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Optimizing Freedom


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Tyranny seems to be the rule rather than the exception in human events. It seems that every advantage a person might have has been used to exploit others. The rich have exploited the poor; the armed have exploited the unarmed; the pathological have exploited the sane; the more intelligent have exploited the less intelligent. The list is seemingly endless. Of all the various manifestations of power it seems none have been neglected in our attempts to dominate others.

 

I wish to preserve the open-ended yet encompassing vision of our founders of a free nation. Indeed in my own ironic (paradoxical, inconsistent, hypocritical?) way I wish to be a tyrant and force freedom upon all humanity. Towards this audacious goal and with your participation, I hope to better understand freedom itself.

 

What entails freedom? What does freedom entail? And why?

 

How do we secure a perpetual freedom for ourselves and our children?

 

How do we optimize individual freedom?

 

I am hoping for a mixture of normative and factual discussion here. That is, I hope we can discuss both the way things are and the way things ought to be. Before I hear caterwauling from the usual suspects let me emphasize that I wish to optimize individual freedom. We share this good and vicious Earth with other people, and to this extent no man can be allowed complete freedom lest his actions infringe upon the freedoms of others.

 

I believe each of us conspires with Nature in the creation of ourselves. And I hold these truths to be self evident that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights and among these is Liberty.

 

I hope that provides enough fodder to open the discussion. Behold. We are in the Lion's Den. Let us freely speak of freedom.

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From a political standpoint I used to be into the idea of a free society vs an ideal society.

 

I've noticed it is that one difference that is the entire difference between the left and the right.

 

The left wants everyone to have an equal chance, even if you have to robin hood it.

The right wants fairness and freedom.

 

In the end, I think we need something in the middle.

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What entails freedom? What does freedom entail? And why?

 

How do we secure a perpetual freedom for ourselves and our children?

 

How do we optimize individual freedom?

As you point out, no one can have absolute freedom, lest they infringe on the rights of others. I'd add that there is no such thing as absolute freedom even if you're the only person in the world, because you could even infringe on your own rights -- that is, you can eat anything you want but it might make you ill; you can jump of a cliff to experience what that is like but you would not survive the experience.

 

All actions have consequences, some of them unintended.

 

So I would say that freedom is another one of those "it depends", relative sort of truths. If we want a practical working definition here it is probably something like, "maximum personal choice without creating significant negative side effects for myself or others".

 

To me, this means that the minimum number of externally imposed rules exist to prevent me from infringing on others.

 

The problem here is, everyone will have their own definition of "minimum" and "infringing". [sigh]

 

So very roughly speaking that's the shape of what freedom consists of. Personal freedom also implies personal responsibility -- if you are allowed choices then you must accept responsibility for your choices.

 

How do we secure freedom? Regrettably if we are to be free we have to be willing to stand up for our freedoms, which means we accept that some others (persons or entities like corporations or governments) will tend to try to infringe them and we have to define and enforce boundaries to prevent that from happening. I hate to cast it in adversarial terms but any freedom worth having is a freedom someone else is going to want to take away from you. If you have, say, a million bucks or a desirable spouse and someone else doesn't, someone somewhere is going to tend to want to relieve you of it. Society builds up laws and mores and taboos to manage this.

 

The danger of thinking this way is that political and social conservatives tend to want to take this to the extreme that sharing is bad, and that's not what I'm saying. If society decides that people in my income bracket should give X percent of their income to the common pot, that is something I could resent and fight over or something I could be happy to provide -- it comes back to where I draw and enforce my boundaries. Conservatives tend to hoard and say that everything is a zero-sum game (every person for themselves); liberals tend to think more in terms of enough for everyone, let's spread it around. So a conservative might consider that taxation an impertinence and a liberal might consider it a privilege.

 

At the end of the day I suppose everyone is "free" to decide for themselves and hopefully it's all done in the context of a civil society where people compromise to get along. Regrettably civility appears to be vanishing from our social discourse here in the US.

 

I'm afraid that I don't see a way to define "freedom" or a way to "optimize" it that will circumvent the whole messy process called society and politics and government and law -- there is no universal definition.

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