evolving away from freedom

I imagine a man in a thick forest, wandering around in search of berries or roots. He carries a sharpened stick for spearing fish. He has no dependents and is content to sleep in makeshift shelters.

This man has few constraints. He requires food and water. To obtain these things it costs him significantly fewer than eight hours a day. With his free time he may do whatever he pleases, granted his options are somewhat limited. Since he is on his own schedule, he can dry enough meat in one month to live for a few months, or he can hunt more often. He answers only to himself, works only for himself… and I think he has the purest form of freedom.

Now, this man must have learned to hunt, or what vegetation is edible. In some sense, this man starts of with a sense of obligation. He owes his parents or his teachers for his knowledge, and so he may wish to take care of them in their old age. He acquires more constraints. The elderly cannot move too often, so the man builds more stable shelters and procures more food. Still, this can be done in fewer than eight hours a day. He cannot move as often, but otherwise he is free to do what he wishes.

We may realistically assume that the man does not know how long he will live. He knows that when he is elderly he will have a harder time procuring food, and so he takes out an insurance policy – he has children to care for him in his old age. In so doing he must aquire a few more constraints – a woman and a child. Still, he can feed all of his dependants with not much more work. Emotional constraints are bound to emerge – and the man’s free time will likely not be quite as discretionary. He will be somewhat obligated to spend time with these people. Which, given the few other options he has, may actually enhance his free time.

At any rate… this small group is relatively flexible. They enjoy a freedom that is absolutely unobtainable in our society.

We are not born into a world where we can wander the land (there are property rights), and if we want land to wander upon we must have money (we must satisfy the wants of others) and we must continue to have money to pay taxes. The way in which we can use our land is often restricted as well, and should we not abide by these laws it will cost us more money. At every turn we must procure money, so we must satisfy the wants of others. What’s more is that we do not have a few hand-picked and personal dependents, we have a whole number of them that we do not know (funding welfare programs).

How, or why, is this system better than the the one that came so many years before? Why did it emerge, and for what reason does it linger? If freedome is the ideal, for what have we sacrificed so much of it? Is our technological system completly opposed to this free system? Could the two somehow merge?

I’d like to investigate answers to these questions.

7 Responses

  1. Martin says:

    So thankfully for you, for the moment, you are free to spread your economic philosophy upon these pages. I wonder what the unemployment rate is for philosophers. There is no danger of loosing a job such as that to a machine is there? Socialism, Communism, didn’t you forget Fascism? So you think that it’s about time that we give these old ideas a fresh look? Keep this in mind; it is always about power. If the government has more power the people have less, simple equation. You, Andrew, appear to love power, at least the power to live your life on your terms as nearly as is possible. What form of employment might you have under some form of government/economic system other than Capitalism? If you think the restrictions that exist now are a problem for self-determination let this thing slide down that slippery slope toward any of those afore mentioned alternatives and see what you can do under those circumstances. Capitalism has not been an infatuation. What you believe about the benefits of Socialism, and Communism are an infatuation primarily because of your lack of experience and knowledge of history. Why not give up that scholarship and really get your feet wet. Let’s see where might you go instead of here? Cuba, China, France, Bolivia, Venezuela, South Africa, any of those ought to be eye openers. Don’t just visit, give it a couple of years, live like the locals, get a job. Some many years ago there was a sign posted on the entry gate to Salmen field. It read, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose until you lose.” You see Andrew, you’ve been winning thus far and that winning has no small connection to the economic system of America’s “infatuation.”

    I had a friend once who was going to leave this country because there were so many things wrong with it. He left with a passionate hatred for this country. He didn’t go anywhere too radical. He liked what he’d heard about Australia. Less than a year later he was back here and happy about it. He was in his late twenties and had been around a bit. He was quite intelligent too, but also mistaken in his observations and his beliefs about the way things were. He thought he could find a less restrictive environment, it’s important to artists. He didn’t understand that he had been winning and getting just a glimpse of loosing made winning an important consideration. He lived here in Louisiana quietly winning until his death several years ago.

    These people in Washington, all of them, are drunk with power. How much of your life are you willing to allow them to control and at what cost to you? They’ve got people believing that large companies went offshore for cheap labor. Hell, if that were the case you’d think that GM would have moved the whole operation out of the country. They are in the process of breaking America so that they can save it for us. Do you really want this collection of incompetents determining how Americans will be allowed to live their lives? I’ve been around for quite a while and government has difficulty just doing the things outlined in the Constitution. They are currently ignoring the Constitution and have managed to screw up everything else they have put their hands on. Name one thing that the Federal Government has done well, ever. They broke the housing market and now they tell us they will fix it and save us. They are playing with the money supply and it seems most Americans don’t even know what money is or how it works. Fear creates the opportunity to seize power.
    Remember, it’s all about power.

  2. Martin:

    I’m not thinking we out to give old systems a new look – I’m thinking we need a new system all together. Something completely novel. Maybe the post after this one clarifies where I was trying to go.

    Of course, I’m not exactly sure where that is – or exactly what I’m getting at. I’m just thinking out loud here… I’m well aware of my “winning”. I get to eat ice cream while no small share of the world gets a cup full of rice. I have time on my hands to think about these things, and write about these things, because of the system in which I find myself. I’m aware of that. Capitalism has made some winners, but it has also contributed to making losers.

    Can’t there be some other system? Can’t capitalism be merely a stepping stone to something better? Surely social evolution, even economic evolution, has some evolving left to do, no?

    As always, I enjoy your insights.

  3. Martin:

    Oh, and about the Philosophy Major unemployment thing… I’m not so sure a computer will not be able to do philosophy in my lifetime.

    Until then, see here:

    http://www.thereitis.orgdisplayarticle637.html

    Employment doesn’t look so bad for philosophers. 😉

  4. Martin:

    Looking over your comment again… and looking over my posts again… I certainly enjoy your last paragraph. No wonder you get up in arms – I completely agree with most everything you outline there. Let me clarify – I have NEVER thought, even momentarily, that power should be centralized. When I hint at a future with some resemblance to a communistic or socialistic society – I mean to do so VERY selectively. I was mostly thinking of the theoretical egalitarian benefits of such structures, not actual implementations with centralized powers.

    Of course, given the fact that you have read so many of my other thoughts, I feel you interpretation of what I wrote should have immediately risen a red flag – it just doesn’t mesh well with any of my ideas! At any rate, I’ll do better to write more carefully – and you, please, read my individual posts in the context of the rest.

    All that aside, and hopefully clarified – the only qualm I have with your posts is: how do you suppose that the government ruined the housing market? I’ve read quite a bit about legislation that passed and was obviously detrimental to the financial system more broadly, but if people buy homes they can not afford… surely the government is not to blame for that. If you have the time, I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

    You don’t happen to have your own blog do you? You have so much to say, and usually say it so well. Also, what do you know about being an artist… I know you’ve very loosely hinted at the fact that you know something. I have specific questions, but no sense elaborating here… I’ve asked plenty of questions already.

  5. Martin says:

    I’ll probably respond at some later date. I’ve got a lot going on and my focus is elswhere at the moment. But while I’m here. Consider for a moment why a bank or any other financial institution whose business is making money would loan money to someone who is unlikely to be able to honor the terms of the loan/mortgage. Were these institutions seeking to acquire real estate that they are unlikely to convert to a break even amount after repossession? Why would a bank or mortgage company make such a profoundly stupid move? Once upon a time these people wanted 20% down payment and a very good credit record before making the loan. The borrower has to have the ability to pay in order for the mortgage holder to make any money. They are remember in the business of making money. Enter W.J. Clinton, J. Reno, Fannie an Freddie, et al. and later to be followed by George W. Flash back to the last thing that government did well…uhhhhh? I don’t have the time right now to pull up the dates or occassions when the government/president/justice department told the mortgage industry that their practices on making good, sound loans was leaving out (read that as discriminating against low income minorities) a large segment of the population that deserved the right to live the American dream of owing a home. The mandate began with 40+% of the loans to be made to people who would otherwise would never have been considered a good enough financial risk to get a loan. By the time W got finished with it the percentage was pushed to 50+% of the loans made. For the first time in the history of this market people could finance 100% of the loan. Welfare payments were considered income. You didn’t have to be a citizen either, no social security number was required only a tax ID number. Once the money was so loose people who had money began speculating. If the market is hot I can buy a place on a 100% mortgage or an ARM or sub-prime and hold it for a short period of time. With easy loans for ridiculous amounts of money housing was booming. Properties were in demand and over valued. After a year of rising property values I can sell my property and make a decent or perhaps indecent profit even after interest and taxes. The banks and mortgage companies didn’t want to have to eat all of those poor quality loans so they sold them for a fraction of what a sound loan would have brought just to get out from under the burden. Those loans were subsequently packaged with good loans and sold to speculators in various forms. The idea was to dilute the poison. This practice has gone on for probably as long as people have been putting bad fruit at the bottom of the basket. You remeber the addage about one bad apple? Old sayings do not get to be old saying because they are BS. There’s more to this discussion but you are bright enough to play out the scenerios. OBTW check out what the US Congress and its oversight committies were doing through all of this. Remember the power thing.

  6. Martin:

    All very well put. In my mind none of that removes all blame from the borrower.

    One might wonder why a legislator would push laws to help people get loans they cannot afford. If it was because that was what the people wanted to hear – well then, might we not blame those people still? Surely we would not want to think it was all a planned financial collapse. I’m thinking about the power thing, but I cannot wrap my head around the idea that the people didn’t have any.

    Good luck on whatever you have going on.

  7. Martin says:

    I agree that people are responsible for their actions. “One might wonder why a legislator would push laws to help people get loans they cannot afford.” Remember the rule: It’s all about power/votes. People who feel powerless are powerless. People who are comfortable in a dependent role will remain dependent.

    “Surely we would not want to think it was all a planned financial collapse.” That’s exactly what we would not want to think and what the people in power would not want us to think. From Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” The really troubling thing here is that this isn’t reserved to one political party. I never though I’d see the day when I’d have given such an idea a second thought, but now? It’s almost like being in The Matrix.

    Science fiction writers have often showed us what our future was going to be long before many could begin to imagine such things. We’ve been prepped can we resist?

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