I’ve often said, when describing my politics or values, that individual freedom is my most important. consequently, I believe in protecting individual freedoms of all types (safety, human rights, speech, etc – basically, one should be free to do anything that doesn’t infringe on another’s freedoms. )

I can see the desire for a sense of the collective, we do, of course, live in communities, and consequently, have shared goals.  It’s clear that the majority of people prefer living around others, and really, as a species, we’re physically not designed/evolved to be loners.

but I’m inclined to believe that when individual freedoms are protected, i.e. when all people in a community have a sense of their own freedom, then the community develops collective values.

and because I so strongly feel/believe in individual freedom, it seems gross and sick to want power over others, to govern them in any way.  even teaching and guidance are suspect.  it seems warped and unethical for any set of people to impose on another set of people rules governing their supposed collective good.

beyond that very basic protection of individual freedoms.

I also believe in morality, but that it can be only developed through individual choice. freedom.  any morality imposed from the outside, imposed by others, is clearly something else.  imposed morality isn’t morality.  morals are only chosen freely, otherwise they are obligations, rules, requirements.

from this you can extrapolate how I feel about, say, the extensive social services in our state. governments are run by people who don’t actually believe in individual freedom, and believe they can impose morality.

markets, on the other hand….

here’s why I’m thinking about this- it’s part of the framing-  and eventually reframing process.  deep down, having employees is about teaching, and about directing.  If you deeply feel that both can be problematic, clearly, having employees feels immoral, or at the very least, like a schism in values.

I’ve said, often, that I don’t know how to teach people.  I just realized today that there are two reasons so far-  the first is that I’ve always known how to teach myself, but the more hidden reason, and perhaps the one that makes it seem to distasteful to me, is that I, on some level, believe it infringes on the student’s freedom.

I’m inclined to soften this post somehow, wrap it up messily with a statement about how complex things really are, how, as a species, we’d never have gotten to this point without teaching and imposed rules and structures. all true, of course, and obvious. (we’d never have gotten to this point without any of the things that went before.)  I also believe in an evolution of values.  and that the only way to legitimate collective values is through individual freedoms.

Posted by:Brook DeLorme

5 replies on “on values

  1. If you think being an employer is hard, try being a parent! I also hold individual freedom sacrosanct (the sine qua non of what it means to be human), and I’ve thought long and hard about the same issues. I tend to view any encroachment on liberty – including seatbelt laws – as an existential threat! So, I am deeply wary of any “politics of the common good.” I have a vision of the common good that guides my own actions in the world, my own purchasing decisions, etc. However, I am aware that I inhabit a world where others do not share my vision. I am therefore less concerned with how to achieve any particular social ends than I am with preserving the political conditions in which my freedom to choose among ends is unhindered – conditions that global capitalism threatens in an increasingly ominous way. I simply don’t buy the idea of freedom as an interior disposition. I’m not sure Kant would agree, but I think there are material conditions of freedom and if government has any business in our lives at all, it is to preserve them. Perhaps the biggest threat to freedom is ignorance. When our moral agency has been compromised, by an abysmal education, a stupefying culture, when in a state of slavery, a matrix run by corporate elites, we’re convinced we are “free,” this is the most dangerous threat to our liberty of all. Which kind of complicates the parenting dilemma. On the one hand, you want to respect your child’s autonomy (I’m actually grateful, in retrospect, none of the adults in my life succeeded in saving me from myself). On the other, you don’t want to watch them swallow the blue pill. Makes it hard not to lecture. Good news is kids never listen to anything you say anyway. So hopefully, I’m getting the big lessons across by example.

    1. hey Elizabeth- so good to hear from you, you always have such thought-filled things to say :) that’s so funny about the parenting aspect, it never even occurred to me (not having had that experience myself, and having spent very little time participating in the upbringing of children!) you are so right, by example is the only way kids actually learn. or that’s how I learned. that and emotional messaging from my parents- which who knows whether they intended half those messages to actually get through… either the parents make huge mistakes and the kids are so determined to not repeat they head 180 degrees the other direction, or the parents make minor mistakes, and the kids just repeat them…ha.

      what do you mean, freedom as an interior disposition- a natural inclination common to all people?

      1. By “freedom as interior disposition” I refer to the tendency among conservative philosphers to equate “freedom” with “free will” – something we possess by virtue of our humanity, so yes, common to all people. According to this line of thinking, to surrender your will is to surrender your humanity. As long as you are capable of “willing,” you retain your freedom, even behind bars. Which is, of course, ridiculous. Typically, individual freedom is constrained at the point where it begins to encroach on the freedom of another. Sometimes it’s clear when that’s the case: you can drink to your heart’s content, but you can’t get in your car and endanger someone else’s life. Sometimes, it’s less clear … Because wealth and power tend to be linked, people who are economically disenfranchised are often politically disenfranchised as well.

      2. ah, yes, that makes sense. and I generally agree; the individual freedom I was discussing above is not simply having free will, but the right to act on it.

        however, I can see, from a spiritual perspective, what it means to retain free will, in the mental/ spiritual sense, even imprisoned. but again, to me that is a spiritual issue, not a political one.

        I’m not quite as horrified by our culture as you are, I’d say- while clearly it has plenty of stupid, materialistic, extravagant, and ill-informed aspects, it’s also created some excellent things- and I think permission to have the bad is also permission to create the good.

        Specific to this post, I’m most concerned about the self-propagating-without-real-necessity aspect of government. It infringes on the free will of everyone, creating public employees who have a job-preserving-incentive towards socialism/ communism.

        I can’t think of a time in history when a truly minimalistic government was attempted, and I’m curious if anyone else has knowledge of one. We all know about the great experiments with socialism/ communism/ fascism. And we know about countries that are in an anarchic state of war. But has there ever been an attempt at government with ONLY the responsibility to protects freedoms?

  2. Like you, I have libertarian sensibilities, and I am intrigued by Robert Nozick’s notion of a “minimal state.” In a minimal state, the government has one responsibility and that is to protect individuals. Who are free to organize and to live according to their own vision of a good society, even to redistribute their incomes, provided they do not force their way of life on anyone else without their consent. Nozick’s is a utopian vision, however, and it is important to remember that we live in the real world.
    I’m no historian, but I wonder if the framers of our constitution weren’t attempting to establish a kind of “minimalist government.” The system of checks and balances – including the division of government into three branches – functions to prevent two kinds of tyranny: the tyranny of sovereignty (a Hobbesian state) and the tyranny of the majority (which, unchecked, can lead to a utilitarianism in which individual rights are subsumed in the interests of the “common good”). In the United States, both the government and the people are restrained by rule of law. And the law, as it was written originally, was not so onerous. If anything, it seems to have set forth individual rights and to have placed the government in the position of protecting them.
    As for the “self-propagating-without-real-necessity aspect of government” what happens is that during times of crisis (War of 1812, Civil War, Great Depression, etc.) there is a transfer of sovereignty from the people to the government. This is not ipso facto a bad thing if the newly empowered state improves the conditions for the exercise of individual liberty. Sadly never the case.
    But, according to John Rawls, the state is justified as long as it is “neutral among ends,” that is, as long is does not impose a way of life on its citizens, but rather, enables them to pursue their own ends. Rawls, following Kant, distinguishes the “right” from the “good.” Whereas classical philosophy begins with a view of the common good and utilitarian philosophy attempts to aggregate the good (the greatest good for the greatest number), for Kant the “right” is prior to the “good.” Within the “neutral framework” there is room for disagreement, with egalitarian liberals like Rawls defending a welfare state and libertarians like Nozick claiming that redistributive policies violate individual rights.
    I guess I do favor a minimal welfare state – I do not believe without certain guarantees of security – in cases of job loss or injury, or oppressive debts – it is possible to exercise our liberty in a meaningful way. We would be paralyzed by fear and it is this kind of existential fear that leaves us vulnerable to Hobbesian solutions (which concentrate power).
    All by way of saying, I mostly agree with you, at the level of ideas. Maybe I’m less optimistic when it comes to what we could achieve in terms of a minimalist government in reality.

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