My Idea of Freedom

Here is my contribution for the panel on freedom, which got hammered out today after I cleared my head with an hour and a half of basketball, mostly unsuccessfully trying to keep up with a 20-year-old Vietnamese kid. My goal here was to speak against the idea of individual responsibility.

Mark Skousen, the organizer, told me he thought the panel might be on C-SPAN, but he told me that about the medical panel earlier. In any case, I was overwhelmed by the valuable suggestions that people offered for the health care session.  Here is the link:


5 comments so far

  1. Gary MacLennan on

    Very interesting Michael. I think the only advice I would give is around the notion of ‘competition’. This is almost exclusively thought of in Hobbesian terms – the war of all against all where life is nasty brutish and short.

    And conclusions about human nature are drawn from this. These are conclusions which in contemporary terms form glosses of Nietzsche’s notion of the will to power being the defining mark of our species.

    So the word “competition” for a leftie is like a curse word. But a moment’s thought would show that competition along the dimension of altruism or nurturing or coperation is fundamental to our species. If we were only dog eat doggers then as a species we would have died out long ago. Our first experience is of uncondiitonal love from our parents and where we do not get this all hell and chaos reign.

    Your example of the computer engineers is well taken, but it can be multiplied a million fold. Here we have a great source of freedom namely freedom from competition along the dimensions individual of selfishness. That in itself is a liberating experience, which many an old hippie will tell you about.

    You do not wish to live in a gated community. Neither do I because no wall or guard tower can give me freedom from the fear of my fellow human beings who do not have my privileges.

  2. mperelman on

    Thanks Gary, especially with regard to Nietzsche.

  3. Rich on

    I am having a hard time being critical of this piece, but I will try again, as I know this is what you would appreciate.

  4. Mike B) on

    We need to recognize that competitive individualism is a driving force behind our collective *lack* of freedom and miserable level of democratic political power. Freedom does not come from beating the other person and/or putting the other person in a position of inferiority. Freedom comes from solidarity with each other to inhance our own collective/individual power. Competitive individualism and type-A behaviour patterns go hand and hand with heart attacks and unhealthy, unfulfilled lives and loves.

    The dominant ideology in these times seems to be a kind of social Darwinism which boils down to “my freedom is your unfreedom”. This social Darwinistic view is constantly linked to ‘commonsense’, pseudo-scientific concepts of Human Nature. The fact is that we have to co:operate within a division of labour in an advanced industrial system of production. The fact is that workers run this system. That the wealth of the wages system is class divided is not an aspect of Human Nature. That the human race is divided into those who are forced to sell their time and skills to employers for a wage is not an aspect of Human Nature. Marketing skills and time to employers creates the conditions of competitive individualism and these conditions can be changed to a system where workers not only rung the means of production, but also enjoy the power to democratically control the social product of labour. This will not go against Human Nature; but in fact, be more in line with the nature of humans will to freedom and survival.

  5. Thomas Molitor on

    I was particularly struck by this paragraph: “Two of the greatest impediments to a free society today are the media and the electoral system, both of which respond to money rather than to the free exchange of ideas.” Unarguably true in my opinion. At least as it applies to the main stream media (MSM), or as others refer to it as the “corporate-owned media.” Speaking of which, for those readers of the Wall St. Journal, have you noticed ever since Murdoch bought the WSJ Karl Rove has had a bi-weekly piece in the opinion section?

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