"The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds." ~ Isaiah Berlin
Freedom is Not an Intellectual Pursuit
Column by Paul Bonneau.
Exclusive to STR
Every once in a while, I get tired of arguments around here, trying in some way or other to justify freedom and liberty. One can go overboard with this stuff.
After all, does one need a PhD in Philosophy to understand freedom? Of course not. Everybody already understands it. It’s just doing whatever the Hell you want to do. No justification is needed.
Of course we always seem driven to include the extraneous qualification, “as long as we don’t harm others’ ability to do the same thing”--as if people are too dumb to figure that out. One can imagine a rolling of the eyes...
Yes, we have seen the attempts to make freedom look like a law of Physics. Lots of arm-waving is usually involved in this; Molyneux has made probably the most famous attempt. Then there are of course the expected responses disproving (or attempting to disprove) it. Other folks seem driven to try to shoehorn the whole idea into some kind of “natural law.” Why? Who the Hell knows? I guess they figure something called “law” is more respectable, or maybe they are uncomfortable living their life without law, just as some people are uncomfortable living without rights, or without a Constitution, or without even a flag! Hooray for Old Glory! So to speak...
Invariably there are quotes thrown around from French guys dead 300 years; that always helps the argument!
I recall long, passionate discussions in the leadership of the Libertarian Party of Oregon over obscure points of dogma, with everybody seeming to mistrust or hate each other, and completely missing the point of what it would really be like to live free. That was when I was a freedom newbie; still I would sit and watch this behavior, bemused.
Well, OK, I’ve done it too. Sometimes it’s hard not to be drawn into arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. But we shouldn’t deceive ourselves about how important these arguments are; they are a sideshow.
The real show is what is going on in the minds of ordinary people, who neither know nor care about dead French philosophers. The question is, when do they give up on the propaganda that no longer even roughly appears to describe reality? When do they start getting angry? When do they decide not to put up with crap any more?
Freedom is doing what you want to do. That, and not letting anyone push you around. All you really need to know.
When I tire of these arguments, I find myself looking for a bit more earthy company. You know, folks who probably won’t wet their pants if anyone ever knocks on their door at 3 a.m. People who can put a bullet in a target at 500 meters, even in a stiff breeze.
One favorite place of mine is Michael and Neema’s and DJ’s FreedomFeens, where you can just listen to two guys talking about freedom and laughing at current examples of state idiocy. My all-time favorite episode is Two Killdozers in Every Garage. And by all means, see their film “Guns and Weed.” These folks are friends of mine.
Another place I like to hang out is Sipsey Street Irregulars. Now, Mike Vanderboegh is not even an anarchist; in fact, he’s kinda irritated at anarchists, and is more of a Constitutionalist; but he sure gives the ruling class Hell-- the current embarrassment over the “Fast & Furious” fiasco roiling Congress is mostly his doing. I’d give my left arm to be able to write and blog like he does. And, he’s coming out with a killer book in just a few days that everyone really, really needs to buy: Absolved.
Will Grigg is another “take no prisoners” blogger I like. He really has a line on the criminal justice system.
Finally, I spend plenty of time in the Free State Wyoming forum and the Montana Alliance for Liberty email list. The former does indulge in a few philosophical masturbations now and then, but that is a small minority of what’s there. And today we were just talking about the advantages of the .338 Win Mag compared to .30-06 for killing grizzly bear on the Montana list. Ah, now that’s what I really needed!
I hope people who visit STR don’t get the impression that freedom and liberty are complicated things. They are not. These sites I mention probably reach a lot more people than arcane and esoteric arguments do.