Independence—Better Than Morality
Independence is the primary virtue of being a free individual. Dependence means being tied to some authority or obligation by which one's own choice are restricted. One cannot be free without being independent of all possible external limitations or strictures.
Independence is often contrasted with collectivism because collectivism is the view that everyone is dependent on some collection or group of individuals. This is unfortunate, because the true nature of individual freedom is not an, "-ism," not an ideology, and not political. Individual freedom is a way of life determined by principles based on human nature and the nature of the world, which stand in the place of what are often referred to as, "moral," or, "ethical," principles, but are better, because they are objectively determined by reality, not some ideology or philosophcal theory.
Who Are Free Individuals?
It is unlikely that you know who free, independent, individuals are. They seldom identify themselves as such because they never think in terms of belonging to some class or category of human beings; they never refer to themselves as members of some, "WE."
An independent individual is one who is completely confident in his own ability to live his life successfully without anyone else's advice, teaching, direction, support, love, empathy, understanding, agreement, or approval. An independent individual neither desires or seeks anything other than what he can produce or achieve by his own rationally directed productive effort, otherwise known as his work, and is never a threat to any other individual in any way.
An independent 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 is without guilt or regret because he earned and deserves it, and that whatever he is, it is what he has made of himself and 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.
He cannot be satisfied by anything less than the best. It is not the best as defined by society or some ideology or what is popularly believed. It is the best possible for a human being as determined by his nature and the nature of the world in which he lives. Not the best in terms of physical possessions, but the best in terms of his own freedom and personal achievement, physically and mentally.
What Does Independent Mean?
Independent, means not connected to any controlling or directing agency outside oneself. An independent individual's 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 other individuals or 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, diseases, accidents, or natural disasters, but he does not want or expect that protection to be provided by any other individual or agency.
Why Free Individuals Choose To Be Independent
No one is born an independent individual. Independence is chosen, like all other human behavior. Those who do choose independence come to a place in their lives when they discover or realize the kind of life they are going to have will be determined solely by what they think, choose, and do. For some, the realization is so early in life they cannot remember ever thinking any other way. Others only come to the realization after learning from experience, often a serious difficulty or traumatic event caused by their own bad choices, that their success or failure depends solely on their own choices and actions.
It is apparent that most people are not truly successful and happy in this world, even those who seem to have power, money, prestige, or position. Most of those held up as examples of success have not actually earned their wealth, position, or fame, but accrued them by means of fortune, charisma, talent, looks, political power, or pandering to the insatiable appetites of the ordinary for entertainment, the sensational, or, hedonistic pleasure.
It is never what one has that determines either success or happiness, it is only what one has achieved and made of themselves by their own effort that can provide that sense of personal integrity, dignity, competence, and self-worth required by one's nature for a truly fulfilled life of meaning and purpose.
What Do Free Individuals Do?
What does an independent 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 living on wealth extorted from others). The reason why he does none of those things is because they would make him dependent on those others who would be his victims.
If you meet anyone who is any of those things, you know they are not an independent individual. Please do not mistake this description for a, "law-abiding citizen," however, because what an independent individual does is very often illegal.
What an independent 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. 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 free individuals have the psychological tolerance required to withstand the assaults of academia on their independence and intelligence.
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 independent 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 endeavor and must be accounted for. The independent individual is only concerned that what he does is right. One view of the independent individual is, "if a law is immoral it is immoral to obey it." So much for the law-abiding citizen.
Free Individuals And Others
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 individuals 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 independent individual 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 independent individual has no desire or interest in interfering or controlling anyone else, no need to be, "understood," "appreciated," "approved," or, "supported," by others, and no requirement for their empathy, sympathy, or compassion that the independent individual's relationships with others places no demand or expectations on them beyond mutually enjoying one another and what each has freely to offer in normal human intercourse, from pleasure to business. Much of the enjoyment of others for the independent individual is an appreciation of the incredible differences in their experiences, knowledge, activities, interests, desires, goals, and achievements, all of which enrich the independent individual's own life and experience.
The independent individual'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 independent 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 independent individual'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 independent individual loves everyone, since the real meaning of love is the appreciation of true value in others. The independent individual regards every individual to have value, at least potentially, because they are human beings, the only other beings with the same interests and potential as himself. It is why the independent individual gives every individual the benefit of the doubt, and judges them only on the basis of what they demonstrate or declare themselves to be, and nothing else, especially not any group or collective others might identify them with.
Perhaps you would not guess it, because an independent individual rejects all forms of altruism, but one of an independent individual'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 for society itself, since the independent individual is always a producer, never a trouble-maker, always minds his own business and knows how to interact with others decently and courteously, his every contribution to any society is always only positive and benevolent.
Free Individuals And Society
Since an independent individual 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 anyone that others do not see is to their benefit to give, usually in the form of a trade.
You'll never meet an independent individual who attempts to bully others, or interfere in how they live, or even how they comport themselves. To the independent individual, other's lives are not his to interfere with in any way, and he has no interest in controlling or meddling in anyone else's life.
An independent individual finds other's dismay at his attitude odd. My own experience has been that those who are not independent, whom I call, "controllers and meddlers," actually consider free individuals some kind of threat or danger. There is a kind of insidious hatred of the independent individual because he has no use for the meddlers' schemes and plans for controlling society and making others behave as they would like.
The independent individual is not, however, opposed to any of the meddlers' political and social schemes for providing the kind of society they think they would like. They may have their governments, limited or otherwise, organized communities, charters, associations, constitutions, contracts, police or competing protection agencies. No independent individual will get in their way, because none of their schemes will work and will all ultimately end in disaster.
You will never see an independent individual at a political rally, a demonstration, forum, or, "town hall meeting." An independent individual does not join or support any political party, organization, or movement; in fact, an independent individual does not, "join," anything. An independent individual does not identify with any race, nationality, ideology, class or category of individuals, and does not think of or evaluate anyone else in terms of any race, nationality, ideology, class or category. An independent individual only relates to other individuals as individuals.
An independent individual has no use for politics because all politics (government) is anti-individual and anti-freedom. To be governed means to be controlled by someone else, and the independent individual is already free. One of the most important aspects of freedom is being free from concerns about others—others' beliefs, others' opinions, others' faults, and others' feelings. Free individuals do no care what anyone else thinks, believes, or does or what others think of them, says to or about them, or feels about them.
The free individual is often accused: "You just don't care what happens to others." In one sense that is true. With the rare exception of things that are outside anyone's possible control, what happens to anyone is the consequence of their own choices and actions. The independent individual takes responsibility 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 or something else to blame for their problems or to pick up after them.
The independent individual, however, takes no pleasure in the suffering or unhappiness of others, and would prefer for all human beings to enjoy their lives as he does. Unlike the controllers and meddlers, the independent individual harbors no vindictiveness, and abhors the idea of revenge and the absurd belief that justice means inflicting some kind of pain or suffering on those who do what others think they shouldn't. There is something insidiously wrong with anyone who can find a value in anyone else's pain or suffering.
The independent individual is contemptuous of the controllers' and meddlers' ideas of a, "free", "fair," or "just," society. The independent individual knows if everyone in a society were an independent, self-sufficient, productive individual, that society would be a, "free", "fair," or "just," society. Since the independent 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 the threat to others, the dependent parasites and socially needy, and the malevolent controllers and meddlers that make societies unjust and oppressive.
[Reprised from The Moral Indiviual]