Freedom is the degree to which a thing can move without obstruction from other sources, while in itself not obstructing other things’ freedoms.
Liberty is directly derived from freedom. It is the concept of freedom applied to society. A society in which every individual is able to do what he wants with his body and his property while not infringing upon other people’s freedoms, that is their bodies and properties, can be called a society that has endorsed the concepts of liberty.
Since liberty, by that definition, requires absence of aggression from anyone against anyone, liberty cannot exist without peace. Peace is the indispensable precondition for liberty. Liberty can’t do without peace and peace can’t do without liberty.
Happiness is a subjective aim. It is that goal that every individual, with every action and every step he takes, seeks to attain. So long as one can pursue his desires in an unobstructed manner he becomes happier every step of the way. He might make false decisions once in a while, but this doesn’t in the slightest change the overall direction towards happiness. He will change course if he realises that something doesn’t make him happy, seek advice with his fellow men, and get on the path he considers right again.
But when someone forces him down a path that he doesn’t approve of, it will be completely impossible for him to pursue happiness. Nobody can possibly tell someone else what it is that will make him happier. If one finds happiness in infringing upon other individuals’ liberties he has to understand that his lifestyle could not possibly be one that is applicable universally. For if he is to be allowed to infringe upon others’ freedoms, what keeps someone else from doing the same to him? Thus happiness, freedom, liberty and peace are inextricably linked.
At times one may seek material wealth and at times indulge in spiritual/intellectual activities. But before one gets to enjoy the delightful beauty of a Monet painting or the subtlety of a Kafka novel, he needs to provide for the means of bare subsistence for himself and his family. To blame capitalism for a lack of cultural or spiritual progress, or to blame it for negligence of the poor and the weak is thus an utter mistake. It is precisely in those countries that have later than others embarked upon a policy of destroying the accomplishments of the Age of Enlightenment and their corollary, free market capitalism, where people got to enjoy an abundance of art museums, opera houses, philosophical lectures, and the like. It is in those very countries where the vast lot of the poor and unemployed have been able to find employment in factories, behind desks and elsewhere and raise their standards of living beyond levels that a Croesus or the Medici would have envied them for. It is in those very countries where a dynamic market has provided for an ever rising supply of health care and pharmaceutical products to improve the lifes of the unfortunate, instead of casting them off a cliff. It is in those very countries where an indispensable network of churches and voluntary charities has been able to appeal to their affluent countrymen’s compassion and raise sums of money that dwarf all governmental welfare programs, quantitatively and most importantly qualitatively, in taking care of those few who were still falling through the cracks.
We are in the process of a complete destruction of all these accomplishments in the United States. We are returning to a state of mass poverty, pauperism, and militarism. But capitalism is not to blame for this unfortunate development. It is the rise of interventionism and the radical expansion of government intrusion that used to be unthinkable up to one hundred years ago.
Prosperity is a direct outcome of the pursuit of happiness. To say that money or material wealth alone do not make one happy is to utter a rather pedestrian truism. There is no one thing in the universe that makes one attain a state of complete happiness. But every action voluntarily taken aims at getting closer to that state. It is what Thomas Jefferson had understood long before he chose his words for the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Government, by definition, is an obstacle to the pursuit of happiness. Its very essence consists in the infringement upon its subjects’ liberties through compulsory taxation. If it weren’t for this modus operandi, government would not pose such an obstacle.
If the past millennia have shown us one immutable economic law it is this: That governments always and everywhere grow and grow and grow in the long run, to the point of a complete and utter social collapse, only to start the cycle anew. The youngest and probably best example is that of the United States. Founded in 1776 as arguably the smallest government that has ever existed, it only took a few hundred years for it to turn into the biggest, most armed, most powerful, and most bellicose government in the whole world, along with a crushing public debt that will inevitably cause the demise of the current system within the coming decades.
These facts are not arcane or hidden. They are right before us. It doesn’t take the precision or smarts of a brain surgeon to grasp this. Quite the opposite: It takes really hard work and strenuous effort to ignore them and to delude yourself into believing anything else. The root causes for this deliberate self-delusion can be found in scar tissues from our childhoods and until one deals with one’s own personal childhood depredations and mental/physical abuses and corruption from authority figures, one is never going to accept such seemingly simple ideas.
For those who have understood the truth behind the concepts outlined above, it is obvious that there can only be one proper solution: The elimination of that institution commonly referred to as government, aka voluntaryism.
But all these realisations are worth nothing if the people who are subject to the government’s depredations and propaganda are not educated accordingly. In today’s world there is an overwhelming, though fading, compliance on the part of the public with the depredations of interventionism. It is thus my intention to spread the word about these truths wherever I can. Anyone who agrees should, if it doesn’t cause him major discomfort, do the same. It is in conversations in bars and restaurants, in the announcements in the news media, in town halls and on public squares, in quick chats with neighbours and friends where public opinion is formed.
Without an educated public, all the concepts that stand behind liberty and peace are meaningless. It is thus the duty of every one of us to take the word to those around us and show them the right way towards a better world.
Make use of the following additional resources to expand knowledge and understanding of the topic covered in this unit.
The entire unit, including all additional resources, can also be downloaded as a workbook to be used offline.