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Commentary - Freedom and Liberty

Most people today want freedom, but it is freedom which is entirely different from the freedom meant by the writers of the Declaration of Independence or the United States Constitution. Today, freedom means the opposite of what it originally meant. It means freedom from responsibility, which is the antithesis of freedom, in the sense of political liberty.

Most people think freedom means living without cost or consequence. They believe the more they can get "for free" the more free they are. But nothing is without cost, nothing is free, and there is a consequence to every thought we have and every action we take. Everything has a price, and someone must pay it. Everything has a consequence, and someone must bear it.

The price that must be paid for the modern version of freedom is the old version of liberty. The consequence that must be born for the new version of liberty is slavery.

The autonomist is only interested in the old versions of freedom and liberty.

  • Perfect freedom is being able to think and do whatever one chooses.

    Freedom means freedom to do, to think, to act, to work, to produce, and enjoy, without restriction, whatever one is able to. In a society, this freedom extends to the relationship between individuals when they are free to keep or trade any portion of what they have produced with others, and are free to associate or not associate with any other individuals in any way they choose, but only when this freedom extends to every individual in that society.

    Freedom can only be limited when individuals use force or the threat of force to restrict the freedom of other individuals. When freedom is restricted, both the individuals using the force and the victims of its use lose freedom. Both are no longer able to do, think, act, work, produce, and enjoy whatever they choose.

    It is obvious why the victims of force lose their freedom. Those who use force lose their freedom because they become dependent on their victims and are required to maintain eternal vigilance to prevent them from successfully resisting their oppression. It is better to be a victim of tyranny than to be a tyrant. The oppressed know that their state is the result of another's evil. The tyrant knows his very existence depends on those who are his moral superiors and who therefore hate him.

  • Perfect freedom means one must bear the responsibility of one's choices, enjoying without limit the benefit of his successes and suffering without mitigation the consequences of his failures.

    Wouldn't it be nice if you could do whatever you pleased and when things went well you would receive the benefit and credit, but when things when badly someone else would get the blame and have to pick up the tab.

    This might seem nice, but no decent person would really want that, and, if you are a working, self-supporting American citizen, you don't have to worry about it happening to you.

    It might be nice, but it wouldn't be freedom. It also will not work. There is some risk, some danger, in all human activity. One of the most important things we learn is how to estimate the amount of risk in our choices, so we can take appropriate risks and avoid unreasonable ones, especially when exploring new ground or launching new enterprises, but also in our daily lives.

    If the actual risk in this world is obscured artificially, the ability to make correct choices is made difficult or impossible. If I know there is some risk in a new business venture that might cause my business to fail, I will not take the risk until I have found ways to minimize the risk, and a way to recover if the worst happens. If I know, even if the venture fails, I will be bailed out, I will certainly not be as cautious as I ought to be, and am much more likely to make the wrong decision.

    If I get pregnant and I know there is not going to be anyone to help support me and my new child, I will be cautious about my behavior. But if I know, should I get pregnant somehow, there is someone standing in the wings with a fist full of dollars just waiting to give it to me when the unexpected happens, I suspect I will be much less able to resist some kinds of temptation.

    The whole reason artificially provided protections and help to those who are the cause of their own problems limits freedom is a complicated subject. The government teaches that this is freedom, but freedom does not make people dumb. Since, most of the things government does, among other bad consequences, tends to make people dumb, it should be obvious that whatever the government is providing, it is not freedom.

  • Perfect freedom is what you would have if you were the only person in the world. The only threat to your freedom is other people.

    If you live in The United States of America, unless you are one of a handful of people, whatever economic level you enjoy, it is greater than you could enjoy if it were not for other Americans. Whatever you do for a living, every dollar you earn is worth more because of all the people doing some kind of productive work for a living, but especially, all those who are engaged in any field which produces new products or improvements on current products. Their work not only earns them a living but increases the value of the dollars of everyone by increasing the amount of valuable goods and services available to be purchased with them. One thing all collectivist socialist philosophies leave out of their economic theories is the fact that no matter how many dollars you distribute to how many people, if nobody produces anything, the dollars are worthless and can buy nothing.

    If you live in The United States of America, whatever economic level you enjoy, it would be much greater if it were not for the existence of one very large class of people. A very large portion of the population receives dollars without producing anything of value in terms of products and services, including all government employees, all welfare recipients, all social security retirees, and anyone else receiving so-called entitlements. All of these people are able to spend dollars without having produced anything, and therefore reduce the value of everyone's dollars by decreasing the amount of valuable goods and services available to be purchased with them.

    It is true that nothing can limit your freedom except other people, but the mere existence of other people is not a limit on anyone else's freedom. Almost everything there is to enjoy in life, for a human being, depends on the existence of a free productive human society. Freedom, production, and human happiness are mutually interdependent characteristics of a society, and directly proportional. It is not possible to limit any without limiting them all. This is the other thing all collectivist socialist philosophies leave out of their economic theories.

  • Freedom and government are contradictory terms.

    Freedom means being able to think, make choices, and act on them. Anything that "governs" you, limits in some way, your freedom to act, which means your choices are limited, because you can only act on those choices the government allows and why would you choose what you will not be allowed to do, which means your thinking is limited, because why would bother thinking about what you cannot choose?

    Freedom means self-governed. You cannot be governed both by your own reason and the non-reason of a government.

  • There are only two ways you can lose your freedom: involuntarily, to those who use or threaten the use of force against you; or voluntarily, to anyone who promises you something in exchange for it. Government provides both these ways.

    One reason freedom of religion is so important in a free society is because so many people are totally convinced of their own inadequacy to live their own lives successfully, entirely by their own effort. Religion offers to all such a resource eager to tell them what to do and to provide them supernatural aid that will make up for all the shortcomings they are convinced they are afflicted with. Without religion, these same people will look to the government to provide them the guarantees that religion would otherwise provide. Religion in a free society is a kind of safety valve the prevents the expansion of government power.

    Unfortunately, most religions believe that they and the government are on the same side (which is not altogether incorrect, in many cases) and attempts to form a coalition with it. Furthermore, the religions teach their followers that they are to be good citizens, by which they mean, they should obey and support the government. The faithful, obedient to their religions, therefore look to their governments as the means their God uses supply the blessing they need to live successfully. This, unfortunately, cancels the beneficial "safety-vale" nature of religion. It can only be restored by insuring a strong separation between religion and government.

    It is not government, but religion that needs to emphasize the separation of church (religion) and state. The government knows, ultimately, government and the organized religions are not on the same side, but competitors for the allegiance of men to whatever promises to provide them what they cannot provide themselves. Government must finally do everything it can to limit religious freedom, but it cannot usually do this unless religion has first convinced its adherents of the legitimacy of government.

    In head-to-head competition, it is government that will always win out over religion, because religion's promises are never fulfilled in this world, but the government's sometimes are. Therefore, when people are looking around for someone to take over their lives for them, the government always has the best propaganda.

  • Most people choose to voluntarily give away their freedom in exchange for some promised security, prosperity, or happiness.

    Most people do not want freedom. They know if they were really free they would to be completely responsible for themselves and they are terrified of that. To avoid it, they will sell their freedom to the first person who comes along and promises to take over that responsibility.

    If you are one of the rare individuals not afraid to be responsible for yourself, if you would prefer not to have someone else watching out for your interests, if you really do want freedom, you must understand, you are unique. Do not expect to be understood or appreciated. Do not expect anyone to sympathize with your views. Do understand, you will be resented, even despised for your, "unsociable independence." Do understand, you will even be hated, though it is you, and those like you, they are depending on to make their unearned security possible.

  • The promise to which most people sell their freedom is the promise of relief from responsibility for their choices, that is, their lives.

    Life consists of what you do, which, for human beings, means what you choose to do. Most people want to be free to do whatever they want whenever they want. They want to live their lives as they see fit, that is, until one of their choices results in something really bad. Then, they want someone else to be responsible for cleaning up the mess they've made. They want to be free to sleep with anyone they want, but they don't want to be responsible for supporting the baby they make or to pay their own medical bills for the diseases they get. They want to be free to enjoy their life and spend their money any way they choose but they want someone else to bail them out when disaster strikes or they grow to old to work and they haven't saved any money.

    What they want is choice without consequences, but that is no choice at all. How can there be choice when the consequences of choices are not tied to the nature of the choices? How can there be choice, if, no matter what you do, it's going to turn out alright? What people really want is the right to follow any whim without regard to consequences, or at least, without having responsibility for them. That's what they want and it is not freedom.