease of my property: Give me a monthly rental of 10% more than our previous arrangement or move out.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 30

Keywords: freedom, capitalism, human rights, definition of rights, nature, constraints, definition of freedom, contracts, power, rights

JEL Classification: A00, H00, K00

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Date posted: October 19, 2005 ; Last revised: May 18, 2013

Suggested Citation

Jensen, Michael C. and Meckling, William H., Freedom, Capitalism and Human Behavior Chapter 2: Human Rights and the Meaning of Freedom (June 30, 1999). Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 1999. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=638703 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.638703

Contact Information

Michael C. Jensen (Contact Author)
Social Science Electronic Publishing (SSEP), Inc. ( email )
7858 Sanderling Road
Sarasota, FL 34242
United States
617-510-3363 (Phone)
305 675-3166 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://ssrn.com/author=9

Harvard Business School ( email )
Soldiers Field
Negotiations, Organizations & Markets
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-510-3363 (Phone)
305-675-3166 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://drfd.hbs.edu/fit/public/facultyInfo.do?facInfo=ovr&facId=6484
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )
B-1050 Brussels
William H. Meckling
Simon School, University of Rochester (Deceased)

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