January 9th, 2010 by Hafiz Noor Shams
The controversy on the use of the term Allah has helped me to clarify the difference between the act of supporting, not supporting, opposing and not opposing. I generally had considered it as merely a binary fork in the style of if one does not support, then one must oppose and vice versa.
I do not oppose and I do not support the use of the term Allah by The Herald.
By both not supporting and not opposing, it by no mean I am indifferent.
By not opposing, I am simply acknowledging the right of the Catholic Church to use the term Allah in its publication The Herald. At the same time, I do not support the use because of all the trouble it brings. This is not contradictory. What I oppose is effort to rob The Herald of its right to use the term Allah, or any term really. The distinction has to be made clear. Like what I have written previously, “the Christian insistence does not violate liberty but hey, a lot of things a lot of people say and do do not violate liberty either. Whether all those things are the smart things to do or say is another matter altogether, even within libertarian constraint.”
The realization of those cases — of supporting and opposing and everything in between — is a byproduct of cognizance of the difference between ideal and libertarian constraints.
I consider this as revolutionary in terms of my own thinking. I had some grasp on the matter before but not as clearly as I see it now.
This really turns my worldview over its head because previously, I considered the libertarian constraint as the ideal case while whatever happening on the ground is the — pardon me for my failure of imagination — actual constraint. It might be inappropriate to call it actual constraint because it might not be a constraint per se. It is the world as it is. But no matter. I will worry about the semantic later.
In the spirit of gap analysis, the job then was to work from the actual constraint towards the ideal constraint, which is the libertarian constraint. The libertarian constraint is simply the typical limit imposed on individuals with negative individual right in mind.
My new realization introduces libertarian constraint not as the ideal constraint but as the actual limit of individual and society with the ideal case becoming more restrictive within libertarian constraint. The work now is to set from actual and libertarian constraints to the ideal one. Perhaps I have been a libertarian for so long that I am simply internalizing libertarian belief system and taking it as the actual limit that society must observe at minimum.
I have yet to define the ideal constraint properly and I think that will prove to be much harder than defining libertarian constraint. I doubt I will ever comprehensively define that ideal constraint. The reason is, unlike libertarian constraint that is general in nature, the ideal constraint is far more specific in nature and has to be to assess on case by case basis, notwithstanding the demand on consistency.
There is one thing that I can be certain. Because the ideal constraint is located within libertarian constraint, the ideal constraint does not contradict libertarian constraint. This is where I am able to hold the position of not oppose and not support the use of the term Allah by The Herald without contradiction. Libertarian constraint demands me to not oppose the use because it is The Herald’s negative right, i.e. right from interference in exercise. Ideal constraint, within libertarian limit, allows me to not support it because my ideal constraint here is conscious of the adverse effect of the use of the term on peace and goodwill within Malaysia society.
Another example is warranted. Consider a racist speech.
Libertarian constraint says that no one can prevent the speech from being made. It is part of right to free speech. My ideal constraint prefers that the speech not being made at all because how the speech may encourage bad blood among individuals.
Libertarian constraint discounts the use of force to reach the ideal constraint. While the ideal constraint agrees with the libertarian constraint on the use of force and preservation of liberty, it seeks to discourage the racist speech.
This brings in an uncomfortable possibility. Does this approach to what is called as libertarian paternalism, or paternal libertarianism (as if there is a difference between the two)?