I concur. I’ll add a quotation from Schmidtz and Brennan 2010:
Some theorists think a minimal set of protected negative liberties is all people need to launch a society that over generations produces explosive gains in positive liberty. Other theorists seek guarantees and do not find them in a system of mere negative liberty. Again, freedom from does not guarantee a great deal of freedom to. I might be safe from interference, yet remain unable to do much due to lack of wealth and opportunity. Negative freedom, some would say, is freedom to be poor, to sleep on a public sidewalk, etc.
It would be a shame, though. to let this degenerate into a terminological dispute. The point of defining terms is not to settle debate about whether negative freedom leads to poverty, but to facilitate debate: not to stipulate that negative liberty by definition leads to prosperity, but to be precise enough to set the stage for answerable empirical questions. For example, where there is a lot of negative freedom, are there a lot of people sleeping on public sidewalks? If the answer is no, then we can infer (not in the way that a logician deduces but rather in the way that a scientist guardedly infers causal connections from empirical regularities) that negative freedom is valuable in positive terms. (Or, once we get this far in our analysis, we can ask well-defined questions about specific forms of negative freedom, such as freedom from trade restrictions, or from state-mandated religion.) If we can document trends, so that the debate becomes less about whether a trend is real and more about why the world sometimes departs from it, we’ve made progress. Such progress in removing barriers to understanding is what we realistically can hope for from philosophy.
Another variation on the previous paragraph:
it would be a shame to let debate about negative freedom’s real effects degenerate into a terminological dispute. Perhaps, as a matter of fact, negative freedom often leads to poverty. How would we know? Manipulating definitions would not tell us much. The point of defining terms is not to cut off but rather to facilitate debate: not to stipulate that negative liberty leads by definition to prosperity, but to be precise enough to make a question answerable. For example, where there are fewer obstacles to seeking employment of one’s choice (fewer migration restrictions, fewer licensing or union membership requirements), are there fewer unemployed people? If so, then we can infer (not in the way a logician deduces but rather in the way a scientist guardedly infers causal connections from empirical regularities) that negative freedom is in that respect positively liberating. We can ask well-defined questions about the consequences of specific forms of negative freedom, such as the freedom from trade restrictions or from state-mandated religion. If we can document trends, making the debate less about whether a trend is real and more about why the world sometimes departs from it, we have made progress in lowering barriers to understanding — which is what we realistically hope for from philosophy.
Does liberty make our lives better? It depends:
On a negative conception of liberty, it will be a matter of historical contingency whether a given liberty makes for better lives. Negative liberties are not guaranteed to make us better off, but neither are vitamin C or exercise, so guarantees can be beside the point….Despite the lack of guarantees, history may well reveal that respecting negative liberties has a long, successful, non-accidental track record of making for better lives. In any case, we won’t settle any debate about negative liberty’s value by conceptual analysis alone. We need to investigate what happens to people when negative liberties are reasonably secure, and what happens when they are not.
….Even on this positive (in particular, capacity-oriented) view of freedom, though, it will be a contingent matter whether increasing freedom makes for better lives. Parents want better lives for their children, but does that mean they want their child to be free to drive the family car? Not necessarily. Even as adults, some of our wants are self-destructive, and it’s always possible that the power to satisfy our wants won’t be good for us.