Your Freedom Now (Part 3 of 3)

Freedom is Expensive

Freedom is not free! The price is risk and insecurity. Actually there is no more risk or insecurity in the life of an independent free individual than in the life of anyone else. The difference is the individualist recognizes the reality of risk, embraces it as an element of adventure, and knows exactly how to deal with it.

Not all your choices will be right ones. You are going to make mistakes. All our choices have consequences; if we never made any mistakes, the consequences would all be good ones. In real life they are not all good ones. There is only one way to deal with the consequences of our wrong choices. Pay the price, learn what can be learned, move on, and don't make the same mistake again.

We know we are not infallible, that we cannot predict everything, so there will be bad consequences and surprises, but we can prepare for them. These possibilities must always be factored into our choices. Some methods of preparing for the unknown are obvious, like insurance. Others require alternative plans, and reserving resources in case "the worst happens." Prepare for the worst, but work for the best.

As free individuals, supporting ourselves by our own efforts, whether that is some individual creative work, sole proprietorship, or running a huge off-shore manufacturing or service business, there is always a cost of doing business. Even if we eliminate all the artificial costs thrust on us by government, the measures taken to do that will themselves cost something. The fact that governments exist (and always will) and that they must be dealt with in some way, just as the fact of disease has to be dealt with in some way, does not mean we are not free. The existence of governments is one of those things that cannot be changed, learning how to work around them and protect one's self from them is part the cost of doing business, and part of the cost of being free.

Old time smugglers used the expression, "paying the squeeze." It was the bribe that was slipped to the customs agent or boarder guard to look the other way when moving something illegal in or out of a country. It was considered a cost of doing that business, which would otherwise have been more expensive, dangerous, or impossible. There was also a kind of justice in the fact that a private individual, however disreputable, was getting the money, and not the government. Some people think of taxes as, "squeeze," while doing everything they reasonably can to reduce them, some are easier and safer to pay then to fight. It depends on what freedom is for you.

There is another cost of freedom that is almost unavoidable. I will mention it again under privacy; it is the social cost. If you become truly free, most people will neither understand or appreciate you. You may have to give up social relationships that you thought were important. But consider this, how important is anyone to you who resents your freedom.

Freedom is the greatest single value you will ever achieve. It is, for human beings, life itself. You cannot expect the most valuable thing in your life to come cheaply, or easily.

Freedom is Independence

Every dependency is a chain that limits your freedom. To the extent your choices or actions depend on anyone else's choices, actions, or agreement, you are not free.

This fact is often wrongly confused with trade. A trade is a transaction mutually agreed to by both (or all) parties. When I buy products at the local grocery or hardware store, I am not dependent on either. I can buy those things somewhere else, or not at all if I choose. Obviously I cannot buy them if nobody offers them for sale, but that is not a dependency. I can still produce them myself or hire someone else to produce them for me. The fact that they are available in stores only broadens the horizon of my possible choices.

If I have a friend who owns a grocery or hardware store, but I do not believe he has the best prices, I am free to shop elsewhere. If our friendship is threatened by my shopping elsewhere, and I choose to shop at my friends store for the sake of that dubious friendship, not because I judge it to be in my own best interest, that is an act of dependency; because my choices are dependent on what my friend thinks of me, not on my own objective judgment.

Independence also means financial independence. To the extent you are financially dependent on any other individual or organization you are not free. Indebtedness may be the one thing, especially in our age, to which more people surrender their independence, and therefore their freedom, than anything else; although, religion, tradition, and so-called family obligations, run close seconds.

There is confusion on this point too. Some people think of an employee is financially dependent on their employer. No doubt this is frequently the case, but it does not have to be that way. The relationship between an employee and employer is, or at least ought to be, a trader relationship. When I worked for an employer I regarded the employer as a customer to whom I sold my service (work) in exchange for the salary paid me. I am sure few of my employers regarded our relationship in that way. Most employers really do believe employees are financially dependent on them. Those employers who attempted to test that theory with me, however, simply lost my service. There were always employers (potential customers) willing to pay me more for those services.

The fact that you must do something productive to secure wealth is a reality that does not make you dependent. It is another of those things you cannot change, a requirement of your nature. It is one of the things you must be free to do, and you must do to be free. Learning to distinguish between what you must do and those needless dependencies, obligations, and "duties," that are mistaken for things you, "must do," is part of becoming free.

What is the point of freedom if you are going to entangle yourself in endless financial and personal obligations and commitments to demanding social relationships that leave you no time or resources for doing anything you want to do. If that is what you intend to do, you do not need freedom. You do not need freedom to enslave yourself.

Freedom is Privacy

If you are going to be free, you are going to be an oddity, a radical, a misfit, because your values and concerns and the way you live your life is going to be different from the way most people live theirs. Because most do not want to be free, they do not understand those who do want to be free and resent, or even despise those who manage it.

You do not have to hide your values or how you live (although you will definitely want to hide some of it from some quarters). Neither should you flaunt it. Your life is a very private, personal, "nobody-else's-business" thing. Except for those you choose to make a part of your life, and those to whom you choose to share your intimacy, privacy is one of the most important aspects of being free.

Ayn Rand said, "Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men." ["The Soul Of An Individualist," For the New Intellectual, Page 81]

If the degree of privacy enjoyed by individuals is the indication of how civilized a society is, our society and our world are becoming less civilized every day. Not only is every aspect of our lives monitored, recorded, and mostly available to anyone who cares to look and our personal privacy invaded by every government agency ever thought of, people themselves have very little sense of privacy. There is nothing anyone thinks, or says, or does, these days, they do not willingly display for the whole world to see in public, on television; and, as though we hadn't seen enough, on their Internet WEB pages and BLOGs.

It's Your Life And Your Freedom

If you want to live happily and successfully in this world you must be free to think, and choose, and act on your own best reason. Like everything else of value in life, if you want to be free you must earn it, you must make yourself free. No movement, no social of political plan will make you free, only you can make yourself free.