Who Can Be Free?

Wendy McElroy has posted a comment from one of her readers on her blog concerning the impossibility of fixing government tyranny by passing more laws. On that point the writer is correct.

However, the comment ends with these words:

"It was a mistake to turn over our lives to a ruling class, even if some are temporary. It didn't work. Now we have [to] fix it. Not by asking their permission (working within their rules), but by denying them all power. They got it from us, we can take it back." [Emphasis mine.]

Really!? How?

The rhetoric sounds so very good, but if one wants to be free, feel-good rhetoric is not going to help much. If one truly wants to be free it can only be achieved by pursuing what is truly possible.

The truth is, the ruling class did not get their power from "us." There is not a person born and living in the United States today that signed the constitution, ever agreed to be citizen of this country or be bound by its "laws" and regulations, such as being required to pay taxes, participate in its welfare programs (e.g. social security), or forced to fight in its wars, or to finance them.

And who exactly is the, "we," that would take back that power if they could. It is certainly not most of the citizens of this country who don't mind taxes at all (especially the more than half of those citizens being supported by them,) and they certainly don't mind the welfare programs, and are proud to fight in America's wars and feel good about it and believe it is "anti-American" to oppose them.

The first thing the freedom lover must understand is that no matter who the "we" is, the way to freedom is not by taking power away from the political elite, because it cannot be done. I know it is a hard truth to swallow, and no one has to believe it (and most won't), and everyone who refuses to understand it may continue their futile pursuit of freedom by political means. But, to those who believe rhetoric like, "They got it from us, and we can take it back," I say, "quit saying it and do it." Don't tell me what you can do, show me.

Who Can Be Free?

Freedom is only for those who want it, and most people do not really want freedom. The one aspect of true freedom that most people are terrified of is that true freedom would require them to be totally responsible for their own lives. If truly free, their success or failure would depend solely on their own efforts and ability. The risks and dangers of the real world (as well as all those made up by politicians, journalists, religionists, and academics), terrify most people. What they want is security, safety, and guarantees; what they want is all those things a government promises them in exchange for their freedom.

The individuals who truly want to be free, and the only individuals who can be free, are those who embrace the true risks and dangers of reality, knowing they are competent to deal with every challenge and able to overcome every barrier to achieve their own success and happiness in this world. Only those who want nothing in life they have not achieved or produced by their own effort, because their own sense of self-worth and integrity requires them to know that all they have and all they are, they have earned and achieved themselves, need freedom, or are capable of achieving it, or able to enjoy it.

Who Will Be Free

There is another reason why any political method toward freedom is wrong. H.L. Mencken expressed it this way:

"I believe in only one thing: liberty; but I do not believe in liberty enough to want to force it upon anyone."

Every scheme for establishing liberty is some supposed method of transforming an unfree society into what one believes a, "free society," ought to be. Most people in most societies do not really want freedom and making a society free means forcing freedom on those who do not really want it. I know some schemes involve some method of converting people (by teaching, or training, or propaganda) from security loving to freedom loving, which is totally unrealistic. No one can change people, at least not by any moral means. [Giving everyone not wanting freedom a lobotomy would probably work.]

Only individuals can be free by their own choice and effort.

One Who Found Freedom

There is one phrase in the original quote at the beginning of this article I like, "Not by asking their permission ...."

There was once a man who used a similar phrase as the motto for his Web site, "Take Liberty;" the motto is: Don't Ask Permission - Just Take It. That man was Richard Rieben.

Richard G. Rieben was always an individualist and at one time quite influential in various freedom movements. To establish his own freedom he extricated himself from those movements:

"In perusing my credits, below, you will note various books and web sites. In the pursuit of liberty, these are, as public ventures, rather beside the point. At one point, I thought to share them with others. In the meanwhile, they have derailed my private life unpleasantly. The book biz will not last through the end of the present year; the web sites will not last through the end of the following year. And my participation in the freedom 'movement' will, for a second time in my life, cease. Hopefully, I have learned the value of being a private individual. I am too willful to be otherwise. I have nothing in common with others, aside from being as different from them as they are from anyone else (but knowing it). I do not have a common cause with anyone, not even being free. And the idea of subordinating my will to a group such as to regain, retain or proclaim my sovereign will is such a winsome contradiction it makes me smile, though ruefully." [From I Was Not Born to Submit.]

Richard died March 13, 2006, at the end of his 57th year, of heart related problems while visiting friends in his beloved Malaysia. Richard's brother William wrote in his obituary "Richard's greatest passion was for individual liberty as the basis for human existence and interaction." Even if late, Richard did find complete freedom as he wrote in his journal, "It was a good life. Per usual, I didn't find out what it was 'all about' until way late in the game ...," but at least he found it himself, which is the only way it can be found.

[NOTE: Richard Rieben's Take Liberty Web site still exits, with many interesting and very different articles. I have searched in vain to find a way to contact any of his survivors such as his brother or gal Friday, Kelly Ross.]

No program, no movement, no ideology is going to produce a free society. Most freedom-oriented organizations and activists are providing good information about the evils of government and what freedom actually means, and if they motivate some individuals to seek their own freedom, and provide any information individuals can use to do that, they have made a real contribution to freedom. But anyone waiting for some program, or movement, or revolution to bring them freedom will never be free.