This may come as a surprise to you but everyone likes freedom. If you are not surprised then you might understand my frustration when I hear people using the word “freedom” to imply that their political opponents like slavery. However what exactly is meant by “freedom” is rather contentious and because of this the frequent libertarian claim that a minimal state with strictly enforced rules of private property and contracts will maximize individual freedom is at least initially unclear.
If by freedom you mean the ability to engage in whatever activity you like so long as you consent to it, and it doesn’t immediately harm anyone else, then yes in all likelihood libertarianism does actually provide the most freedom and similarly libertarian ideas provide your most freedom from taxation (especially if you are wealthy). However if your conception of freedom involves safety from violations of your freedom be they private or public, the economic freedom that is having equality of opportunity, the freedom to not be discriminated against or not having to depend on the caprice of private charity when you find yourself in hard times then libertarian policies will not likely enhance your freedom.
Yet this is not a distinction I often hear made when discussing the freedom-enhancing abilities libertarian policies are supposed to have. The oft-made claim by libertarians is more akin to libertarian policies maximizing freedom in all of these areas, at least in the long run. One term which never leaves the discussion is coercion, which, according to libertarians, is the means by which any state is forced to operate. If you refuse to obey their policies they show up with guns! On the other hand, as Milton Friedman would say, in the free market individuals are “free to choose” which companies they will buy from and work for. If you don’t like the policies your boss has, you can work somewhere else. If you don’t like the quality of services at your local grocer, you can get your vegetables at another store. It’s this freedom which exists in the market which is supposed to be the ultimate path to our liberation and accordingly it’s this claim that I centrally take aim at here.