Reflecting on Freedom

Just about everyone claims to be in favor of freedom. But few seem to agree on what it means.

One person’s idea of freedom can actually violate another person’s freedom. To one person, it means doing what he wants with his own life. To another, it means doing what he wants with other people’s lives. Both say that the other one’s concept of freedom is tyranny.

To the laissez-faire businessman, freedom means an end to all government regulation. To the communist, freedom can be achieved only when individual incentive has been crushed and “the people” own everything. (Are you starting to feel uncomfortable?)

Some people believe that job quotas for minority groups promote freedom. But to a person who is truly anti-discriminatory, quotas are a violation of freedom.

Throughout history, men have miscommunicated on this subject. Since conservatives, liberals, fascists, communists — and every other group — all claim to be in favor of freedom, they cannot be talking about the same thing.

The dictionary defines freedom as “being free.” In turn, free is defined as “not under the control or power of another.” How can there be so much confusion over a definition so clearly stated?

Utopian thinkers have always confused freedom with equality. But nothing could be more incorrect. Nature has made freedom and equality totally incompatible. “Freedom and equality,” wrote Will and Ariel Durant, “are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies.”

When most people talk about freedom, they tend to think in terms of freedom for themselves. They see freedom as a license to do as they please. Thus, you may be surprised to find that when people espouse freedom, often they are referring to their freedom, not yours. Worse, you are likely to discover that their freedom necessitates the violation of your freedom.

The only way freedom can be rationally viewed is as the freedom for each individual to do as he pleases, so long as he does not commit aggression against anyone else.

Presidential candidates love to talk about freedom, even while telling us how they intend to further limit our freedoms. They do this by manufacturing “rights” out of thin air. The last batch of candidates was especially bold in this respect.

The problem is that all artificially created rights are anti-freedom. Because in order to fulfill one person’s rights, another person’s must be violated.

At the heart of such thinking is what I call GAVEC. (That stands for guiltism, angerism, villainism, envyism, and covetism.) People suffering from GAVEC are usually unable to achieve success in a free society. Thus they yearn for an external force (government) to “level the playing field” and equalize results.

True freedom means freedom for the “poor,” the “rich,” the “handicapped,” the “oppressed,” the “weak,” and the “strong.” Simply put, it means freedom for everyone.

Think about this as the 2010 candidates start to step up their promises to fulfill artificially created rights. Everything in life has a price. And, make no mistake about it, the price of artificially created rights is the exchange of your rights for someone else’s.

Look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Is that what I really want — for me or my children?” I would hope not.

[Ed. Note: To learn how to survive and prosper during the turbulent years ahead, check out Robert Ringer’s powerful audio series Succeeding in a World of Chaos. And be sure to sign up for a FREE subscription to his one-of-a-kind e-letter A Voice of Sanity in an Insane World.]
  • Emilio Salinas

    Freedom is not the problem and it is not one person’s freedom that infringes upon another’s freedom but rather it is the misappropriation of the responsibility that freedom brings. Every entity from a neighborhood association to a national government realizes that there are boundaries that every inhabitant interprets differently and as rational, imperfect human beings, we will always accept the interpretation that annures to our individual and collective benefit. Our comfort is more real than someone else’s discomfort.
    Government cannot be all things to all people but it can serve to lessen the detrimental impact levied by more powerful citizens(corporate or individual) upon citizens of less means when the former abuses the responsibility afforded by a “fredom”.
    History is full of tragic abuses.
    When I do look in the mirror, I do not want to see people starving or homeless in the wealthiest(?) country on the planet, nor do I want to see millionaires taxed into poverty, but somewhere in between, I sincerely believe, is a comfort zone for everyone. Maybe it amounts to just doing the right thing.