The Cost of Freedom

When someone tells you they want freedom, what do you think they mean by that?

The concept of freedom is very specific, but due to the loss of meaning in words and their necessary context, it has become something of a tabula rasa – a blank slate which can mean whatever anybody wants it to mean.

Roosh V recently penned an article on the consequences of allowing unlimited personal freedom. What’s interesting about his argument is not that he is necessarily wrong – I happen to think he makes a correct observation of what is happening in America today – but the way he frames the discussion involves the concept of freedom as one removed from responsibility (emphasis mine).

He writes:

Since I was a little boy, I was taught that freedom was a quality that made America great, allowing us to say what we want and live life how we want. The merits of freedom were never up for debate, especially since the dark days of American slavery made it clear that any kind of bondage, actual or figurative, is the incarnation of evil itself. Now that I’m older and have been able to witness human beings living with their freedom, I’ve come to the conclusion that complete freedom is not a natural human state, and giving it to individuals is more harmful than not.

I examined this problem by asking myself the following: what do human beings typically do once given absolute personal freedom? I first looked at the behavior of people in America, since culturally they have the most freedoms out of any other world citizen to pursue whatever lifestyle they want.

The problem is, the outcome Roosh is describing is not actual freedom – it is the result of theft and coercion and aggression, which benefits one group of people at the expense of others.

It is absolutely critical that one understands how the state is a necessary tool for the current degradation of culture and society, which enables behavior that goes against the natural order of things to survive. Without the state, the poor choices he examines would be reined in, controlled, and regulated by natural consequences. For example,  how many women would be having illegitimate children today if they knew they wouldn’t receive so much as a penny from the state in the form of welfare, WIC, EBT, affordable housing, Section 8? (this also includes no child support from the father who, under previous laws, had no rightful claim to the children).

Roosh understands this, as at the end of his article he appropriately points toward social institutions as ways of restraining people and not more government laws (emphasis mine).

Most humans are not capable of wisely using their freedom, and so they must be restrained and managed by rules or by those who know what’s best for that individual more than the individual himself. In the past this restraint took place with those who had a sincere investment in the person’s well-belling, such as the family, the tribe, the village, and the local church, but these restraints are long gone, released in the cultural chaos of the post-Enlightenment world.

Without the coercion of the state, personal freedom would be tempered by consequences. Our dilemma is not that people have too much personal freedom, but that we have too much government intervention into our personal lives trying to pick and choose who should suffer for their poor decisions and who should not. It is caused by people who believe in using the state to effect their vision for how things should be, which ultimately go against nature.

As I recently quoted from a post by Kristor at Orthosphere (emphasis mine):

A good law, that agrees with human nature, is no more troublesome to men, and no harder to enforce, than the convention that everyone should drive on the right side of the road. It is only bad law – law that tries to push men to act in ways that under Heaven they ought not to act, and which their natures therefore resist – that fails to govern them the way that it would, and so needs ever more laws, ever more police, and ever stiffer punishments.

In other words, the problem with Roosh’ assessment isn’t a misdiagnosis of the symptoms but leaving out the crucial underlying cause for how these symptoms materialized. Based on Roosh’s previous thoughts regarding government, I don’t think this was intentional.

Again, I’m not disagreeing with what he actually said; much like Ayn Rand’s concept of selfishness easily confuses people (her definition was very idiosyncratic) Roosh employs the word “freedom” in a way that might confuse as to what is actually going on.

In a response post appropriately titled “Maximum Freedom, Maximum Responsibility,” Captain Capitalism correctly identifies the main problem at hand: Freedom comes with responsibility, but in our society it has been transferred by the state to different people.

In short, some can act “freely” without fear of consequences for their actions that would normally come about if the state did not intervene (emphasis added).

However, while the consequences of letting people have unlimited freedom may mean the ultimate demise of the world’s greatest society, it is not in letting people have freedom that is the problem. It is in shielding them from the full costs of their mistakes. It is preventing them from taking 100% responsibility for their actions where the problem lies.

Commenting on Cappy’s post, I wrote the following reply:

Roosh seems to be thinking of freedom from responsibility, which is an interesting way to think of what it means to be free, because ultimately this sort of “freedom” requires enslaving others. Roosh sees people, particularly women, run amok because they are able to behave however they wish without fear of consequences, but we have to keep in mind that this “freedom” they exercise comes only at the expense of others whose actual rights are violated in order to subsidize their life choices. Without this subsidy, the cost of their mistakes would reined in such behavior early on.

Authority and responsibility go hand in hand and must be equal. Whenever this balance is upset, there are consequences and they are easy to observe in our country. What we have is a political caste system of sorts in which some have authority and no responsibility, while others have not only responsibility for their own actions but for that of others.

As Ron Paul put it so concisely, when you subsidize something, you get more of it. America isn’t the land of the free anymore. It’s the land of the subsidized.

The best way to avoid becoming a member of the enslaved class is to pursue a life of minimalism. A thief cannot steal something you do not have.

The question is – how long can this transfer of responsibility go on? We can delay paying the Piper for a while, but he’s going to get paid one way or another.

The cost of freedom is suffering the consequences for your mistakes, not handing them off onto others through the state. Like darkness before light, the presence of freedom is the absence of the state. As the beacon of freedom shines brighter, the the shadow of the state’s darkness grows fainter.

The beacon is dying out, and the darkness is growing.

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One Response to The Cost of Freedom

  1. Pingback: Credit Due | The Anarchist Notebook

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