Freedom and Individualism Notes

Individual Freedom

"If you are waiting for the government to change, or society to change, or for some program or movement to be successful to find freedom, you will never be free."

Two things:

1. It is immoral to not be as free as one can possibly be and every individual is morally responsible for establishing their own freedom.

I know that sounds like heresy. This will sound even worse:

2. No program, no campaign, no movement, no organization, party, campaign, or any other collective effort is going to establish freedom for anyone.

I know that most liberty minded people will disagree with both of these assertions and I have no intention of changing their minds. Those who disagree with the first point are usually those that believe freedom, or liberty, are theirs by some kind of right, just as some people believe education, health care, a job, food, and housing are theirs by some kind of right.

Those who believe that freedom or liberty is theirs, just because they were born, might like to ask themselves sometime, why they have a right to anything they have not produced or earned by their own effort. They do not have to ask that question of course, and I'm not encouraging them to, it's only a suggestion.

I want to emphasize that the second point is not meant to discourage anyone from supporting or participating in any movement or program they believe may produce freedom. Again I suggest questions: How and when will the program you support be successful? Do you really expect it to result in your freedom during your lifetime? Again, no one has to ask themselves such questions, but they seem reasonable to me.

Why I Believe No Program To Establish Freedom Will Work

Most people do not truly want to be free. Most people do not even know what true freedom is, and if they did, they would be terrified of it.

It has always seemed strange to me that it was a socialist (George Bernard Shaw) who best stated why this is true: "Liberty means responsibility, that is why most men dread it."

[NOTE: I personally prefer the word, "freedom," to, "liberty." They mean essentially the same thing, but "liberty" implies freedom in the context of a government, which I frankly doubt is possible. Freedom in spite of government is quite possible.]

What's Wrong With Promoting Liberty?

Of course there is nothing wrong with promoting the principles of individual liberty, demonstrating what is wrong with coercive government, (and there is no other kind), or propagating the view that every individual owns their own life and that no individual may rightly use force to interfere in the life of any other.

What The Promoters Of Liberty Are Not Doing

Though I am sure they all believe otherwise, not one of the liberty promoters is promoting or fighting for individual freedom. I'm sure that they all want individual freedom, and want it to be a reality in as many people's lives as possible, but their stated methods and objectives will never make a single oppressed individual free.

Every one involved in a program, campaign, movement, organization, or party promoting liberty, implicitly, if not explicitly, expresses the view that individual freedom is a function of society, that in order for individuals to be free, a free society must first be established.

What Is A Society?

The view that individual freedom depends on a "free society" is the essential view of all liberty minded people, including Ayn Rand who used that view as her basis for the need of government.

"Since man's mind is his basic tool of survival, his means of gaining knowledge to guide his actions—the basic condition he requires is the freedom to think and to act according to his rational judgment." That freedom, "... can be violated only by the use of physical force. ... The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships ....

"If physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution charged with the task .... This is the task of a government—of a proper government—its basic task, its only moral justification and the reason why men do need a government." [Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal, "The Nature of Government"]

It is quite obvious individual freedom is the basis of Rand's views, but notice the purpose of barring physical force, the only means by which individual freedom can be violated, is for the sake of "a civilized society." But she is more explicit about it than that.

"Men can derive enormous benefits from dealing with one another. A social environment is most conducive to their successful survival—but only on certain conditions...

"The two great values to be gained from social existence are: knowledge and trade .... But these very benefits indicate, delimit and define what kind of men can be of value to one another and in what kind of society: only rational, productive, independent men in a rational, productive, free society." [Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal, "The Nature of Government"] [Emphasis mine.]

The reason for government, according to Ayn Rand, is to make a society the kind of society in which men can be a value to one another—a "free society," in which the initiation of force is eliminated—by government force.

What makes a society the kind of society it is are the kind of people that society is composed of, not its government or political system. Ultimately it is the kind of people that make up a society that determines the kind government that society will have.

Every political system is an attempt make a society the kind one would like it to be, an attempt to engineer society, to impose some kind of system, some method, to make people behave in a certain way—a way they would not otherwise freely choose to behave. Obviously, if people would freely choose to always refrain from initiating the use of force against others, no system would be required to make them do what they would freely choose to do anyway.

It is impossible to make a society the kind of society one would like short of changing the views and thinking of the people who are that society, which of course is the main method of the promoting freedom for those who propose to do it outside a government context.

Educating The World

They would never put it this way, but the method most liberty promoters use is a propaganda campaign. Though it has a negative connotation today, propaganda is actually any form of communication, intended to influence the views and attitudes of a population toward some cause, objective, or political agenda. If you examine the stated goals and methods of all those sites advocating a non-political method of promoting liberty, you will find propaganda is exactly what their method is.

The method can be reduced to an attempt to "teach" people what liberty is and why they should embrace it. Unfortunately it cannot be done.

Why Teaching Won't Work

The US population is over 311 million (June 2012). There may be as many as 500,000 libertarians in the US, and, since it is impossible to get any statistical data on the number of anti-state and anarchist individuals, I will generously suggest 250,000 of such in the US, a total of three quarters of a million people promoting liberty.

In 2010, there were 3.6 million full-time elementary and secondary school teachers, all promoting the leftist statist government curriculum. If all 750 thousand freedom-lovers in this country were active full-time teaching the principles of freedom and liberty, there would be four statist teachers for every freedom teacher. In reality, there will never be more than handful of active freedom-lovers, and all their "teaching" efforts will be swamped by thousands teaching on the other side.

What's Wrong With Teaching and Propaganda

There is a WEB site called, Changing Minds, which is dedicated to, "all aspects of how we change what others think, believe, feel and do."

There are certainly ways to influence what people believe, and even what they want and do. The very successful business of advertising, every successful political campaign, and the historic spread of religions, all testify to that fact. Teaching and propaganda work, but they do not work for everything. In most cases, teaching and propaganda work because most people are ignorant, gullible, lack discernment, and are easily influenced by appeals to their feelings—their desires (in the case of most advertising) or their fears (in the case of most political campaigns). The kind of people that can be influenced by propaganda are not candidates for learning about and embracing freedom. What teaching and propaganda do not appeal to are reason and objective values.

Freedom Is Not Marketable

For those who understand the nature of freedom, and its individualistic nature, there is something wrong with the attempt to change people. There is nothing wrong with offering people information, or offering to teach them if they choose to be taught, but any other method of "changing" people is really an uninvited interference in their lives. As moral individuals, we have no business trying to change others.

Morally, our only option is to offer freedom to others in the form of concepts in the "free market of ideas." Unfortunately, freedom is not a very marketable commodity, and our competition has all advantages.

What most people want is not freedom, but security, guarantees, and comfort. Shaw was right, to be truly free means to be totally responsible for all of one's own choices and actions, one's success or failures determined solely by one's own efforts. For the truly free, there are no guarantees in life, and one must face every risk on their own, either learning how to deal with them, or suffering the consequences. For the truly free, nothing is provided and everything must be acquired or achieved by one's own effort. For those who love freedom, these are freedom's virtues, but for most people, the very virtues of freedom are a source of terror.

The collectivists and statists are offering exactly what most people desire. Where freedom offers responsibility, the state offers relief from that responsibility. "Don't worry about making provisions for your old age, the state will take care of it." Where freedom offers the reality of risk and danger, the state offers guarantees of safety. "Don't worry about natural disasters, the government will take care of everything and protect you from them. Don't worry about the dangers of the world, the government will pass laws that will make everything safe, your job, your food, your medicine, even driving your car."

The promoter of freedom can protest as clearly and loudly as possible that the state produces nothing, that the state can only confiscate what is produced by others and redistribute it, that the state cannot and never has been able to deliver on any of its promises. But the protest will fall on deaf ears.

The collectivists and statists have another advantage. There is no moral compunction on their part against outright lying, and all their propaganda and promotions can promise anything anyone might want, even when there is no intention or means of delivering on those promises. The promoter of freedom can promise only that every individual will be free to have or achieve whatever they can by their own efforts and ability. Since most people have little or no confidence in their own competence to achieve or accomplish much, the empty but appealing promises of the statists win the day every time.

There is a final advantage of the statist message that makes it almost impossible to defeat. That advantage is its shear simplicity. It is presented as the simple solution to all problems. It requires no effort to understand, only ignorance and gullibility to swallow. No matter what problem there is, the government can solve it simply by passing a law or forming an agency. What can the liberty promoter promise?

Think about what you are trying to promote. The principles of individual liberty and free markets are not easy concepts. Have a look at any of the sites promoting liberty. Notice the language, the vocabulary, and the ideas that are being discussed. How many people do you think will be able to understand most of those ideas, much less be interested in them? Look at what holds the attention of most people, that mass of ignorance we refer to as the "television viewing audience." How much of free-market economics do you suppose they are going to understand?

Why I Believe Every Individual Can And Must Make Themselves Free

Whatever methods one uses to promote freedom, I am in agreement with them that for human beings freedom is a necessity of life, as much so as food and water. Without freedom it is impossible to live happily and successfully as a human being.

To make oneself free is a moral imperative. Just as it would be immoral to evade the requirements of one's physical nature, to nourish oneself and tend to the maintenance of one's body, it is even more immoral to evade the requirements of one's psychological nature, to nourish and tend to the maintenance of one's mind.

[NOTE: To live successfully, or to live at all, a human being's choices and behavior must conform to the requirements determined by the nature of the world he lives in and his own nature as a human being. The principles that describe those requirements are morality or ethics. To evade or defy those requirements is immoral and self-harming, and often self-destructive.]

A man unable to put into action what his best reason leads him to choose cannot live as a moral human being, and it is immoral to not seek to be free—free to use one's mind and free to act on one's own reasoned choices. To surrender one's mind or choices to any constraint is to evade that which human life requires.

The Only Freedom Worth Pursuing

Please understand, the following is my view. Obviously I believe it is right or it would not be my view. That does not mean you have to agree with it.

Freedom is not some movement to be promoted, and is not a social concept. Societies are not free, only individuals are.

Promoting freedom with the objective of producing a free society is a futile and morally mistaken idea. No society is anyone's society to make into one they think they would like. That is called, social engineering—a socialist concept, not a concept of individual freedom. A society is only individuals, and the character and nature of every society is determined solely by the individuals that are that society. To change a society means changing the individuals that make up that society. No one has a right to do that.

That is exactly what H.L. Mencken meant when he wrote: "I believe in only one thing: liberty; but I do not believe in liberty enough to want to force it upon anyone." But that is exactly what most promoters of liberty would do, if they could.

A society in which every individual is free to live their life as they choose without the interference of any other individual or individuals would be a wonderful thing. Such a society is impossible so long as most individuals neither choose to be free, nor want to be. If you are waiting for such a society to exist before being free, you will never be free, nor do you deserve to be free.

Freedom, But When?

Woody Allen once said, "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work... I want to achieve it through not dying." While his desire was not a realistic one, I have my own desire that reflects his sentiment. I do not want to work for freedom to be realized only in some future I'll never see, I want to work for freedom that I may enjoy in my own lifetime. I think working for freedom that will only be realized by some future generation is tantamount to altruistic self-sacrifice, a despicable act of immorality.

If you are not a statist, you do not expect society to provide you anything, not your food, not your housing, not your education, not your health care or anything else. Why do you expect society to provide you your freedom?

If you want freedom, like anything else of value in your life, you must provide it yourself, or at least seek to provide it. Like everything else in life, there are no guarantees. You may pursue it and fail in your pursuit, but if you do not pursue it, you will never be free.

Not If You Believe You Can't

I think the reason most people do not make themselves free, or even consider trying to, is because they believe it is not possible. If that is what you believe, it would be foolish to pursue what you are convinced is not possible, and I'm not going to try to convince you otherwise. There are many people who will never be free, and can never be free, mostly because they have made it impossible for themselves. Freedom is not possible for everyone.

The reason I believe many, perhaps most people could make themselves free if they chose to is because I know many who have made themselves free, and I know about a great many more who are living free today. Many of them you will never hear about because part of their freedom, and their means to it, is their privacy, which they guard as fiercely as they guard their freedom.

My future articles will be much more brief than this one, I'm sure you'll be glad to know, and will deal almost exclusively with living freely in the world in one's own lifetime.

A Word Of Caution

I have no program or agenda to put over, and, except to provide some ideas others might find of value, the articles are simply submissions to the free market of ideas.

There is no short-cut to freedom. Freedom is the most valuable thing a human being can possibly have, the only one that makes all other values possible. One must not expect the most valuable thing in life to be achieved easily or without consequences. If you do choose to pursue freedom, it will be the hardest thing you've ever pursued, and probably the most costly.

There are hundreds (possibly thousands) of sites promoting programs that guarantee freedom. All you have to do is "join," or buy their nifty "secret reports" that reveal all the "tricks" to quick easy freedom. Anyone or anything promising quick and easy anything is a scam; nothing of any real value is quick and easy.

One of the ways, probably the most important and effective way, one can achieve freedom is by means of wealth. Like anything else, there is no easy, simple, sure, or quick way to wealth. There are no, "secrets," no short-cuts, and no schemes to guaranteed wealth. Anything or anyone that promises any such wealth or investment secrets will make no one wealthy except the one selling the, "secrets."

Freedom is worth everything and the means to everything, if you are willing to pay the price. It can be yours in this real world in your lifetime, but you'll have to achieve it yourself, and it may be a very lonely pursuit.