The Doctrine of Love and Freedom

Column by Glen Allport.

Exclusive to STR

 

Almost unnoticed amongst the glitter and wonder of modern sci-tech is that the basic, foundational truths of classical liberalism are now exceptionally well supported by science. If you want a society that produces physically and emotionally healthy people and that fosters prosperity, innovation, and peace, you want – you need – both genuine liberty and widespread compassion.
 
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Status Report
 
This needs to be said: After decades of hard work, the modern freedom movement has yet to catch on in any way that matters. Whatever effect we may have had on the public at large is too small for me to discern, and even the game-changing, pro-freedom nature of the internet has not restrained the growth of government size, power, and repression. The mass discontent seen in Europe and increasingly in the United States is powered more by rage that the welfare state is failing than by any desire for a voluntaryist, non-Statist, civil society. The cry is "Give me back my welfare state!" rather than "Give me back my freedom!"
 
Given freedom's powerful and proven benefits, why are we having such difficulty marketing the idea? If liberty is as beneficial as we know it to be, why does nearly everyone still reject liberty in favor of coercive Statism?
 
Clearly, something about our approach has not been optimal. Perhaps the freedom movement has been off the mark in a way that actively thwarts our success. Perhaps with a more accurate focus, we could accomplish something more – something spectacular, even – in the next ten years. I certainly hope so, because I'm sick of living in a world where tyranny continues destroying everything good in the world and then using the wreckage as "proof" that even MORE tyranny is necessary. Civilized life won't survive much more of that.
 
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Would an Expanded Approach be Helpful?
 
On a good day, I can believe that the positive outcome suggested above is possible – and more than possible, likely, assuming the right inputs. Tyranny can be put on the run, permanently, and we can watch it wither in our own lifetimes – if the right approach is taken.
 
I believe a more optimal approach is not only available, but staring us in the face. It lacks a widely-known and agreed-upon name, however, and so cannot be spoken of, at least not easily. It involves the deeper, feeling part of the brain more than the logical upper brain, so words can never fully explain it in any case. The foundation of this approach is not a fact or even a library of facts but rather a framework, a complex collection of ideas, examples, facts, preferences, theory, and other elements that combine to bring human social-political reality into clearer focus.
 
Liberty is one of two major elements in this framework. Compassion is the other. (I do not mean "compassionate" government programs; I mean actual compassion, as experienced and voluntarily expressed by an emotionally healthy population, combined with non-coercive social structures, widely-adopted ideals, and other compassion-supporting components of a truly civil society). Many smaller elements are required to adequately support and explain the first two elements and their interconnected, interdependent nature.
 
This framework, this paradigm, is, I believe, the only tool that will save liberty from the growing, technologically-enabled tyranny we now face.
 
A decade of writing about this has shown that I, personally, am pitifully inadequate to the job of advancing this cause. As certain as I am of my understanding of this paradigm, my poor ability to convey it and to market it, along with my other flaws and weaknesses, mean that without significant help, the paradigm is going nowhere. Which means – if I am right – that liberty is going nowhere, also.
 
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The Nature of Paradigms, and the Toxic Paradigm we are Up Against
 
Like any good paradigm, the framework I will describe is simple yet profound. It appears obvious once grasped yet is impossible to really see until a good sketch of the framework has assembled in one's mind. That is in the nature of paradigms: Without a reasonably complete grasp of a new, more accurate paradigm – which can take repeated exposures to the framework, not to isolated facts – relevant events are misinterpreted, seen through the lens of the existing, less-accurate paradigm. The paradigm itself is what makes sense of the facts.
 
As a result, when a widely-accepted paradigm is a poor fit to reality, new data and experience often add confusion instead of wisdom. Over time the existing paradigm becomes ever-more convoluted and self-contradictory as people attempt to keep the framework viable in the face of its fundamental miss-match with reality.
 
Major paradigm shifts (Copernican to Galilean, Newtonian to relativistic and quantum, superstition to science, etc.) typically follow exactly that pattern: A widely-held and fiercely-defended framework grows tattered as increasingly bizarre kludges are applied to account for data that in fact disprove the old paradigm. Groups favored by the paradigm slander any competing paradigm and may even use violence against those who advance it.
 
Today's old, dying paradigm (the one relevant to this discussion) concerns human nature and the State. It has two major components:
 
First: There is liberty and there is compassion, and while both are quite nice, they are not strongly connected and are often opposed to each other. It is therefore appropriate to focus on one or the other by itself. It is acceptable, and may be necessary, to sacrifice some of one quality in order to enhance the other. By convention, those focusing (primarily) on liberty are said to be on the Right, while those focusing (primarily) on compassion are said to be on the Left.
 
Second: The State's legal monopoly on aggression is natural, beneficial, and assumed; like gravity or air, only fools would imagine life as possible without it. Coercion is necessary for funding of State actions – and this somehow avoids market forces that would otherwise insure near-complete lack of customer satisfaction and growing corruption in how the funds are used. State coercion is also appropriate for adjusting the relative levels of liberty and compassion. Because State aggression is sometimes necessary for implementing compassion, State aggression is thus appropriate for anything – because almost anything can be seen as necessary to protect or to benefit the public in some way.
 
We might call this the paradigm of Left-Right Statism, or simply Left-Right. Whatever we call it, the paradigm is clearly incompatible with healthy, civil society because aggression is built-in, natural market protections are eliminated, and coercive limits on both liberty and compassion are seen as acceptable. The very fact that liberty and compassion are not seen as a mutually-supportive duality is itself a danger. If we want a healthier, more civil society, we will need to find and embrace a paradigm more in harmony with healthy human nature.
 
Fortunately, such a paradigm exists. Its benefits are supported by theory, by scientific data and experiment, and by the experience of groups in those times and places where the paradigm, or one close to it, has been widely understood and followed – or even partially followed, as in the early United States.
 
Among the general public, the Left-Right framework splits people into opposing groups, each side focusing only (or primarily) on one of the two connected qualities that together (and only together) make civil society possible. Both Left and Right see State aggression as the natural tool for advancing their agendas, so the use of aggression expands relentlessly.
 
Neither Left nor Right understands either of the two interconnected qualities of civil society well. The Right – including the self-described libertarian, minarchist branch – champions not non-aggression but the fantasy of limited aggression, which involves a coercive monopoly whose coercion is only used carefully, in specified and limited ways, for the good things that "everyone" agrees a government should be doing and which "only a coercive government can do." In this fantasy world, politicians, power brokers, corporations, and bureaucrats somehow manage to avoid the corrupting influence of power and to set aside their own self-interests to insure that State aggression is used in ways beneficial to all. Santa Claus and the Easter bunny are more rational ideas, but that's the power of paradigms: as inner maps of reality, they can transcend logic and over-ride both common sense and factual data.
 
The Left, in contrast, believes the exact same thing as the Right, except that the State's coercion should be aimed in different directions – compassionate directions, naturally – and since no amount of compassion is too much, this approach is, at least in theory, more hostile to liberty than that of the Right.
 
In practice, the differences between Left and Right are mostly illusion, with (for example) the "leftist" Obama behaving like the ultra-Right, neocon Bush, only more so. This trend is inevitable because – once again – liberty and compassion truly require each other, so that emphasizing one side over the other is as unhealthy, foolish, and dangerous as would be a plan to cut out the left hemisphere of one's brain because the other side is, somehow, more important. We have two different hemispheres for a reason – each brings something important to human experience, and the combination is what makes us fully human.
 
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The Taint of Left-Right Thinking Cripples the Freedom Movement
 
The true freedom movement sees through and thus denies the second part of the toxic Left-Right paradigm – the coercive, Statist part – but still accepts the first tenet: that compassion and liberty are, if not enemies, certainly not two parts of a connected, interdependent duality. The resulting disconnect between love and freedom causes an over-emphasis on liberty and an intellectual black hole for the rivers of information showing the contributions of compassion (or love, or emotional health) to liberty and to civil society generally. This is not to say that voluntaryists lack compassion; by and large, I see voluntaryists as far more compassionate than Statists, and writings at STR and elsewhere often discuss some aspect of compassion or brotherhood or the rights and needs of children, for example. Still, in practice, compassion is mostly an afterthought where writings on liberty are concerned. More importantly, the need for compassion as support for liberty is almost entirely ignored and thus seems not understood.
 
To say it plainly, the freedom movement has yet to incorporate a paradigm that includes the mutually-supportive roles of compassion and liberty, of love and freedom, of emotional health and non-aggression. Until this changes, the freedom movement will remain a fringe group with little power to improve the world.
 
There are two main reasons why this paradigm shift is necessary if the freedom movement is to succeed:
 
First, the existing anarchist/voluntaryist paradigm is a poor fit to reality. Freedom by itself is highly vulnerable to erosion in a society with deep and widespread emotional damage.
 
Emotionally damaged human beings conceived, and now profit from and work to advance, the liberty-destroying Statism and corporatism over-running this Earth. Emotional damage is what fuels the over-the-top greed and lust for power of the coercive elite. It is widespread emotional damage – the curse which dims compassion – that creates the crushed and angry millions eager for induction into the Brownshirts or the Savak or for work in the death camps and torture chambers. As the late Alice Miller spent decades documenting, normal human beings – not saints, mind you, but people with even a reasonably healthy sense of connection to others – will not, cannot, do certain things. But in a population with large numbers of people who were hurt badly enough in childhood and infancy, bullies and executioners are easy to come by. Emotional damage creates many other toxic and dangerous character traits and behaviors, including a need for scapegoats, a tendency to misread demagogues and to fanatically follow them, an inability to think clearly, authoritarian parenting practices, and many more.
 
Liberty by itself produces amazing results (Hong Kong booming while Communist China starved, for one example) but widespread emotional health is the necessary lubricant and anti-corrosive that prevents decay of liberty and which provides the charity, the sense of connection to people and to the environment, and the continual push towards fair and honest dealings that the market requires. On an individual basis, emotional health is also, to say it plainly, the difference between heaven and hell. Love, compassion, and a strong sense of connection to others are what make life worth living; being deeply connected to our own feelings and sensing our connection to others is the actual purpose and meaning of life, at least on one level (arguably the most important level). Any social-political philosophy that ignores or slights this truth has zero chance of mass appeal, and for good reason.
 
Second, freedom – as a concept – is largely an intellectual issue, and, once again, the public absolutely will not sign on to a major social/political paradigm or movement that lacks a strong emotional component. People want that emotional element and if they can't find a movement or paradigm that openly and truthfully supports love and brotherhood, they will go with one that caters to hatred or other emotions and which only pretends to support love – even if that movement involves cruelty, violence, tyranny, and other evil, especially against scapegoats. If you have ever watched footage of Hitler speaking at a rally, you know what I mean (if not, check out the link and watch a few videos; you'll be stunned). The massive world-wide response to Marxist ideas is another example (Hitler actually being part of this, as "Nazi" was short for National Socialist Democratic Worker's Party). The leftist authors of the 912-page The Black Book of Communism found, to their surprise, that Communist nations murdered perhaps 100,000,000 people (yes, that is 100 million, equal to about one-third of the entire U.S. population) during the twentieth century, and did so with cold, calculated purpose to eliminate dissent and to terrorize populations into submission. The book's Foreword is titled "The Uses of Atrocity" and many of the included photographs are truly nightmarish. Yet even today, millions of people STILL hold a strong emotional attachment to the "Communist ideal" and simply cannot see that giving total power to any government is insanely cruel and dangerous rather than "compassionate." "Soft socialists" do not understand the lesson either; a nation run by a seemingly benevolent government today may suffer under a far less benevolent group later as power changes hands and as the corrupting influence of power works its corrosive magic.
 
In short, in a world filled with emotionally-damaged people, the innate human need for emotional attachment and for compassionate brotherhood can be channeled into support for tyranny and evil. Tyrants, psychopaths, and demagogues have been making use of this fact for thousands of years. In human life generally, feeling trumps thinking, unmet childhood need trumps common sense, and those who know how to manipulate these basic human traits can always find some large number of followers among the damaged millions (billions, actually).
 
"Without the numerous documentary films that attest to the frenzied acclaim Hitler received, no one today would believe that a madman with this ideology of contempt for human beings could generate so much enthusiasm."
~ Alice Miller, Adolf Hitler: How Could a Monster Succeed in Blinding a Nation? (hosted at the Natural Child website, a site aimed at parents of young children; the child-like site graphics are appropriate to the site purpose)
 
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How Liberty (and civil society generally) can Benefit from the Truth
 
For the freedom movement, there is good news in all this – if we can break free of the crippling Left-Right paradigm. Love and freedom are truly one entity, a yin/yang-like duality, and if the public ever begins to understand that, then all the forces of tyranny will be for naught. But first, we have to understand it, clearly and deeply.
 
Second, we must convey that truth to others – repeatedly and in many different wordings and methods, because paradigm change involves replacing a huge group of attitudes, connections, and understandings with an entirely new world-view, and until the outline of the full paradigm crystallizes in someone's mind, none of the explanatory power inherent to the new paradigm exists for that person. It is not fact, or even a blizzard of facts, that sways people to a more accurate paradigm – it is the paradigm itself that sways people; then, the facts fall into place and suddenly make sense. The entire framework of theory, widely-known examples, successful predictions, and other proofs and details must be understood to a certain level and held in mind as a coherent whole for this to happen. Until then, facts will be misinterpreted and understanding the obvious remains impossible. You've seen this in action your whole life:
 
"Government anti-poverty efforts actually hurt the poor? You must be out of your mind!"
 
"Regulate business better without government agencies? Impossible!"
 
"End the drug war to reduce drug damage and violence – what have YOU been smoking?"
 
"Protect the environment with property rights instead of by government laws? You're kidding, right?"
 
The public has not gotten past these misunderstandings for a simple reason: They haven't been presented with a compelling and more accurate alternative paradigm. Liberty, by itself, is not adequate. Liberty, by itself, is tainted by the Left-Right error of disconnection between love and freedom. Liberty, by itself, is missing fully half the answer; missing half the foundation for any civil society.
 
Where liberty alone has failed, liberty and compassion will succeed.
 
Where liberty alone has struggled to gain almost any traction with the masses, liberty and compassion will draw the masses in and satisfy them with deeply-embedded human truth.
 
Where liberty alone has been smeared successfully (and to some extent accurately) as "cold" and "unworkable", the warmth and obvious fit to human nature and to human social realities of liberty plus compassion will make attempts at smearing the movement laughable.
 
Liberty alone can only fail; compassion alone can only fail. Neither is a complete answer for human society. But together, liberty and compassion cannot fail, because the need for that combination is the human truth within us all.
 
But again: the success of liberty and compassion, of a modernized, scientifically augmented classical liberalism, requires first that the paradigm involved be widely and repeatedly presented until a tipping point of understanding and adoption has taken place.
 
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A More Formal and Scientific Classical Liberalism
 
My first column for STR was Government is Not Compassion. I wrote it both as a way to add my voice to the traditional and necessary liberty-movement function of describing the cruelty inherent in State coercion, and to begin my campaign of bringing to the movement a specific focus on compassion, by name. Over time I hoped to paint a framework that builds upon one that was lost long ago, before it was even a clear and finished idea.
 
I call that earlier, softly-focused young paradigm classical liberalism, although the term is, like "anarchy", used in different ways by different groups. (Unlike the term "anarchist", however, "classical liberal" has not become a synonym for "terrorist"). Thoreau, Spencer, Spooner, Auberon Herbert, and many other famous names, along with a perhaps small but significant percentage of the general population of both Britain and the American colonies, held classical liberal views. In particular, they saw liberty as important in no small part because the State was cruelty incarnate, bringing needless war, poverty, corruption, and injustice to mankind. Compassion was a major reason – perhaps the major reason – for supporting liberty. The two qualities were so closely tied together they could not, in truth, be torn apart.
 
But early America's celebrated liberty was, in fact, merely a tyranny of lesser dimensions than the world was used to, and what liberty did exist was constantly eroded by not only the trend for State power to grow but by severe and widespread emotional damage. That emotional damage (and the resulting lack of compassion) and the continued use of aggression, in and out of government, meant that the trend toward civil society in the United States was delicate to start with. The early U.S. was a nation that sanctioned human slavery, after all – among other things. Adoption of the Constitution was a serious blow also, creating as it did a nation-wide coercive authority that predictably grew over time into the nightmare we are living with now.
 
Another factor in the fall of classical liberal ideals and of civil society is that the paradigm itself was vague, gauzy, and not bolstered by hard science in the way we are now accustomed to seeing (in areas other than politics, at least). That has changed, to put it mildly: Almost unnoticed amongst the glitter and wonder of modern sci-tech is that the basic, foundational truths of classical liberalism are now exceptionally well supported by science. If you want a society that produces physically and emotionally healthy people and that fosters prosperity, innovation, and peace, you want – you need – both genuine liberty and widespread compassion. You need actual freedom from aggression and a population blessed with enough emotional health to support civil society – or at least, a population that tentatively understands the need for improved emotional health and supports (non-government) policies and actions that indeed promote such health.
 
Not everyone wants a healthy society; those who grow rich on war, or by channeling millions of people into crippling and disruptive debt, or who benefit from corporatism in some other way, or who simply lust after power – these and many others, who are often highly-placed and with vast resources at their disposal, oppose love and freedom. They don't want a civil society characterized by liberty and compassion; they want whatever form of tyranny they think will benefit them personally. These people, and the emotional damage underlying their behavior, have done enormous damage to liberty and compassion in the last ten years, and for that matter in the last 300 years and more. People lacking a strong, compassionate sense of connection to their fellow human beings have callously started wars as business strategy, corrupted the legal and regulatory system for corporate profit, stolen the retirement money of entire generations, debased the dollar (and every other fiat currency) to the point of no return, conceived, designed, and implemented a vast web of police-state agencies and policies in the once-(almost)-free United States, and done other harms too numerous to list. When I say that compassion is necessary to support liberty, I am not overstating things in the least. Lack of compassion may have already destroyed civil society so thoroughly as to make recovery impossible; that is what I think on a bad day.
 
There is an increasing tendency to ascribe the evil behavior of the power elite and to psychopaths generally to genetics – and there certainly are genetic traits and tendencies that make anti-social tendencies more likely, in the same way that people can have genetic predispositions toward certain physical diseases or conditions. But such traits and tendencies are, like those for colon cancer, unlikely to be more than mild-to-medium statistical deviations from the norm. What actualizes in a person's life (again, as with cancer) is strongly dependent upon environmental factors – on experience, in the case of personality and behavior, and especially on early experience. A person might have a genetic predisposition for poor impulse-control but that does not mean they will inevitably be violent, or commit rape, or become sociopathic. It does mean that for such a person, early factors are even more important; a level of trauma in infancy (a mother who is emotionally distant, say) that in many people would cause lesser symptoms may well lead to violent behavior or rape or full-blown psychopathology in a person with particular genetic vulnerabilities.
 
If it turns out that some psychopaths and sociopaths are entirely doomed to their condition by genetics, regardless of early experience, that changes little. The powerful role of early experience in human life is clearly, strongly, and quite scientifically established; violence and other anti-social behaviors – and many other symptoms, physical (including cancer and heart disease), psychological (depression, for instance) and behavioral, are without question more common among those with severe early trauma than in the general population.
 
The worst mass murderers, in and out of government, are known to have had – in every case studied that I am aware of (and that Alice Miller knew of, for that matter) – horrific infancies and/or childhoods. Being born into a family (or institution) where no healthy bond or connection is available, being treated with contempt day after day, getting beaten regularly, being forced to grow up in some version or other of hell – such things cannot help but have an effect on someone. The exact symptoms are not predictable; as with other rapidly growing, complex systems, early changes of input create large changes in output, but the specifics cannot be predicted and vary enormously. One person can be beaten daily in childhood and react in adulthood by working to protect children from violence; another with what appears a near-identical childhood may become a sadist or murderer. But one thing is very clear from the data: given enough people with painful childhoods and traumatic infancies (and births, and gestations), some of those people will become nightmares for the rest of us. All too often, these nightmarish, damaged personalities are attracted to the shimmering power of government and are then empowered to do the types of horrifying things we see governments doing everywhere, from mass-murder of protesters in today's Middle East to systematic torture, unjust imprisonment of large groups (millions of marijuana users over the years, for one example), and every other violent, corrupt, and evil behavior governments have been infamous for since the dawn of recorded history.
 
Liberty does not exist in a vacuum; it must be constructed and continually maintained by human beings. When enough of those human beings have had the compassion and love crushed out of them, when enough of those human beings have lost any sense of connection to their fellows, then liberty cannot survive, any more than compassion itself can survive in an environment of endless cruelty and tyranny. Each must have the other, because in truth there is no separation between them. Love includes non-aggression; a loving person does not aggress against others. Freedom includes (is an aspect of, actually) respect for other people, which is a component of loving them. The toxic, artificial splitting of these qualities from each other underlies nearly all of today's man-made problems and evils, from needless environmental harm to corporatism, from aggressive war and torture to the economic Armageddon now engulfing the West and to some extent the entire world.
 
If we hope to ever see the dawn of liberty in this world, we must embrace the doctrine of love and freedom. Emphasizing either quality over the other can only take us deeper into the night.
 
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Links, references, examples, and further reading
 
Books, studies, articles, and other sources of scientific or anecdotal data:
 
For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence by Alice Miller. This book, linked in the text earlier under Miller's name, is worth mentioning again, because it directly and clearly links the destruction of liberty and of civil society to severe emotional damage; includes excerpts from child-rearing manuals of the pre-Hitler era and accounts and descriptions of the horrific childhoods that Hitler himself and others suffered. Evil behavior is not random or without cause; evil behavior (and an endless list of other symptoms) is caused by traumatic levels of pain, be it emotional or physical.
 
The Relationship of Adverse Childhood Experiences to Adult Health: Turning gold into lead [PDF] by Vincent J. Felitti, MD – This article about the huge, well-known Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study provides stunning data on the negative effects that early trauma has on later health. The ACE study has been written about in JAMA and other peer-reviewed journals; this particular article is aimed at a general audience and was published without copyright specifically so that it might be copied and shared as widely as possible.
 
Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence by Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley. An excellent compilation of scientific data showing the sensitive dependence on early conditions in human life.
 
A long collection of links and discussion about relevant studies and information (includes the two links above) may be found here. This page has not been updated for some time, but new studies and other relevant material appear almost every day at sites like PhysOrg.com, Sciencedaily.com, Livescience.com, Journal of the American Medical Association (sample from Aug 8, 2011: "Prevalence of War-Related Mental Health Conditions and Association With Displacement Status in Postwar Jaffna District, Sri Lanka"), and elsewhere.
 
Medical journal warns of 'tidal wave' of mental trauma among servicemenLondon Telegraph. Nothing creates more emotional damage than government; war is only one of the methods.
 
Why a lack of empathy is the root of all evil – article about psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen's work and views on empathy and its lack.
 
A few of the philosophies, religious principles, sayings, and other attempts at conveying the basic message of love and freedom – that civil society requires civil behavior, and thus must involve both non-aggression and a widespread sense of connection to others – include:
 
The Golden Rule – "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Every major religion is in harmony with this admonition.
 
Ahimsa – the principle of non-violence to all life, as taught in the Hindu, Buddhist, and especially Jain religions.
 
Namaste – traditional greeting in many Eastern cultures, especially India. Namaste is performed with a small bow toward the person or persons being greeted; the hands are held in front of the chest, pressed together, fingers up, and accompanied by words that can be translated in several ways including "The divine within me bows to the divine within you."
 
"Love thy neighbor" – the single most important take-away from the teachings of Jesus, as expressed, for example, in John 13:34 – 13:35:
 
John:
13:34
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
 
"Live and Let Live" – Once-common American saying
 
"All men are brothers and each man is free." -- Rose Wilder Lane, in The Discovery of Freedom.
 
The Paradise Paradigm – This book was my first attempt to understand and then elaborate and formalize the doctrine of love and freedom; an ebook version will be available soon.
 
Related columns – nearly all of the columns I've written for STR, with a handful of exceptions, focus directly or in part on the doctrine of love and freedom.  A sampling of those most directly aimed at the topic:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Real-world examples
 
Nations do better with more freedom than with less; this is so well-known as to scarcely need mention, especially when addressing the freedom movement. China's dramatic rise since allowing property rights and other basic economic freedoms to its people is an example known to everyone; as a true Communist nation under Mao, the Chinese literally starved by the millions, while as a semi-fascist, business-oriented tyranny (of far lesser dimensions than Communism under Mao) the industrious Chinese have turned their nation into a sprawling engine of wealth creation, pulling many millions out of grinding poverty. Equally important, freedom dramatically reduces the rates of genocide and other government murder, as R. J. Rummel has thoroughly documented in books like Death by Government and at his Freedom, Democracy, Peace; Power, Democide, War website. Rummel has not made the leap to an understanding that low-power governments tend to become high-power governments, despite his own nation's (he's a resident of Hawaii) breath-taking growth of both domestic tyranny and aggressive foreign war, and he sees democracy as performing the role that I believe widespread emotional health actually plays (democracy decays into tyranny all too easily) but Rummel's decades of work on the important-yet-taboo subject of democide are an unparalleled resource for understanding the true nature and dangers of State power.
 
Another important set of examples come from the free school movement. The best-known include:
 
Summerhill School in England, Sudbury Valley School in the United States (and others around the world on the Sudbury model), Montessori schooling (Google founders Brin and Page were Montessori kids, and the creative, non-authoritarian, think-for-yourself qualities that pervade the company are, I suspect, direct results of such an upbringing; In the Plex by Steven Levy is a fun read that supports this idea), and other schools that feature compassionate freedom for children. These schools show that human beings truly thrive in such an environment. (An aside: Root Striker Laurence Ludlow writes, in a comment to my Could the Non-Aggression Principle Stop the Sixth Great Extinction?, of "a new school project that we libertarian/anarchists [not LP] in San Diego are pursuing. It is a form of learner-directed school that emphasizes internal motivation instead of rewards and punishments." Those interested can read the full comment, with links, at bottom of the article).
 
Let me be clear on this: Nothing is more important for the future of BOTH liberty and compassion than that children – as well as pregnant mothers, newborns, and infants – be treated with compassion and respect; with love and freedom ("freedom" including the requirement to respect others, naturally).
 
Summerhill and similar schools produce people who are healthy, empathic, and respectful of the rights of others. From the 1949 British Government Inspectors' Report on Summerhill (the school was founded in 1921); [emphasis added; full report may be read here]:
 
"The main principle upon which the School is run is freedom. ... the degree of freedom allowed to the children is very much greater than the inspectors had seen in any other school and the freedom is real. No child, for instance, is obliged to attend any lessons. As will be revealed later, the majority do attend for the most part regularly, but one pupil was actually at this School for 13 years without once attending a lesson and is now an expert toolmaker and precision instrument maker. This extreme case is mentioned to show that the freedom given to children is genuine and is not withdrawn as soon as its results become awkward."
 
"... the children are full of life and zest. Of boredom and apathy there was no sign. An atmosphere of contentment and tolerance pervades the School."
 
"... the children's manners are delightful. They may lack, here and there, some of the conventions of manners, but their friendliness, ease and naturalness, and their total lack of shyness and self-consciousness made them very easy, pleasant people to get on with."
 
"...initiative, responsibility and integrity are all encouraged by the system and that so far as such things can be judged, they are in fact being developed."
 
"Summerhill education is not necessarily hostile to worldly success."
 
The report backs up that last point with a list of degrees held and careers followed by former pupils. Summerhill works, in important ways that coercive schooling and coercive society in general do not. Summerhill works because the Doctrine of Love and Freedom – the doctrine of liberty and compassion, of non-aggression and emotional health – describes the most important fact about human nature.
 
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Conclusion
 
To succeed, the freedom movement must understand, embrace, and promote both sides of the duality: liberty and compassion in equal measure. Any group sincerely working for a peaceful, prosperous, and healthy world must understand this, or their hard work will only reinforce the toxic Left-Right paradigm and contribute to further destruction of civil society.
 
Note to progressives: Neither love nor freedom requires the coercive State, and neither can long survive the coercive State. Liberty and compassion are one, a connected and interdependent duality, and must be seen and treated as such. The Doctrine of Love and Freedom is the only path to a civil society because the artificial splitting of those qualities sickens and diminishes human beings, bringing tyranny and cruelty as the inevitable result.
 
There may be time yet to reverse the damage done by Left-Right Statism and to create, instead, a world of compassion and liberty – but the hour is late. The time for this is now, today.

 

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Glen Allport's picture
Columns on STR: 105

Glen Allport co-authored The User's Guide to OS/2 from Compute! Books and is the author of The Paradise Paradigm: On Creating a World of Compassion, Freedom, and Prosperity.

Comments

tzo's picture

I agree very strongly with you that the emotional component is ultimately important, as emotions will overpower logic for deeply-held beliefs. Throwing data at an unwilling freedom-convert results in an emotional wall of defense. Logic will almost NEVER break down that wall.

The human part of humans is emotion. If you can connect with the emotions of an unwilling freedom-convert you will have a much better chance of working with him. How to do that? How to convey the data of your argument and at the same time appeal to emotion without triggering the automatic emotional defense? That's the tricky part, and I imagine it's different with every person.

That's why it's important that sites like STR are around, pumping out a stream of arguments that come in from every angle, because there is no small set of arguments that will universally make an impression.

And this is another great article, Glen, reminding everyone not to forget about the human connection that is necessary to spread the ideas of freedom and compassion. It is all too easy to get angry at people who won't listen, but I am coming to believe that many people can't listen, especially to overly-assertive arguments. Many are so emotionally damaged that demanding logic from them in certain areas of thought is like demanding that a person with a broken leg sprint across a field with you. It just won't work.

You have to take the time that is necessary to fix the damage to the point where you stand a chance of moving forward. Nothing else will work.

Of course the easiest route is to teach the next generations properly from an early age so they do not sustain such crippling damage, and then after all us old codgers die off they will be in a better position to shift the paradigm.

Glen Allport's picture

Great comment, tzo.

"teach the next generations properly from an early age" -- yep, and of course that's why every State insists on running or regulating the education process. But it's not just education; preventing emotional damage begins in the womb (there's a relevant study featured at today's PhysOrg.com about prenatal stress affecting the children of the stressed mothers, in mice for this particular study; url removed in hopes of getting this comment past STR's over-vigilant spam filter), during birth, during infancy and of course throughout childhood. Modern, hi-tech birth practices -- including the now-record number of C-sections being performed (over 25% of all US births) often cause trauma, block or weaken the mother-child bond, and otherwise cause emotional repression of pain that lasts a lifetime -- and which makes people more likely to fall victim to demogogues who promise to provide the things that stand in for what the people didn't get when they were small (love, compassion, etc) and to pin blame for whatever is unpleasant in life on scapegoat groups. The emotional repression and diminished sense of connection also make it much easier for people to support, and even to cheer on and insist upon, repressive, police-state measures (for "security" or other supposed benefits) and assaults on other groups, be they drug users or those with the wrong political views.

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

Glen, thank you for writing this piece. It's the perfect complement to your other writings on the need for both the sina qua non of the nonaggression axion/self-ownership concept and the equally valid perception about the value of empathy and love. PS: At the upcoming Libertopia festival in San Diego (http://libertopia.org/), there will be a presentation by the Summum Bonum Learning Center (a learner-driven learning center), which is now being organized around an educational process that recognizes this two-fold need in the education and raising of children. This educational venture will not be launched until September 2013, but those involved in its development are keeping these twin aspects of liberty at the heart of this learner-centered mode of education.

Paul's picture

While I am in general agreement with this article, I have some quibbles with it.

First, the notion that if we only craft our message properly, more people will sign up. Nock's essay "Isaiah's Job" warns that maybe this is the wrong way of looking at it.

But even if you don't break humans down into "Remnant" and "Masses", there are problems. People generally aren't influenced by argumentation, not outside their area of expertise. I don't agree that there are a few thinking people and many who don't; instead my view is that virtually everyone thinks in some area, that I call their "area of expertise", but outside of that they just depend on a worldview to give answers. For example a mechanic may know an amazing amount about how to get power with reliability out of an engine; but he just takes his worldview's default when the subject of war comes up. And arguing against a person's worldview is pretty hopeless. As Dale Carnegie put it, "You can't win an argument".

I am pretty doubtful of this notion of "damaged people", although of course in extreme cases that is so. I think people are actually quite resilient. A good thing too, otherwise no one would survive their parents! I think we have a tendency to look at people who don't agree with us and say, looking down our noses, "He must have had a terrible childhood." Or we try to evangelize freedom, just like the leftists used to do back in the seventies - remember that old phrase, "consciousness-raising", as if the people they were targeting for their evangelism were unconscious? That always struck me as a bit presumptuous, yet here we are doing the same thing.

I also don't think we have been underemphasizing compassion all that much. It's usually part of the discussion whenever freedom comes up.

My view is that people are generally going to stick with their worldviews until some shock breaks them out of it. When the worldview fails them, only then are they going to be open to another paradigm. And that will happen soon. I don't think there is anything irrational about this behavior, because no one has unlimited time in his life; he must default some opinions to what his worldview tells him. I don't think people are stupid, or damaged or anything else of that nature. They are just being people, that's all. That's the sort of beast we are. Anyway if people could be so easily swayed by argument, they'd be swayed back the next time they ran into a statist with a plausible line.

The wonder is not that what we have been doing has gotten so little result; but, given how humans work, that it has gotten so much. Let's not be impatient. Many more will come around when the empire crashes.

Glen Allport's picture

"People generally aren't influenced by argumentation"

-- I agree, Paul, but, like you, I write anyway. One of my points is that getting a more accurate paradigm or framework into people's minds dramatically increases the chance that they will understand the world in that more accurate way; repeated exposure to the new paradigm is, however, needed. Ten or twenty years of exposure isn't uncommon before someone sees something that has been right in front of them all along; I'm thinking of people I know who were certain the drugwar was necessary despite all the data showing how harmful it is, and only after many, many exposures to the idea that ALL THAT DATA had an explanation did it pop into their heads that yes, coercion and violence against drug users and sellers might not be a good idea.

"I am pretty doubtful of this notion of "damaged people""

That's what the links and references are for. Believe me, the science is overwhelming that trauma (pain, be it emotional or physical) early in life leads to unhealthy emotional, behavioral, and physical consequences. The paper on the ACE study linked in Section 7 above is reasonably short but absolutely makes the case: The Relationship of Adverse Childhood Experiences to Adult Health: Turning gold into lead. There is an ocean of other data from many sources, and it all points to this: emotional damage (much of which is caused by the State, as anyone who lost a family member in a drone attack could tell you) is [edit: among other things] a powerful tool for keeping the State in power and for molding all those unthinking (or badly thinking) supporters of the State and its demogogues.

"My view is that people are generally going to stick with their worldviews until some shock breaks them out of it."

Many paradigm shifts have happened without such an apparent shock (the new paradigm kinda IS the shock, really) -- the Enlightenment, Newton's laws, the germ theory -- such things changed minds because enough evidence had built up to support a change in view and the new paradigm fit the new data extremely well. This column was written to show that The Doctrine of Love and Freedom meets that criterion: it explains a large number of important facts that the paradigm of Left-Right Statism clearly does not, and which the libertarian framework itself is only partially able to explain.

"Many more will come around when the empire crashes"

I hope you are right, but I don't see much evidence for that in history. Russia isn't much more free now than under the Soviets -- it sure isn't anything like a libertarian oasis -- and every dictator who has toppled in recent decades, from Marcos to the Shah, has been followed by more tyranny. The faces and rhetoric change but wrecking a nation and replacing the power elite with another group of psychopaths doesn't really bring much improvement.

Suverans2's picture
Glen Allport's picture

Thanks, Suverans2! Good marketing/promotion info.

Paul's picture

"repeated exposure to the new paradigm is, however, needed."

Agreed. But the point I am trying to make is that it matters what form this exposure takes. If you look at people as damaged, even if they are, and that you are going to fix that damage, you are not going to connect with them. If you look at this as simply a marketing problem, or a question of more effective evangelism, you are not going to connect with them.

I say it is better to not think of people as being damaged - instead, to think of them as a combination of their genes and their thoughts and their experiences, both good and bad.

The advantage of this is that at least you can be honest with people. If instead you look at people as damaged, you have to conceal what you are about. Could you go up to someone and say, "I think you were damaged by your upbringing, but if you listen to me, I can fix this damage of yours?" Of course not, that would get you nowhere. But if that is what you are thinking to yourself, you are not being straightforward with people, are you?

I went through most of my life trying to fix the world, but the world was not having any of it. And now I think I was wrong to do that. I don't want to fix the world any more; I just want to live the rest of my life as free as I can be, and ideally without fear. If others see what I am doing and decide on their own they want that too, well good. But it is not necessary that they do. I have only a very low standard for them, that they can easily meet: leave me alone.

That's not to say I don't argue for freedom; obviously I do. But I do it because I enjoy it and hope others can get the point. If they don't, that's OK too.

I don't think people can be voted free, or argued free either. It really has to come from inside.

Glen Allport's picture

This is an excellent bit of commentary, Paul. I believe I understand your position and certainly respect it (because it respects others, and is both intelligent and well-intentioned). I have a very unusual perspective -- meaning only that I don't know many people who share it -- and THAT, along with issues of wording, are mostly what we're talking about, in terms of differences between our views.

On people being damaged: they are, that's the simple truth, and I say that plainly. I don't conceal this from them. You, Paul, are damaged. So am I. If it's easier to hear, the word "hurt" is just as accurate. People ARE hurt in early life -- if there are any exceptions to this, I don't think I have met them -- and no, for the most part, I don't think people are going to get "fixed." I certainly don't think anyone is going to get fixed or cured by reading anything I might write, because "getting cured" involves deep feeling of whatever repressed experiences someone is carrying around. The number of people willing to do that, or who even know that such a thing might be possible, is close enough to zero as to make no difference in the world as a whole. On the off-chance that anyone reading this might be interested in the idea, check out anything by Dr. Arthur Janov, starting with 1970's The Primal Scream. Janov's blog (Google it; the STR spam filter blocks almost every URL I try to add) is worth reading and is a good, bite-size-at-a-time introduction to his ideas. The basics are this: Neurosis is the repression of feeling, and the remedy is to feel. Not to talk about feelings, or come up with insight about feelings, or change your behavior, but to actually FEEL those things that were too much to feel when they happened, long ago. As I said, the number of people on the same page is, basically, zero.

What people CAN do, fairly easily, is change their behavior towards pregnant women, newborns, infants, and children. You don't have to get well to do THAT. You don't have to get well to support smaller government (or no government), either. If enough people begin to understand that both freedom AND compassion are important, then they'll change their behavior accordingly, to whatever extent feels right to them (which includes whatever extent their psychological defenses allow). THAT is how the world can change for the better, even without trying to fix (most of) what's wrong with the world now, and without expecting people to get "fixed" or "cured" when, in fact, almost none of them are even interested in trying to do that.

So I agree completely, Paul: it really has to come from inside. That means, to me, that future generations must be treated better than ours has been -- if so, then THEIR "insides" will be healthier, and with any luck at all, that trend will continue. We can help kick-start the process; your writing and mine, and the freedom movement in general, can help put people today in touch with the real part of themselves -- the part that knows, despite the lifetime of propaganda and repression, that both love and freedom are what every human being needs, and are what the WORLD needs if we're ever to have something better than the global tyranny being planned for us.

Suverans2's picture

Thumb in the air for Paul.

Glen Allport's picture

I second that, Suverans2. And I'll add that my response to Paul's last comment should have included an acknowledgment of his idea that "how the message is presented is important" and that people basically don't want to hear about their own emotional damage. (My response was, I fear, a bit snarky and defensive). So I agree with Paul's pont, and at the same time I think it's important for more people to understand that unlove and other trauma to children HURTS them, and that THAT is a major reason why the world is in such a mess and that liberty is hard to find and erodes back into tyranny every time.

Knowledge (in this case of the cause of neurosis and other psychopathology, and of their role in tyranny) is a critically-important tool for improvement, AND, at the same time, many (most?) people shy away from the topic, because it is inherently painful. This argues, again, for multiple approaches from multiple people who understand the paradigm but explain it in their own way; when enough discussions on the topic of liberty AND compassion are taking place, when enough people hear the phrase "the Doctrine of Love and Freedom" and have been exposed to at least some of the framework by different writers and speakers -- some of whom "click" for them even if others don't -- then we'll be on our way to improvement.