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Freedom and Self-government by George Kinney

Freedom, I suppose, is the condition of being free. Of course terms ought to be clearly defined if they are intended to be clearly understood, yet often the pedantic conformity to this axiom only serves to obstruct clarity rather than to enhance it.
Nevertheless, I will try to point out a few fundamental characteristics of the term ‘freedom’ for the purposes of this brief essay, or, in modern terms, this blog, so that readers may have a better chance to understand just what I am trying to convey.
As it turns out, even the simplest connotations of the term ‘freedom’ work quite well in understanding what I mean when I say the word.
For example if I said, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose,” one might infer that freedom means an absence of something rather than a presence of something.
In this sense, to be free of something means to not have it. That sounds right, but it could easily get sticky if one then inferred that freedom meant something is lacking, and thus be extended to mean a generally negative condition. What if we are free of freedom? In that case and beyond, the message can get very confusing and even contradictory. Thus, the pedantic conformity gets in the way of the flow of ideas and concepts that one might be trying to convey.
Let’s try another:
The infamous and apparently non-existent free lunch. It supposedly can’t exist in reality because everything has some cost, either a cause or a consequence that may be hidden from immediate sight, but that will reveal itself later, after the fact of the eating.
In this sense, the idea of freedom cannot stand alone as a self-supporting concept. It needs another half; it needs a yin for its yang or vice versa.
That is, freedom must be balanced by something. Compensation is some form must accompany it.
To be free…what does it entail? An absence of constraints? Sure. Here we must clarify something, though. The economic connotations must be separated from the philosophical connotations, at least superficially and temporarily. I think that we will find that even that separation doesn’t really need to be made in the final understanding of the ideas I present here, but let’s not get superfluous in our digressions. Let’s just say for now that we are talking about the more philosophical and humane aspect of the concept of freedom rather than, or at least more specifically than we are the economic aspects of the term.

Free from constraints, then. Okay. That works for a huge list of ideas. Freedom of religion, freedom to bear arms, freedom of speech…all these ideas depend on a basic understanding that freedom implies an absence of constraints.
So what then balances this lack of restraints? What keeps this supposedly beneficial idea from leading to exactly the opposite condition…that of totally repressive constraints, dictatorial political rule, and slavery?

The answer, of course, is responsibility. Without an equal and constant application of responsibility, freedom becomes anarchy and without responsible constraint on freedom, the physically powerful dominate the weak and force upon them their private, selfish wills. That has been the case throughout history and is the case today.

Political parties in the U.S. and worldwide express this concept particularly well In the U.S., the Republican party calls for deregulation for most businesses, a general governmental hands off approach to economics. Free enterprise is taken to mean that the gloves are off. Let ‘em have at it and the best will emerge…this is the heart of social and economic Darwinism. Sounds great, but it has one fatal flaw. For true free enterprise to work, for government regulations to be obsolete and unnecessary, individuals would have to voluntarily and willfully integrate an equal and constant amount of responsibility into their transactions. Personal applications of restraint, cooperation and compassion would have to replace overly aggressive greed and contempt for the less able or less fortunate.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Thus, the Wall Street disaster, the failing housing market, the export of jobs oversees, etc. Freedom just doesn’t work without responsibility. And by neglecting to exercise such responsibility, the conservatives have given the left wing huge momentum in implementing more and more government control of our economy.
Same thing with the Democrats, just in reverse. By insisting on radical left wing extremism, ignoring personal liberty in many instances, and striving to over regulate business to the point of destroying the great economic machine that has propelled the world into the age of technological genius and prosperity, the democrats have opened the door to even more accumulation of wealth at the top 1% of the population in the U.S. The great failure of Marxism can be found in the famous adage by Carl Marx himself: “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.”  Sounds perfect, right? But wait. One HUGE problem: Who decides what ones abilities and needs are? The politburo? No way Jose.

The American Revolution was fought to establish a nation of laws, laws that were designed by the people for whom they applied and enforced so as to equalize the opportunities for all citizens. The rulers were to rule by voluntary consent of the people.

Well, the citizens obtained a large degree of freedom and personal liberty, but the application of an equal and constant responsibility, both quantitatively and qualitatively, quickly began to dissolve, leaving he new nation on an inevitable pathway to discontent and ultimate failure. But the inevitability is only applicable if the pathway remains away from balance between freedom and responsibility. At any time conscious, compassionate, genuinely cooperative responsibility can be reintroduced into the system and at such time the nation (ours or any other) can reestablish this balance and regain freedom and liberty, both collectively and for individual citizens.

It is extremely simple but very difficult to achieve this lofty balance, both as individuals and as citizens of a collective community. An entirely new and evolutionary innovative modification of our worldview is required. Aggressive competition must be superceded by compassionate cooperation. This metamorphosis is the essential element of what self-government is all about.

Self-government. We take it simply to mean that people get to rule themselves through a democratic form of government, either directly or more realistically through representatives. While this may be true and necessary, the key idea here reduces to the most elemental common denominator…the individual. Simply stated, each individual citizen must rule his or her self. That means that it is the responsibility of each citizen to identify and enhance the aspects of oneself that best serves the most beneficial evolution of ones own soul and is therefore and necessarily in resonance with the will of the soul of humanity.

In this way (and exclusively so) freedom can be obtained and sustained, being it its strongest and most productive state, that of balance. Freedom, balanced every time, and everywhere by compassionate and cooperative responsibility, is the perfect cultural environment for self-government to flourish. The result is peace.

Column made by George Kinney / 2012
© Copyright /  2012

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