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The Individualist's Challenge Continued

Is Individual Freedom the Objective?

There has been only one response to the original Individualist's Challenge, and that response said only, "It seemed a bit incoherent."

I am not certain whether the remark pertains to the whole article, or the challenge itself, so I assumed it was the article. I asked several other people who read the challenge if it seemed incoherent to them, because there is always a danger that though something you've written seems perfectly clear at the time, it may very well not be so clear to others. Except for that one response, however, all my other readers declared the article to be perfectly understandable.

Nevertheless, I want to make one more effort to make it clear exactly what the challenge is. In the original article I stated the challenge this way:

"My challenge to every anarchist, minarchist, libertarian, and politically conservative site, organization, group, institute, society, campaign, center, forum, foundation, and think-tank proposing some program or method of establishing individual freedom is to explain how their program is going to work, and when we can expect to see the results."

Since stated that way, it is a bit of a generality, I will make the challenge more specific.

The Premise

The Independent Individualist holds individual freedom as the ultimate social value. Individual freedom means an individual is free to live his life as he choose without the interference of any other individual or group of individuals. The Independent Individualist regards the individual as the ultimate source and purpose of all values, which is the principle of individualism. Any supposed objective or purpose to which individuals are in any way subordinated is a form of collectivism. Individual freedom and collectivism are incompatible and contradictory.

The challenge assumes that every organization addressed has individual freedom as, at least, one of its objectives. Based on that assumption, it is the contention of the Independent Individualist that the methods employed by all these organizations will not achieve that objective, and in some cases actually will work against it.

The intention is not to criticize either the views or the methods of any these organizations in themselves, many of which I agree with and support. My intention is to show that, if individual freedom is one of their objectives, neither their views or their methods are going to bring it about. In some cases these organizations plainly state they do not expect their efforts to result in individual freedom in the near future or even in their lifetime.

The Independent Individualist is convinced that individual freedom is available to anyone who is willing to make the effort and pay the price of securing it, and that they may have it in this world today. I do not know the reason why that is not at least part of the goal of any freedom oriented program or organization. Perhaps some do not believe it is possible, or are just unaware that it is, but if they do know it is possible, and they are not encouraging people to make themselves free, what can be their motive?

1. Is it out some sense of altruistic self-sacrifice, that one must not seek their own freedom, but remain enslaved as be part of the fight for other's freedom?

2. Is it from a false belief, that some hold, that so long as others are not free, they cannot be free. Since anyone can be free if they chose to be, why should anyone not choose to be free just because others do not choose it? As I asked in my original challenge:

"Must you go hungry until everyone is fed? Must you go naked until a system for clothing everyone is established? Must you be sick until the world is made healthy? Must you remain ignorant until an educated society is established? Must you remain enslaved until everyone is free?"

3. Is it really individual freedom that is wanted, or is it really some kind of idealistic society or system in which it is believed individual freedom will be automatically available to everyone.

There is no moral objective reason not to encourage individuals to be free, as free as they possibly can be in the world today. It is, in fact, a mistake to think those who remain in slavery can do very much to free others. First, free yourself, then, from the secure ground of your own freedom, you may wage war against all the forces of tyranny and statism you choose with real effectiveness.

The Challenge Plainly Stated

So let me put the challenge in the form of four questions:

1. Is individual freedom one of your objectives?

2. Will your methods actually make anyone free in their lifetime?

3. Do you believe it is possible for individuals to find true freedom in the world today?

4. Would you encourage individuals to be free if they can be?

A Mistaken Objective

I have the strong impression that while all freedom oriented organizations and movements would insist it is individual freedom they are for, what they mean by freedom is a kind social condition that might be described as a, "free society," or a, "stateless society," or a "free market society," and that, somehow, individuals living under that condition are automatically free.

But freedom does not pertain to a society of any kind, it only pertains to individuals. There is no method that will produce a, "kind of society," that will produce freedom, and all such proposed methods are rightly called "social engineering." I think many of these organization have inadvertently fallen into the social engineering trap, the belief that some kind of ideology or philosophy or political system, such as "market anarchism," can be imposed on a society to produce a desirable condition—in this case, individual freedom.

It cannot be done. Societies cannot be changed, and it would be wrong to do it, if they could:

The nature of any society is ultimately determined by the individuals that make up that society. To change a society essentially means changing people. I understand that all of the programs intended to "educate," "inform," and "bring awareness," to people are intended to do just that—to change people, or, at least, enable and encourage them to change themselves. There is no reason to suppose that is possible (and many that show it isn't), but even if it were, it would not be right, especially as long as the purpose is intended to result in a certain kind of society, even a free society. No one may morally impose their idea of what a proper society is on others, even by means of education, information, and propaganda.

A free society would be a wonderful thing. There is no right thinking person who could not be for it. A clean, healthy, and beautiful environment would also be a wonderful thing, and no right thinking person could not be for that either. Morally, however, no one may impose on others their idea of what a clean, healthy and beautiful environment is. It's not their environment and only so much of it that is actually their earned property is theirs. In the same way and for the same reason no one may morally impose on others their idea of what a free society is, even if they are right. It is not their society.

The only part of any society that anyone may morally attempt to change is the individual himself, and over that part of society, the individual is free to change anything, especially to change his relationship to the rest of society and to make himself free from it, whatever the rest of society chooses to do.

—(01/12/11)