You may think of this as a manifesto, A Declaration of Independence of Free Individuals from All Controllers and Meddlers. But do not worry, the free have no interest in interfering in your lives or activities, our only relationship to you is defensive. Individualists will never attempt to upset your schemes or interfere in your plans. This is a declaration of independence, not a declaration of war.
Who Are The Controllers and Meddlers?
Perhaps you don't know who you are. You are the ones who want to control society. You want some kind of system, organization, or other method of making society the kind you think it ought to be, whether a "fair" society, or a "moral" society, or a "free" society, or a "libertarian" society, a "capitalist" society, an "anarchist" society, a "secular" society, a "Muslim" society, a "thriving" society, a "civilized" society, or some combination of any of these or some other brand of society—there is some kind of society you believe is the right kind and you believe some method of government, or laws, or constitutions, or associations, or contracts can produce it and that some method such as, educational programs, propaganda campaigns, movements, or political action can bring it about and that once your ideal society is implemented, it will work because all those in that society will embrace and be governed by your chosen method.
That's odd, too, since many of you controllers and meddlers talk about, "spontaneous order," but implementing some man-made scheme for ordering a society is hardly spontaneous. In fact, it can only kill spontaneity. But never mind that.
And never mind the fact that none of your schemes will ever work, because they all depend on changing people, which cannot be done and would be immoral to do if you could, but that doesn't matter either, at least to free individuals.
Who Are The Free Individuals?
Perhaps you don't know who a free individual is either. I might have said, perhaps you don't know who "we" are, but individualists do not think in terms of "we," even though there are a great many free individuals. A free individual is one who is completely confident in his own ability to live his life successfully without anyone else's advice, teaching, direction, approval, support, love, unasked for help, or agreement. A free individual neither desires or seeks anything other than what he can produce or earn by his own rationally directed effort. A free individual is never a threat to any other individual in any way.
So a free individual has no interest in, or use for, your grand plans for the perfect society, or the methods by which it will be achieved. A free individual finds your dismay at his attitude odd. My own experience has been that controllers and meddlers actually consider free individuals some kind of threat or danger. There is a kind of insidious hatred of the free individual because he has no use for the meddlers' schemes and plans and will never support them. Well I will never support them, because I do not need them and would find most of their social schemes insulting if they were worth considering at all.
The free individualist is not opposed to any of your schemes and plans for providing the kind of society you choose, however. Have your governments, limited or otherwise, your organized communities, your charters, associations, constitutions, and contracts, your police or competing protection agencies. No individualist will get in your way.
It's not like you would recognize an individualist if you ever actually met one, and you almost certainly have. Since an individualist only deals with others by means of reason, offering value for value, and always gives others the benefit of the doubt, you'll almost never find anyone more reasonable to deal with. They just have no desire to have anything from you that you do not see is to your benefit to give, usually in the form of a trade.
You'll never meet an individualist who attempts to bully others, or interfere in how they live, or even how they comport themselves. It is because the individualist is already free.
Freedom always means freedom from others. One of the most important aspects of freedom is being free from concerns about others—others' beliefs, others' opinions, others' faults, and others' feelings. Individualists do no care what anyone else thinks of them, says to or about them, or feels about them.
"You just don't care what happens to others," the free individual is accused. In general that is true. What happens to anyone, with those rare exceptions of things that are outside anyone's possible control, is the consequence of their own choices and actions. The individualist is responsible for every aspect of his own life, including the "bad" things that happen and would prefer everyone would take responsibility for their own lives as well, but he does not "wish" it, because he knows most people will not take that responsibility, will suffer the consequences of their bad choices and actions, and perpetually look for someone else to blame for their problems or to pick up after them. Unfortunately there will usually be some bleeding heart controllers or meddlers who will.
"But what about those things you mentioned, those things that are outside of anyone's control." Well, if they are outside of anyone's control there is nothing anyone can do to control them and it would be absurd to expect anyone to do anything about them, because no one can.
[Free Individual: By "free individual" I mean one who is not connected to any controlling or directing agency outside himself. His life and everything he does is determined exclusively by his own rationally guided judgment and choice. It does not mean, "free from the existence," of agencies that claim or attempt to control the individual, it means the individual never acknowledges that claim and evades its actual influence in his life in every way possible in much the same way he evades and protects himself from other harmful threats of reality such as terrorists, gangsters, disease, accident, or natural disasters, but he does not want or expect that protection to be provided by any other agency.]
What Do Free Individuals Do?
What does a free individual do? First let me say what he does not do. He does not steal, he does not cheat, he does not threaten others, he does not rape, he does not, "take advantage," of anyone's weaknesses or foibles, (he won't be a drug dealer, a pornographer, a pimp, a prostitute, a professional gambler, or a panderer to any other human weakness or obsession, and he won't be a politician, a policeman, a bureaucrat, or any other kind of government agent). So, if you meet anyone who is any of those things, you know they are not a free individual. Please do not mistake this description for a, "law-abiding citizen," however, because what a free individual does is very often illegal, though it is never immoral.
What a free individual does is work. He is always engaged in some kind of productive effort by which he produces products or services (or both) for which others willingly exchange what they have produced or earned. Except for those things listed above, there is almost no field in which free individuals are not engaged. Some sell their services to others (who mistakenly think of them as employees). Some are entrepreneurs. In whatever field they are engaged, many are free lance. Most are autodidacts and most are polymaths, though only a handful have extended academic backgrounds because very few individuals have the psychological strength and stamina to withstand the assaults of academia on their individualism and their rationality.
Some perform services for which government requires licenses or other 'permits,' but they never bother with government requirements. I know some very successful electricians, plumbers, masons, pavers, and builders, even doctors, dentists, and pharmacists who have no government authorization. Some perform the services of underground banks making international money transfers, some are smugglers providing products, from clothing to medicine, to citizens of countries whose own governments have made those products illegal, or so regulated, they are otherwise unavailable.
The free individual is free of any concern about whether anything he chooses to do has been declared, "illegal," by some government, except to understand where such, "laws," increase the risk of any particular action and must be accounted for. The free individual is only concerned that what he does is morally right. One view of the free individual is, "if a law is immoral it is immoral to obey it." So much for the law-abiding citizen.
The free individual is only concerned with knowing that whatever he has in this world he has produced or acquired by his own honest effort, that all he enjoys in this world is without guilt or regret because he earned and deserves it, and that all he is, is what he has made of himself and it is the best he could possibly have accomplished. He does not care what anyone else thinks or knows about him, only what he knows about himself.
It is because the free individual is a moral individual that he is contemptuous of the controllers' and meddlers' ideas of a free society. The free individual knows if everyone in a society were a free, independent, self-sufficient, productive, moral individual, that society would be a free society. Since the free individual cannot be a threat to anyone else, never interferes in anyone else's life, is always reasonable in his dealings with others and all his behavior is benevolent, it is not free individuals that need to be "controlled" to make a society the kind some idealist imagines. It is the non-free individuals who are a threat to others, the nonself-sufficient parasites, and the malevolent that must be controlled.
Free Individuals And Society
I do not believe in psychologizing, or making judgments about others that presume to know what they think, or why they make the choices they do. I do not know why most controllers and meddlers cannot imagine, according to their own testimony, being able to be happy or successful, or even have any meaning in their life, without being part of some group, or collection, or community of other human beings.
The need to be "joined" to something seems to an individualist a kind of deficiency, a sense that one is not sufficient and complete in themselves, that they suffer some biological or psychological shortcoming that can only be supplied by being a "member" of something.
Whatever that shortcoming is, if that is what it is, it apparently makes it impossible for them to understand that only self-sufficient, complete-in-themselves, free individuals are capable or worthy of true social relationships and are the only ones who can truly enjoy others and the only ones capable of real love.
It is because the free individual has no desire or interest in interfering or controlling anyone else, no need to be, "understood," or "appreciated," by others, and no requirement for their empathy, sympathy, or compassion that the individualist's relationships with others places no demand or expectations on them beyond mutually enjoying each other in normal human intercourse, conversation, and the interchange of ideas. Much of the enjoyment of others for the free individual is an appreciation of the incredible differences in their experiences, knowledge, activities, interests, desires, goals, and achievements, all of which enrich the individualist's own life and experience.
The individualist's general attitude toward others is to expect them to be successful and happy to whatever level their own ability and ambition makes possible, "wishing," for everyone to be as satisfied with life as possible. Since the free individual knows the potential of life, and its infinite possibilities, his ideal world would be one in which every individual in it were as free as he himself is, and as totally satisfied with life as he himself is. This is the attitude that determines his relationship with all other individuals.
The individualist's life is always full of that pleasure derived from his relationships with others, from the most casual acquaintances to serious business relationships; from his personal friendships to those he loves. There is even a sense in which the free individual loves everyone, since the real meaning of love is the appreciation of true value. The free individual regards every individual to have value, at least potentially, because they are human beings. It is why the free individual gives every individual the benefit of the doubt, and judges them only on the basis of what they demonstrate themselves to be, and nothing else, especially not any group or collective others might identify them with.
Perhaps you would not guess it, because a free individual rejects all forms of altruism, but one of a free individualist's chief joys is giving pleasure to others. Even if it is only a pleasant word, a simple compliment, a recognition of something done well, or only winking at an unpretty girl, as H.L. Mencken recommended.
As for society itself, since the free individual is always a producer, never a trouble-maker, always minds his own business and knows how to interact with others benevolently and courteously, his every contribution to any society is always only positive.
The free individualist even loves controllers and meddlers.
To My Controller And Meddler Friends
Perhaps you think my description of you as "controllers and meddlers" is inaccurate or even unfair. I'm sure you do not think of yourselves as desiring to control others or meddling in their affairs. I'm sure you believe your aims and purposes are virtuous, that you only want what is best for everyone or that you just want to stop or prevent others from being controllers and meddlers.
I do not wish to conjecture about your motives, though I am convinced your ultimate objective is the establishment of some kind of "free" or "libertarian" society. I've already discussed that, so I'll only say, whatever you choose and do, I wish you well (which is not necessarily success). Since I'm wishing, I wish you could discover for yourselves the true freedom of independent individualism, but I can assure you I will not attempt to convince you or force it on you. It would not be possible anyway. Individualism comes only from within one's own mind and reason and cannot be imposed from without.