Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Freedom Ain't Easy

"Freedom" is a loaded concept used in practical politics as a push-button process, to be associated with any other concept. For example, you have the recent American association of "freedom and democracy", which is absolutely insane. Democracy is basically a veil of legitimacy given to the state, and thus is actually the opposite of freedom. The kings of old needed a strong religious justification for their status, and I'm sure they often wished to have the approval rates that presidents get today because of democracy.

In the rational individualist perspective, morality is the study of optimal value-expression. Freedom, therefore, is best defined as having the most possibilities of value-expression. The more I can choose, the more values I can effect, the freer I am.

This fits perfectly with the common idea of freedom, as the absence of physical slavery. A slave is not free to effect his values, rather he must fulfill his master's values. The little values he can fulfill are permitted because they reinforce his slave status.

Freedom is not restricted to political freedom. When someone is under the grips of a mind-bending cult, we say that he is not free, even though he may live under an anarchy. He is not free because he is a slave in his own mind, and thus cannot be free in any other way. Freedom is not cumulative. If you live as a slave, or are ostracized in a community, or live in a country where few resources are available, or are oppressed by a dictatorship, you cannot effect your values. You are not free.

In these four examples we have our four categories of freedom. These are :

1. Personal freedom, which consists both of freedom of thought and health of the body. Personal freedom depends partly on our decisions : drug addiction makes you personally unfree.

There is a sort of myth that personal freedom means to live alone and run free on the plains. This is total nonsense. If you live alone running in nature, you can effect very few values except your immediate survival and physical needs. Standards of living higher than bare survival necessitate living in society. This is also why the altruist view of morality, which is based on the belief that egoism is incompatible with living in society, is invalid.

2. Relational freedom, which consists of how well you relate with others in your surroundings and how they help or hinder you in your value-expression. If you are ostracized from a community, then you lose all the possibilities that being in that community used to give you. You lose freedom. The same thing is true with friendship or love.

3. Social freedom, which consists of the economic and intellectual power contained within the larger society of which you are part, as well as the mores and institutions that rule that society. Even though Somalia is an anarchy, I would never move there, simply because my social freedom in Somalia would be too low. For the people of Somalia, the transition was positive, but only because their initial situation was horrible to begin with.

4. Political freedom, which consists of how oppressive the political organization in the larger society is.

How much control do we have over these freedoms ? A descending amount. We have considerable amount of control over our personal freedom, although obviously we do not choose our genetics or the accidents of Providence. We have some control over our relational freedom, insofar as we can act benevolently and try to influence people in our favour. We have very little control over our social freedom or political freedom, apart from moving to another country.

This extended concept of freedom indicates to me that, while anarchy is the best political system because it permits the expression of the political values of the individual, it will not necessarily have an overriding influence on an individual's total freedom. The other thing it tells me is that you can't be an anarchist or a libertarian if you don't have a solid moral compass.

People's beliefs are dominated by FUD - Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt - to which I would also add Guilt (GUFD ?). Religion, government, the family structure, cultural supremacism, pseudo-science, and a lot of criminality, are all based on these impulses. These things are for the mentally weak. If you are dominated by a FUD ideology, then you are not a free individual, and seeking anarchy will do you no good. But if you are a free individual, then take pride and seek the truth. It will always reward you.

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