Your Personal Freedom
The description of freedom in the article, "Freedom Not For Everyone" is a generic description. But what freedom is for any particular individual will be different for each individual. In this article, it is your own personal freedom that will be discussed.
Freedom is not the same as, "liberty." Liberty is a political concept and means something granted to or, "provided," by some agency of force—that is, a government. Liberty is not freedom, liberty is what some controlling agency allows or gives you permission to do. Freedom means being able to do whatever you choose to do without getting anyone else's permission or approval. Freedom is being able to live your life in any way you can choose, never being prevented by anyone else from going wherever you like or doing whatever you like, and never being compelled by anyone else to go anyplace or do anything you do not choose to go or do.
An Illustration of True Freedom
The only possible restrictions to human freedom are the actions of other human beings, or human agencies—the most common one being a government. If you were the only resident of an island, or other totally isolated area, you would have complete freedom. You could live your life however you chose. You could not, however, do just anything you liked. There would be things you could not do and others you would have to do if you wished to survive. Those things you must or must not do, are not restrictions on your freedom—they are facts of reality and human nature. Far from being restrictions, they determine the principles by which one can and must live as a human being if he is to live successfully. Almost all human misery is the result of ignorance or evasion of those principles.
The principles, in essence, are very simple. To live, you must produce, and to produce you must understand as much as possible about the nature of the world you live in, which includes your own nature. If you do not wish to starve, you will have to find food, or grow it, or hunt it, as well as learning how to prepare it. About yourself, you'll have to know what constitutes food, and what constitutes poison. Being free does not mean doing whatever you like, it means being free to do whatever you have discovered is right for you to successfully live your life in this world.
A truly isolated human being would either learn what the requirements of life are and live in conformance with those requirements, or die. He would be totally free to do whatever he chose to do, and could have and enjoy anything he could acquire and produce by his own productive effort, but no more.
The isolated individual would be completely free, but very few individuals could be fulfilled as human beings without other human beings, and there are many values to be gained from the society of others, and most human beings choose to live in the society of others as the means of fulfilling their own aspirations as human beings. [See, "Why Live In Society?," which explains the advantages and disadvantages of society.]
The Test of Freedom
One's personal freedom can only be limited or compromised by other human beings. Outside of a society there are no limits to ones freedom. But societies always include individuals who do not really want freedom and will choose some form of oppressive government and laws to provide them security and guarantees. [See, "Freedom Not For Everyone."]
At what point does one decide the advantages a society provides are no longer worth the loss of freedom imposed by that society? In other words, how oppressive must a society and it's government become before one can no longer tolerate being part of that society or living under the rule of that government?
Here is a list things an individual's minimum requirements of freedom would include. You are only free only if you are able to:
—Keep what you have produced.
—Say, write, publish or broadcast anything you choose.
—Defend yourself, and make provision for that defence by any means you choose.
—Go wherever you choose.
—Produce and sell any product or service you choose.
—Purchase and use any product or service you choose.
—Associate or not with any other individual or individuals you choose.
and you are,
—Never compelled to do anything you do not choose to do?
What Do These Minimum Requirements Of Freedom Mean?
In practical real-life terms, what do these minimum requirements of freedom mean?
First, your freedom never includes doing anything that in any way threatens or harms any other individual's person, or property or interfere's with anyone else's freedom.
Second, freedom is only freedom to do, never freedom to have. With regard to what one has produced, one may keep only what he has produced; there is nothing to keep when nothing is produced.
Keep what you have produced, means: What you have produced is called property and includes whatever you have acquired by trading what you have produced. It is as much an extension of your life as your skin, nails and hair. These are produced by the biological aspects of your nature; your property is produced by your mental and physical effort, the product of your human rational/volitional/physical nature. It does not matter how much property you produce, your claim on it is based on the fact you produced it. There is no other moral claim by any individual or agency on what you have produced. Because it is your property, you are free to dispose of it in any way you choose—to consume it, invest it, destroy it, or give it away.
Say, write, or record anything you choose., means: Anything, no matter how offensive or dangerous anyone else might think it is. To say, write, or record anything you choose, does not mean that anyone is required to listen to what you say, read what you write, or to agree with either. It also does not mean that anyone is obliged to provide you a platform (or radio or television station) for your speech or to publish what you write. It does mean, no matter how offensive it is, or how much it is disliked, you are free to say or write it. All oppression begins with oppression of freedom of speech, speech that someone does not like or deems offensive. The test of one's devotion to freedom is the degree of consistency in allowing what one personally detests.
Defend yourself by any means you choose., means: using or possessing any means or method you choose to defend yourself, those who matter to you, and your property from any threat of force by any other individual or agency. Defense does not mean force. There are many methods of defense that require no use of force, and for the individual are usually the least expensive and effective means of defense.
In any case where no other method is possible, force must be used and there is no limit or restriction on how much force is used. One may use their own force, or hire another individual or agency to protect their person and property.
But it might be true, as L. Neil Smith contends, that the best test of freedom is guns.
[NOTE: L. Neil Smith is a libertarian who mistakenly believes government can provide freedom. He is right about what freedom is, but wrong about how to achieve it.]
The oppression that begins with restricting freedom of speech ultimately leads to the elimination of one's freedom to defend one's self, and that always begins with restrictions on gun ownership, and ultimately the total prohibition of guns.
No government will ever provide you the freedom to defend yourself, since it relegates that prerogative to itself, but it is important to be aware of how much any particular government is a threat to your freedom to provide your own defense, and how it deals with gun ownership is a good gauge of that freedom.
Go wherever you choose., means: being able to go to any part of any city, state, country, or continent in the world, whenever you choose and are able to do so. The only restriction is other's property which must always be respected as part of other's lives.
Freedom of movement is terribly misunderstood, and everything possible is being done by all world governments to control it. This does not mean that people will be prevented from traveling and moving, but that no one will be allowed to go anywhere without government permission and its knowing where you are at all times. That is not freedom of movement. Terrorism and, "immigration problems," are the hobgoblins governments are using to foist travel restriction on their citizens, but there are no immigration problems. The problems are welfare statism and multiculturalism, both government problems, not problems of individuals being free to go wherever they choose.
Produce and sell any product or service you choose., means: no restriction or limit on what products or service you can provide to anyone you choose, without getting any other individual's or agency's permission or approval.
There is no freedom if you are not free to produce what you are able to produce, perform services you are able to perform, and to sell and purchase any product or service without requiring government permission or approval or having to meet some government restrictions to do them. Whatever the excuse, from preventing depressions to protecting consumers, all government meddling in the free market only causes harm, and the worst harm of all is to the rational, productive, individuals.
Purchase and use any product or service you choose., means: not having to get government permission (or pay some government licensed lackey) to buy or use any product or service from medicine to machines. Of course there are dangerous substances (drugs, toxins, explosives) and machines (guns, presses, cranes) on the market. No law or government restrictions can make them safe or prevent anyone determine to have them from obtaining them. Government restrictions only get in the way of decent, rational, productive individuals obtaining what they choose to live their lives as adult human beings.
Associate or not with any other individual or individuals you choose, means: all forms of association, from social to business. It means one is free to associate or not to associate with anyone they choose, and for any reason; it means you may hire or fire anyone you choose, do business or not do business with anyone you choose. It means you do not have to belong to any kind of organization or association to do anything you choose, but that you can belong to any kind of organization you like, so long as that organization (as determined by the individuals that comprise it) choose to have you as a member.
Perhaps one illustration will make this clear. One of the most oppressive and harmful of government's interferences in the lives of its citizens is government education. There is everything wrong with it, and one thing wrong with it is the fact it forces parents and children to associate with people they would never choose to associate with if they were free to choose.
Never compelled to do anything you do not choose to do, means: means never having to provide information, go someplace, pay for something, or get permission or approval from any other individual or agency.
Every law that requires reporting anything to the government (like one's income), paying the government (like taxes and fines), that requires the obtaining of government paper (like a social security card or drivers license), that requires one's time or effort (like jury duty or conscription), that requires one to submit their property to government inspection, or one's children to government appointed agents (teachers), or that makes any other demands on one's person, time, or property is oppressive.
Your Personal Freedom
No two people have the same interests, abilities, or personal values. There are things some will aspire to do that others have no interest in at all. One's personal freedom means being able to do what they choose to do. Where one individual is free to do what they choose, another may very well find totally oppressive.
Every society is different with different governments and laws. What anyone is free to do in any society will depend on that societies laws and level of oppression. In any society, no matter how oppressive it is, if an individual is able to do the things he chooses to do, he is free, even if everything else is forbidden and other's are not free, because they choose to do things forbidden in that country.
All laws are restrictions on individual freedom. Though the free individual finds the implication of such laws as those prohibiting murder and theft mildly insulting, as though they needed a government to tell them what is right and wrong, such laws are not oppressive to them, since they only prohibit what the free individual would never choose to do anyway. Except as a means of providing a number of non-productive individuals with lucrative occupations, [all those involved in the enforcement and prosecution of such laws] all such prohibitive laws are pointless; a law against stealing means nothing to those who have no desire or intention of stealing, but do nothing to prevent those who choose to steal from doing it, else there would be no one in jail for stealing.
Some laws, therefore, that prohibit some kinds of choices are not necessarily oppressive, but most laws are. Is it possible to have freedom in this world today, when oppressive laws are ubiquitous? It is, but only if you understands what the price of freedom is and you are willing to pay it, and only if you know what freedom for you personally must be.
What is it you want to do? How do you want to live your life. What is it you aspire to achieve and be. If you have no particular goals or ambitions, what do you need freedom for. Freedom is freedom to do and what your personal freedom will be means freedom to do and be what you choose to do and be, but first you must decide what that is.
The Preservation Of Wealth
It is unlikely that wealth is a free individual's sole objective. Except for that wealth required for providing one's essential requires for life, wealth is always a means to other things one chooses to achieve and be. The desire to preserve that wealth is to make those achievements possible and to keep one self free from limits imposed by other individuals and agencies (governments).
Every country in the world has some form of confiscatory taxation that would limit an individual's ability to keep what they have produced. The two most common ways to be free from government theft of one's wealth and property are to not have any (or have so little the government is not interested in it), or to not let the government know you have it. A government, being an irrational human project, cannot be dealt with by reason, just as a vicious animal cannot be dealt with by reason. The methods of most predators, like government, can be studied and measures can be taken to evade them, protect one's self against them, or to dissuade them by seeming to offer them what they seek. With government, the first rule is to have as little to do with it as possible, never voluntarily providing it any information. In most cases, governments look for easy prey, those who flaunt their wealth or openly defy and challenge the government, which is tantamount to challenging a raging bull or openly displaying one's goods to a thief.
There are endless way to insulate wealth from government scrutiny, from off-shore banking and investments to unofficial methods of money transfers and storage, for example. (Government's call some of that, "money laundering," which means, clean money is money the government cannot get its grubby fingers on.) Each individual must decide how much of their wealth they are willing to expend on protecting their wealth which may be a small amount payed in taxes to evade further government scrutiny, or paying for the services of investments lawyers who can, "hide," ones wealth. Governments are inevitable, like diseases and natural disasters. It will always cost something to protect one's self from such things, for the sake of one's practical freedom.
Your Freedom Of Speech
That this should be a real concern for the free individual is unlikely. In this day, one can say, write, publish, or broadcast almost anything not intentionally meant to provoke a government or incite a negative reaction by those with political power. While freedom means being able to say or write anything, no matter how much it offends or provokes others, or how much it is intended to deceive others, or how dangerous it contains is deemed to be, it is unlikely a free individual would be interested in saying or writing such things (or hearing or reading them either).
In this day and age, there is almost nothing one cannot say, write, publish, or broadcast that is actually forbidden by most governments, and the few things that are can easily be published in spite of government restrictions. Of course there is risk in that, but that is part of the price of freedom.
Not only your freedom, but your very life depends on your ability to defend yourself and yours from any threat to them. Any that would limit that ability is a limit to your freedom. It is defense against threats of force by other individuals, singly or collectively one must defend themselves against. A mistaken view is that the only defense against force is force.
In an old The Moral Individual article, "Moral Defense And The Use Of Force," six methods of defense are listed, including five that do not require the use of force:
1. The first rule is always, don't be there when it happens.
I know this sounds like a kind of joke, but it is very serious. More people get into trouble being where they know the possibility of threat is high, and their reason for being there is almost always to fulfill some irrational desire or whim. Even when a threat is obvious, they do not have the sense to leave.
2. It is cheaper to pay the, "squeeze." The use of force is not without cost, in fact it is almost always the most costly means of defense. In addition to the obvious costs in time, materials (if weapons are used), and effort, there are the inevitable emotional costs because using force is always traumatic.
Squeeze is a euphemism for a, "bribe," the peace of meat thrown to the vicious dog to keep it busy while one continues with their life. One could use force against the dog with the possibility of failure, but why take the chance? If you kill the dog, it won't be a threat again, but a new dog will just take its place and may be more difficult than the dog one knows.
3. Walls, fences, locks, alarms, and other devices are all means of defense that not only protect one's person and property from intentional threat, but also from some forms of accidental or unintentional harm. Their production and use are a positive form of defense, as opposed to the negative form which relies on force.
4. Never a hero, is a defensive attitude. No one is put into this world to prove anything to anyone else. If one is concerned about what anyone else thinks or says about them they are suffering from a kind of inferiority complex. It is more heroic to "run away" from a threat than to "stand and fight" when the fight is almost always over something of no real consequence or purpose. You have nothing to prove to the world, and the world doesn't care anyway.
5. Keep your blinds down and you mouth shut. The measure of a society's civilization is in direct proportion to the degree a society prizes privacy. (By society I mean the individuals who are that society.) I'm surprised by those who seem so concerned about government intrusion into their, "privacy," when those same people are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and a million other "social-media" sites telling the whole world, in intimate detail, everything they do, everything they have, everything they feel, their personal troubles, their every foible and fault, and how wonderful they are and how lucky the world is that they are in it. Those who really have something to defend are not going to display to the world their most private possessions. Show the world your pearls but don't complain when the world tramples on your pearls and you. (Some will understand the allusion here.)
6. When force is necessary, there are no rules. Force is almost never necessary because there is almost always a less expensive, less traumatic, more rational method of defense. In those rare exceptional cases when one is left no other choice and force is the only means of defense against a determined threat, there is no such thing as, "an appropriate use of force." When force becomes necessary, it means all rational means of defense have been eliminated, the use of force means reason has been set aside and whatever the threat one is facing, it is irrational brute force, and whatever it takes to eliminate that threat is both necessary and justified.
No government or police force is ever going to provide you freedom or protection of your life and property. Whatever else you do to achieve your freedom, you must make provision for your own defense.
Freedom Of Movement
As the world becomes progressively more oppressive, Governments implement more restrictions on individual mobility. Whether those travel restriction will limit your freedom will depend on your personal objectives and goals in life. If the city, state, or country where you now reside has laws that limit your ability to live and do what you personally choose, you may have to move to a different city, or state, or even country where the particular things you want to do are either not outlawed or can be done with minimum risk.
If international travel is necessary to you freedom, you will have to take whatever measures are necessary to, "get around," government travel restrictions, which may include surrendering your present citizenship (which was probably foisted on you anyway) and acquiring passports and citizenship of one or more other countries. These things are not as difficult as you might think and easier if you are one of the, "The Privileged," a method of making yourself free that is highly recommended.
The ability for produce and sell or buy and use any product or service one choose is much more than some issue of economics—it is an issue of individual freedom. Your personal freedom to do the kind of work you aspire to and enjoy producing whatever products or services you are able to is your life. If you are able to do that wherever you are, in that aspect at least you are already free. Even if what you choose to do for work or your career is regulated or restricted, you may still be able to do what you choose. There is a great underground black market in most countries where almost any product or service can be provided totally outside the restrictions of the government. Of course there is risk in that, but there is always risk which one has to weigh against the advantages.
The same is true of services or products you choose to use or have. If they are already available, you are already free in that aspect of your life, and if not, there is always the underground and black market, which will be more expensive, but there is always a price.
It may be necessary to move to a new location to have the freedom you require to do the work and achieve and be what you have chosen to.
Freedom Of Association
An individual's freedom is much more likely to be limited by being forced to associate with others he does not choose to associate with, like every bureaucrat he must meet and deal with obtain a driver's license, automobile registration, and government school personnel. Except for the last, those forced associations are usually infrequent and one might choose to endure them rather than take the risk of dispensing with government permission. I know individuals who have been driving for year without a license or insurance, for example.
Whether or not such required associations limit one's own freedom depends on what freedom for each individual. Those who find such forced associations intolerable will either find a place where such associations are not forced on them, or simply avoid those associations and absorb the risk. A simple rule is, it is easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission.
Limits Of Freedom
Freedom does not mean being able to do just anything one wishes to do. Freedom means being able to do anything you can do and is possible to do, without being limited by any other individual or agency.
There are limits to what you can do even when you are totally free. You cannot do what you do not have the ability to do. You cannot do what you do not know how to do or have never developed the skills necessary to do. (You can learn that knowledge and develop those skills, however.) You cannot do what is physically impossible.
You cannot defy the requirements of your own nature as a human being—the physical requirement of your body or the psychological requirements of your mind.
You cannot defy the requirement of your nature to learn, think, and consciously choose all you do. You cannot do wrong and get away with it. [See "The Moral Nature."]
You cannot evade the consequences of your choices and actions. That includes all your choices—what you choose to think, believe, and do with your time and your resources.
You cannot have what you are unwilling to pay the price for. Everything must be earned and achieved by your own effort, including your freedom. No state, no government, no movement or political ideology is going to make you free. If you are ever going to be free, you have to make yourself free.