I have found through the years that it is a sticky discussion when freedom, what it means, what it looks like and how to achieve it are brought up.
It seems obvious to me that varying degrees of restriction on individual freedoms have been practiced everywhere for all of recorded history. Arguments about the necessity of restricted freedom abound, particularly today. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me, but when I hear people say that it is necessary for our security and it is a small price to pay for security, I have a tendency to become really upset. I find that attitude appalling.
So lets start this by talking about what freedom is and what it looks like. Keep in mind this is Murph’s viewpoint.
It would seem obvious to me that a concept of total freedom of action when living in groups cannot work. Being by yourself in the wilderness is not how most of us live. More power to those that do so. The early mountain men were about as free as you can get. But, some enforceable means has to exist to impede those who do not respect others right to freedom within a social context. I sum it up this way; you cannot perform an action which takes away from or restricts another persons freedom, that is, you cannot harm another or their property, and I include the environment. That simple edict would automatically stop environmental degradation, exploitation and legal thievery. The problem comes up with how you deal with those that are willing to be exploited and have property taken from them for a perceived advantage in a trade off. In my view, this is exactly what has happened in this country. Through a variety of manipulations, people were convinced to give up part of what they had for some kind of perceived advantage. This has proceeded in fits and starts since the beginning of this country and has resulted into what we experience today, very few freedoms left with plenty of justifications promoted to enforce it.
I think we can agree that this is all manifested from bending the knees to authority, to those with wealth and power. Since this has been going on for 5000 years or so, I must conclude there is something inherent in the mental makeup of humans that will go along with it, except of course, some minority of individuals in any given society. In this 5000 years of recorded history, we have evidence that a hierarchy and patriarchy was not the only way societies governed themselves. There have been matriarchies also but perhaps less throughout history. Jeff Vail has an interesting concept concerning a non hierarchy social organization he calls “rhyizome economy”. Try this websites; http://www.jeffvail.net/2006/04/envisioning-hamlet-economy-topology-of.html
It further appears to me that a significant amount of any given population doesn’t really want freedom because it means responsibility and consequences, and as we see today, both of those words are swear words in our society.
So what would a really free society look like? Most people can imagine that for themselves, and there have been innumerable textbooks, novels and essays on the subject.
Personally, I find it fascinating to read novels where the author paints a word picture of what a truly free people would look like, and there are many. There have been societies that exhibited vastly more personal freedom than we have today. Interestingly, they were much smaller populations. Indian tribes scattered over the world have amply demonstrated this to be possible, and this is not an essay on the “noble savage” nor a declaration that these societies had total freedom. Obviously there are social norms and restrictions on behavior in every society, large or small. But, where is the line to be drawn, how much individuality and individual freedom can any society tolerate? In my reading of diaries and history of this country in its early days, it was in many ways far more tolerant of individual freedom. Our government was supposedly set up to maximize this freedom and to limit chaos and the Constitution was a pact with the population and those that ran the government. However, as our population grew and the complexity of the society increased, the government instituted more and more restrictions on personal behavior, unless you were the ones setting down the rules.
Those that are familiar with my essays know that I am an advocate of society being in small autonomous groups that decide for each group how they want to live by mutual, not majority, agreement. The term for such group organization is Anarchy. Our present government has not much toleration for small autonomous groups, and goes to great lengths to minimize them, to marginalize them and often to eliminate them and with a whole bunch of justifications. It sometimes amazes me that the small populations that live that way like the Mennonites and Amish, have been successful in preserving their autonomous position in the greater society. I speculate it is because they don’t have anything that the PTB want. Wonder what would happen if a vastly needed resource was found on an Amish settlement.
If we are to have a centralized government that oversees this kind of a conglomeration, it has to be severely limited in what it can demand from the population and the amount of regulation it can enforce. That again was the original intent of the Constitution. Oh yes, they were clever about it. The PTB instituted a very long and gradual erosion of those restrictions. one little piece at a time so you would hardly notice. Can you imagine what the original population would have done if they had advocated and tried to institute what we have today? A virtual return to the European concept of how to govern, exactly what the people didn’t want. Well, we got it now, absolute authority over the running of society and a whole lot of restriction on personal freedom.
One of the things that would disappear in a free society is consensual crime. As long as you were not forcing another into a relationship or action, and not taking or damaging their property, but was rather by mutual consent, it cannot be a crime. What I do as an individual that does not damage or hurt is no business of the state. In our present society, that would eliminate a sizable amount of the prisoners in jail and prison.
When we examine the criminal code in this country, and for that matter almost any large populations code, it is so extensive and full of contradictions that nobody can really understand it all. We have laws that deal with almost every aspect of human behavior, from the mundane to the radical. I see absolutely no benefit to society as a whole for this. It sure does benefit those in power though. What it comes down to is wanting control over society for privilege and gain. And poof, there go your freedoms. Our judicial system hires a vast army to perpetuate this system. At least they are employed and most of the time pay taxes, if we want to look at the cup as half full.
The old clique about freedom not coming cheap I think is true. It is a constant battle with those that would restrict us for their gain that we are dealing with. I think old Jefferson had it right when he said that we should have a revolution every 20 years and start over. That concept showed a lot of awareness of history I think. But again, we have to take into consideration the probable hard wiring of how people deal with their environment and relationships. It would indeed be an interesting society that followed that dictate.
Remember the old TV series “Northern Exposure”? I really liked the examination that the writers paid to a rather isolated society that had its revolution far more frequently and how they dealt with adversity and disagreements. A friend of mine told me once that the reason I liked that series is that it portrayed what it would be like living in a society where everyone had 130 IQ and up. Periodically the Internet has in circulation the “Darwin Awards” and “these people vote” pieces. I got to admit that I don’t have what I would consider a definitive answer how a free society would deal with these kinds of people. In the “Darwin Awards”, the participants often eliminate themselves from the gene pool.
I have an interest in how the readers of this blog would look at the concept of freedom.
Because I see social disaster coming at us, and the recognition that we cannot continue doing things the way we are and have been doing them, I can anticipate something better coming out of it. Hopefully, there will be enough people left that have some sense of history and what it means to live free that we can put something better together next time around.