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Sunday, October 28, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

I noted a quote attributed to Rudy Giuliani in the comments section of an LGM post that struck me as one of those “too good to be true” types of statements (as in fitting negative stereotypes of the speaker all too well).

So, I went Googling into the internets and found out that, in fact, the statement in question was made by Giuliani in a speech in 1994 on a forum about crime in cities.

Via the NYT, here is the pertinent paragraph with the quotation in bold:

We look upon authority too often and focus over and over again, for 30 or 40 or 50 years, as if there is something wrong with authority. We see only the oppressive side of authority. Maybe it comes out of our history and our background. What we don’t see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.

Now, I am fully aware that there is a clear and necessary relationship between order and freedom, i.e., that there must be some amount of order (and the authority to maintain that order) for freedom to be possible. Most political thinkers would agree with this notion save for true anarchists or radical adherents to Thomas Paine’s political views.

However, what Giuliani does not appear to have been simply arguing that some level of authority is needed for government to do its job in regards to fighting crime. Rather, the phrase “a great deal of discretion” suggests more than just an acknowledgment of the fundamentals of basic governance, but rather a specific emphasis.

If Giuliani believes that the main way to solve crime problems in a city is to be found in the formulation that “freedom is about authority” how will he approach the question of anti-terrorism as President of the United States?

Now, I will grant that it is difficult to fully understand what Giuliani is getting at in the published excerpt. However, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that Giuliani does have an over-blown view of executive power that may well outstrip that of the current administration (for example here). At a minimum, Giuliani is clearly running as a strong leader who will defeat the enemy, a self-image that clearly relies on the assumption that assumes a strong executive office.

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments/Trackbacks (5)|
The views expressed in the comments are the sole responsibility of the person leaving those comments. They do not reflect the opinion of the author of PoliBlog, nor have they been vetted by the author.

5 Responses to “Rudy on Freedom and Authority”

  1. Irrational Woman Says:

    Something you need to know about Rudy Giuliani

    Long time conservative blogger turned Bush critic, Steven Taylor over at Poliblog has a very interesting post about Giuliani and

  2. Li Says:

    I once thought of Giuliani as a “strong leader”. Now I think of him as an an overly authoritarian politican who has little concern for the people or the ideals (and costs) of freedom. I hardly think he is suited to lead the most freedom-centric country in the world; indeed, I think he is a uniquely poor choice to defend our freedoms. I hope our country has recovered from 9/11 sufficiently to recognize that we cannot give up our freedoms with so little anylysis of what, exactly, we are gaining in return.

    His campaign rhetoric started me on this line of thought about him, and the various articles I have read about his tenure as NYC mayor solidified them. He is now one of the last people who’s words I would give value to in a discussion of “freedom”.

  3. Ratoe Says:

    Now, I will grant that it is difficult to fully understand what Giuliani is getting at in the published excerpt.

    I don’t think it is difficult, in the least, to fully understand Giuliani.

    Remember back to 2001, he actually wanted to nullify the NYC mayoral election to hold power indefinitely! This guy makes Cheney/Bush seem rational, upholders of the law.

    I think it is a serious mistake to ignore Giuliani’s Hobbesianism.

  4. PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » More on Rudy’s Authoritarian Tendencies Says:

    [...] Via yesterday’s WaPo is a column by David Greenberg that continues the theme I noted yesterday afternoon about Rudy Giuliani’s style of governance: Rudy a Lefty? Yeah, Right. The essay’s main thesis is that the usage of “moderate” or even “liberal” to describe Giuliani (as is frequently done in the press vis-a-vis his social stances, anyway) is inaccurate. Primarily he notes that the focus on abortion, guns and gays is too narrow in terms of defining Giuliani and, moreover, even argues that Giuliani’s positions on those issues are not “liberal” as they are made out to be. [...]

  5. Political Mavens » More on Rudy’s Authoritarian Tendencies Says:

    [...] Via yesterday’s WaPo is a column by David Greenberg that continues the theme I noted yesterday afternoon about Rudy Giuliani’s style of governance: Rudy a Lefty? Yeah, Right. The essay’s main thesis is that the usage of “moderate” or even “liberal” to describe Giuliani (as is frequently done in the press vis-a-vis his social stances, anyway) is inaccurate. Primarily he notes that the focus on abortion, guns and gays is too narrow in terms of defining Giuliani and, moreover, even argues that Giuliani’s positions on those issues are not “liberal” as they are made out to be. [...]


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