Monday, April 29, 2013


There are positive and negative rights.

That's not precisely what I'm going to talk about, however.

What I'm going to talk about is the idea of freedom.  What exactly does freedom mean?  What does it entail?  What can we do with it, why should we value it?  Yeah, those would be great questions to answer.  Not really going to specifically address them, either.

Rather, I'm just going to attack a particular and flawed notion of freedom, expressed in condensed format in a single phrase - "wage slave."  The idea that the fact that we have to eat gives employers power over us, that our society forces us to behave in particular ways in order to survive.

There are easy ways of attacking this.  I'm going to come at it sideways.

What exactly does somebody who wants freedom on those terms want?

Fairly simple: They want to be free of deeply negative consequences for their decisions.  Maybe they'll accept a little punishment, a little price, but they don't want that price to be too high.  What they want is for their decisions to be, in a word, trivial.

They don't want their decisions to cost them too much.  And by the same token, yours shouldn't reward you too much either, you should share some of your good fortune.

This isn't an Orwellian horror.  This isn't 1984.  It's A Brave New World, it's soma, it's mindless consumption and a trivial and meaningless society.  It's the other side of the same coin.  And it's not freedom at all.

Freedom requires, not just that you get to make some decisions.  Decisions are merely the trappings of freedom, the holy raiment in which it walks the earth.  Freedom is self determination.  If you cannot fail, you cannot determine your own destiny.  Somebody has already ruled out part of your future; they've mapped out a path you are not allowed to walk.

Such a concept of freedom bears as much resemblance to true freedom as a carefully controlled safari theme park bears to the jungle.  If the lions cannot eat you, you're not in the wild, you're in a playground, a zoo.

Freedom is not just the ability to make choices, but the ability to make choices that -matter-.  If your choices no longer matter, you are in no meaningful sense free.

So make meaningful decisions.  The trivial ones are mere placations.

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