Libertarian Seder Questions
By Arnold Kling
With Passover coming, something to ponder. We know that Pharoah was part of a long line of autocrats that ruled Egypt. Passover is sometimes called a “festival of freedom.” In that case,
1. Why did the Egyptians not attempt to escape to freedom with Moses?
2. Why did the Hebrews not escape much sooner?
One answer to (1) might be that Egyptians were not as desperate to leave. They were not as brutally enslaved as the Hebrews.
One answer to (2) might be that the Hebrews were not so badly off under previous Pharoahs. The story reads that there arose a cruel Pharoah who made life unbearable for the Hebrews. That implies that previous Pharoahs were not so unbearable.
Both of these answers pose problems for libertarians. They suggest that for most people, freedom is relative, not absolute. Moreover, it is bound up with other issues, such as economic well-being and relative status. Perhaps the Egyptians did not feel unfree, because others were even more clearly enslaved. Perhaps the Hebrews tolerated the rule of Pharoahs as long as the dictatorship was relatively benevolent. Perhaps there are many conditions under which large numbers of people will not choose freedom.