AOH :: LIBER1.TXT|
In Pursuit of Liberty: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Freedom
IN PURSUIT OF LIBERTY: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM By Jarret
We are living in an exciting and pivotal period in human history. Totalitarian
socialism is crumbling and libertarian ideals are advancing throughout the
world. With little more than their bare hands and raw courage, ordinary people
on every continent are defeating the tanks and secret police of tyrants. We are
eyewitnesses to the realization of Victor Hugo's famous maxim, ``An invasion of
armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.''
From Nazi Germany to Cambodia's Killing Fields, the 20th Century has witnessed
hideous despotisms. But the long night of tyranny is finally ending. The lies,
terrors, and tortures of dictators have failed to vanquish the human spirit.
Humanity is uniting in pursuit of liberty -- an idea whose time has come.
THE VALUE OF LIBERTY
Without liberty, no other human values are possible. We need liberty to think,
to plan, to create, and to fulfill our individual and unique potential. Liberty
is as much a requirement of our psychological nature, as food and air are
requirements of our biological nature. When liberty is denied, economies
stagnate, culture deteriorates, science declines, living standards fall, and the
human spirit languishes.
The American Declaration of Independence expresses the value of liberty well:
We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among
these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness . . .
Liberty is such a powerful and important value that even brutal dictatorships
invoke it. Tyrants often justify their denial of basic liberties by claiming
they are promoting ``higher'' freedoms, such as security, equality and the
common good. However, the bitter fruits of tyranny are always poverty,
ignorance, and brutality.
Tyranny always fails because it is coercive, and human beings are neither
productive nor happy if they are coerced. Coercion is fundamentally incompatible
with human nature.
LIBERTY VS COERCION
Liberty is the ability to control your own mind, body and life, without
interference by others. Liberty is the only social condition that is consistent
with human nature, and thus the only moral and practical way for people to live.
Each of us is an individual, with unique needs and desires. Happiness and
success are only possible when we are free to pursue our dreams.
We are also social animals. We need other people to achieve most of our goals:
companionship, friendship, family, recreation, security, and prosperity.
There are only two ways of getting what you want from others: voluntarily or
coercively. In voluntary association, others help you because they want to. The
tools of voluntarism are friendship, trade, compassion and love. In coercive
association, you get what you want from others by deception or fear. The tools
of coercion are intimidation, threats, fraud, and physical violence.
Voluntary association promotes trust and respect, and allows people to deal
beneficially with each other without surrender of their values. Coercive
association creates fear and distrust, and victimizes some at the expense of
Individual rights is the recognition by society that to be happy and prosper,
people must be free to live their own lives, without coercing others. Force
should be used only in self-defense.
Individual rights include the right to acquire, control, use, and dispose of
property. Without the right to property, no other rights are possible. Without
the right to own printing presses and cameras, there is no freedom of the press.
Without the right to own bibles and build churches, there is no freedom of
religion. Without the right to earn a living and own a house, there is no
security and no right to life.
Coercion is the main impediment to prosperity, security and happiness. People
commonly reject and denounce coercion committed by individuals. Thieves,
swindlers, murderers and thugs are generally scorned. Unfortunately there is a
form of group coercion which is not always recognized as bad: coercive
A government is simply an association of men and women, authorized to use force.
Governments should be evaluated like other groups. If governments are created by
the consent of their members, are non-coercive, and protect rights, they can be
beneficial. But if governments are imposed without the consent of the governed
and violate rights, they are destructive and harmful.
The first reason governments are formed is to protect their members from
domestic and foreign violence. A good government prohibits violence, protects
individual liberty, and enacts rules which are compatible with human nature. A
bad government disregards individual rights, uses violence against peaceful
citizens, and creates legal requirements which are destructive of lives and
property. A coercive government is a government at war with its own people.
One overall index of governmental control of people's lives is taxation. If the
government takes 50% of your income in taxes, you are working half of the time
for the state. Taxes range from 25% of the average person's income in
Switzerland, to nearly 50% in the United States, to over 75% in Scandinavia. Of
course taxes pay for many socially useful goods and services, such as national
defense, police, roads, and education. Unfortunately, financing even socially
useful services through taxation is inefficien t and wasteful -- and there is a
When a social service is tax-supported, the link between producers and customers
is broken, and consumer choice is destroyed. Imposing bureaucracy between
citizens and producers makes producers answerable to government rather than
citizens. If you don't use a service offered in the market, you don't have to
pay for it. But if you don't use a tax-supported service, you are forced to pay
for it anyway.
Financing social services through taxation destroys accountability. The cost of
government services are frequently hidden in complex budgets. Overhead often
consumes most funds. Seventy-five percent of all expenditures on federal
``programs for the poor'' in the U.S. go for overhead. Private charities that
consume 75% in overhead are routinely prosecuted for fraud.
Government services often face no real competition. So it is difficult to
determine when expenditures are unreasonable and wasteful. What is a reasonable
price to pay for a police station or an aircraft carrier? No one knows.
Economic inefficiency also results from financing social services by taxes. When
a free market business fails, it is replaced by a more efficient competitor. But
when government schools or courts fail, the usual response is to give them more
Government coercion is also a threat to individual liberty. Increasingly Western
governments are censoring books, films, and even art and music. Citizens are
required to pay for government schools, even if they teach values that conflict
with those of parents. And crusades are being mounted against casual drug users,
political non-conformists, and other unpopular groups.
At best, most Western nations are half-free.
THE FREE SOCIETY
It is possible to have societies that are 90% or 100% free -- rather than merely
half-free. There are three crucial requirements for a free society:
1) respect for individual rights and civil liberties.
2) individual ownership and respect for private property rights, and
3) voluntary association.
Respect for Individual Rights and Civil Liberties. Every free society requires a
strong social ethic of individual liberty. This ethic must be followed by
government, and should be codified in common law and a bill of rights. In a free
society, the individual, not the state, decides whether to practice a religion,
which school to attend, what medical insurance to buy, what drugs to ingest (for
medication or recreation), whether to own a firearm, and how to make love.
Respect for Private Property. In a free society, an individual is free to keep
and spend his own income. Social services such as courts, roads, and education,
can and should be diverse, competitive, and financed through user fees and
Voluntary Association. Democracy is far superior to tyranny. It gives you
political choice, and change is possible (though very difficult, when government
gets big). But democracy is not liberty. Democracy means that some government
officials are selected by voters. Popular election does not guarantee that
elected officials (much less the far more numerous un-elected bureaucrats), will
protect liberty. Democracy unrestrained by individual rights, becomes mob rule.
Switzerland's canton system shows the way toward a freer society. In Switzerland
there are 22 primary political divisions called ``cantons. The average canton is
much smaller than an American state (Switzerland's population is less than seven
million) and cantons have greater political independence from the national
government. The Swiss federal government guarantees fundamental individual
rights, including property rights, and handles national defense. By delegating
most power to cantons, diverse groups pr eserve their cultures, and individual
liberty is increased.
A system similar to Switzerland's -- with each canton voluntarily created, and
with fee-supported public services -- is one practical model for a free and
In 1930 socialism was the ``wave of the future.'' Sixty years of wars,
concentration camps, and poverty have demonstrated that socialism is not the
wave of the future, but a stagnant swamp.
Coercive government of every type -- socialism, fascism, and the welfare state
-- has failed. Coercion is incompatible with human nature and human achievement.
The long dark age of coercive government is finally ending. Soon it will be only
an ugly memory. The bright dawn of the new age of human liberty is just over the
horizon. Even now its glow is beginning to light the world.
The Machinery of Freedom (David Friedman) ........ $14.95
The Power In The People (Felix Morley) ........... $4.00
Freedom In Our Time (Vince Miller - Ed) ......... $2.95
Our Enemy The State (Albert J. Nock) ............. $9.95
Liberty Primer (Alan Burris) .................... $7.95
Facets of Liberty (Larry Samuels) ................ $7.95
For these and other books and tapes write: Freedom's Forum Books, 1800 Market
Street, San Francisco, California 94102. Add $2.50 P & H for 1st book and $1.00
for each additional item.
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