“Freedom and Money”

Cohen, G. A. “Freedom and Money."  


“Although I was devoted to Isaiah, and although he was bountifully kind to me, we were not of one mind on political questions, and we were also not of one mind on those academic questions that mattered, to each of us, because of the political questions on which they bear. I have elsewhere set out our disagreements, as I understand them, about the thought, and the personality, of Karl Marx.4 Here, I explain a disagreement that we had about freedom, and, more particularly, about the relationship between freedom and money.

My principal contention, one that contradicts very influential things that Isaiah
wrote, is that lack of money, poverty, carries with it lack of freedom. I regard that as an overwhelmingly obvious truth,5 one that is worth defending only because it has been so influentially denied. Lack of money, poverty, is not, of course, the only circumstance that restricts a person’s freedom, but it is, in my view, one of them, and one of the most important of them. To put the point more precisely – there are lots of things that, because they are poor, poor people are not free to do, things that non-poor people are, by contrast, indeed free to do.”

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