I suspect Franzen’s book isn’t an attempt to set out arguments opposing libertarianism specifically, but in the context of this article it might be useful none the less to critique his notion of freedom from the point of view of libertarianism. Franzen’s idea that freedom for freedom’s sake can make for a grim existence, isn’t a valid argument against the libertarian philosophy, which is not freedom for freedom’s sake; it is freedom for the sake of human nature, and self-ownership is the self evident nature of human beings.
“had all day every day to figure out some decent and satisfying way to live, and yet all she ever seemed to get for all her choices and all her freedom was more miserable.” By this logic, the less choices and freedom that Patty had the happier she would have been. Rationally, this can only lead us to the conclusion that Patty would be happiest if someone else decided to lock her in a cage, which is clearly absurd.
“Franzen’s Freedom, …is that freedom is not what’s gained in the absence of obligations to others but instead found within relationships.” It would appear that Franzen’s definition of freedom, at least in the context of his book, is something different to a libertarian’s rational notion of freedom, which I doubt he was making any attempt to reference to be fair to him. A person experiencing libertarian freedom would be free from the coercion of others and from others forcing their will upon them; they would be free only of obligations they did not voluntarily agree to, not obligations in general.
Franzen appears to have done nothing more than write a story based on his own ideas about freedom, which rather than opposing libertarianism, seem to oppose some vague notion of selfishness – which hardly anyone could or would disagree with. Obama, however, deliberately mischaracterised the libertarian as a selfish, uncaring anti-social automaton (exactly the sort of person none of us would want to live with) in a shameless attempt to gain favour for his own sociopathic ideology, which is entirely predictable behavior from a politician.