What is Free Choice? How Can We Obtain It?

Free choice is traditionally construed as unrestricted liberty – the ability to do what one wants without limitation. Interestingly enough, though, in our highly gendered society, free choice is not quite so simple. In contemporary American society, whether a man wants to have leave to care for his children is irrelevant – societal standards dictate that such a liberty is denied to him, for fear of societal condemnation and significant earning penalties. Free choice here, then, is not reached through absolute, unrestrained liberty.

 

Things are not quite so in Sweden, though, with “eight in 10 men [taking] leave [from work to care for their children,” (Bennhold). This drastic rise in the trend is a result of Sweden’s law “reserving at least two months of the generously paid, 13-month parental leave exclusively for father,” (Bennhold), with refusal to adapt resulting in a loss of a month’s worth of subsidies. Men in Sweden now feel they have the ability to take off from work to care for their children if they want. In a very ironic way, the infringement of liberty helped to expand it.

 

Free choice is an interesting concept: while one would think the best way to attain liberty would be to instantiate total liberty, this is not the case – indeed, it seems true liberty can only be achieved through its initial curtailment. Giving people the excuse of necessity to allow them to make decisions that go against the norms seems to be the only way to allow society to finally have a really, truly free choice.

 

Bennhold, Katrin. “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All.” The New York Times. June 9, 2010. Accessed December 3, 2013. Web.

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