Their is a fear among unfettered capitalists – or at least this one – that despite all the seemingly correct science, thought, history and evidence showing that freedom is the best system for human prosperity and increasing human development; the question remains: if freedom is the best system, why doesn’t it commonly exist? If “Liberty is the natural condition of the people” as described by Étienne de La Boétie, why do we continue to exist in servitude?
Historically, there have been great examples of freedom, for a few see Bruce Benson’s Enterprise of Law, the Icelandic Commonwealth historical period, and Murray Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty which has numerous American historical examples. If Liberty is natural for humans, why then do libertarians need examples to show that “liberty works”? Why is freedom so uncommon?
Why do humans act against their prosperity?
Praxeology – the study of human action – shows that humans act with purpose to attain their ends. Every human has an infinite source of dissatisfaction, and thus an infinite source of potential actions. For without a source of dissatisfaction, there is no reason to act. If there was nothing that dissatisfies, everything would be “perfect” and all action would lead to “reduced perfection” since “Perfection” can’t be “more perfect”. These actions then are brought about by human ideas, our nature, and thought processes. If humans act to remove dissatisfaction, and humans have acted over history to remove freedom and increase servitude; then humans throughout history have viewed Freedom with discomfort, or at least more discomfort than servitude.
If freedom is so wonderful and prosperous; why do humans find such discomfort with it? If it IS unsatisfying and uncomfortable, then is Freedom really the best system for human prosperity? Does it seem like a contradiction that the best system for human governance is the one that historically people have found uncomfortable?
At first glance, the answer to the above question seems like a resounding “yes”. If Liberty was part of human nature, then it shouldn’t be uncomfortable and difficult. Like all natural things, it should be easy right? Well, what are other natural things? What else are our bodies and minds suited for? Our bodies are suited at simple things like eating, sleeping, procreation & walking. While our minds are built for innovation. It seems that throughout history humans have been extremely successful at these natural things. We have eaten, slept, procreated and innovated our way to a 7.1 billion world population. For perspective, there are 7.1 billion seconds in 223 Years. Human’s have obviously been doing what comes natural to them, and it has greatly increased human prosperity.
Despite how natural it is for human’s to eat, sleep, procreate, walk & innovate; who among us thinks these items are perfectly done by our basic nature? There are countless jokes and phrases about how difficult these things are to do for maximum human prosperity. Not just “to do” but “to do properly”. In terms of eating, there are classic phrases such as the “Freshman 15” or the common ideas of a young person can eat anything or once marriage happens the weight just comes on. Supermarkets are full of commonly known unhealthy food items and diet related causes are most of the leading causes of death in developed countries (heart disease & diabetes have direct correlations; dementia & cancer have circumstantial diet related causes). American’s in particular are known for their obesity and horrid food choices. Sleep and procreation are amazingly natural things, yet there are millions of hits on google for “self-help” of books on sex & sleep. Sex, Sleep, Eating and Procreation are easy; but are ‘good sex’, ‘good sleep’, ‘healthy eating’ and ‘good parenting’ easy? Certainly not to this author – who considers himself an average human – as any of my natural habits that are considered even slightly “good” have been achieved though much hard work.
Liberty is in a similar condition as these other “natural” states of humanity. Forms of it have existed throughout history, but it is not easy to do it “properly” or fully. It is potentially even harder than eating, sleeping & procreation. Eating and sleeping require only adjusting an individual’s choices and decreasing time preferences, while procreation requires typically involves an adjustment for two or more individuals. The complexity increases as the number of active parties increase. Liberty however, is even more so complicated. Not only is it complex because it requires choice and time-preference adjustment of a society as a whole, but has to be done so without force as force restricts choices away from low time-preference for higher and higher time-preference choices. An extreme example is if an individual is forced to hand over his wallet to a violent criminal, the victim is no longer concerned about his future self but is solely concerned upon his present well-being. Violence restricts choice whether it’s a gun to someone’s head or an enforced minimum wage law on an employer or a tax on tea.
So how does society grow in Liberty? How can society approach the thriving point of an anarchistic society? It has been shown, by writers better than I, that an anarchistic society is self-sustaining but how do we get to that point when today’s world is set against it? How have societies overcome things like obesity, sleep deprivation, sexual health and parental abuse? Or rather, how is society attempting to overcome these issues as many of them still exist? Is it through force or political change? Or is it through grass-roots, individual education and sharing? Is it through arrogance towards obese others, or bad parents? Or through caring and attempting to set an example by individual lives?
Sadly, the recommendation of this article is no different from many other articles before. I advocate no radical, new approach to achieving Liberty in our life-times. The only solution I see is a tough one; it is in fact one of the hardest ones. To advocate liberty, the approach is the same as San Pedro’s approach.
The Count of Oropesa, more than four centuries ago, had a passion to reform the world. A Spanish saint, San Pedro of Alcantara, gave him the kind of counsel I am urging on everyone who would advance liberty.
May your Lordship not torment yourself: there is a remedy for this deluge of crimes. Let us be, you and me, that which we should be. There will be two less souls to convert. Let each person behave thus: it is the most efficacious of reforms. The trouble is, that no one wants to correct himself and everyone meddles at correcting others: thus everything stays as is.
The realization of the importance of personal action in a world was put best by a German Chemical Engineer in post Nazi-Germany:
Pg 180 – They Thought They Were Free by Milton Mayer
“The fact that I was not prepared to resist, in 1935, meant that all the thousands, hundreds of thousands, like me in Germany were also unprepared, and each one of these hundreds of thousands was, like me, a man of great influence of great potential influence. Thus the world was lost.
So what is the solution than to a world of force? “Let us be, you and me, that which we should be.” The fewer the souls to convert, the more comfortable freedom appears and the more uncomfortable servitude feels. And as is well-known, discomfort leads to action.