Freedom From Reality | Libertarian Society Singapore


"Capitalism is basically a system where everything is for sale, and the more money you have, the more you can get. And, in particular, that’s true of freedom. Freedom is one of the commodities that is for sale, and if you are affluent, you can have a lot of it." - Noam Chomsky, Language and Politics

This quote is attributed to Noam Chomsky, one of the prominent philosophers of our era. Chomsky, while against state intervention, is also a vehement opposer of capitalism.

The statement challenges our basic premises - Is freedom truly for sale? If so, who does one buy freedom from? What exactly is freedom, and what does it entail? Is it a tangible commodity that can be traded? If the rich are free, what are they free from? If one were to grab random people off the street and collate their answers into a notepad, he would end up with a wide range of answers. He would come to the conclusion that the term "freedom" would appear to have varying meanings for different people.

There are those who would say that the freedom that one strives for is the freedom from coercive force - be it government, man or mob.

Then there are some who say that true freedom is the freedom from financial necessities - just google "financial freedom" and observe the constant bromides about attaining economic freedom.

Finally, we have the ones who believe that true freedom is dependent on what you make it out to be, that freedom is a meaningless term unless you ascribe meaning onto it i.e. subjectivism, existentialism. A good example would be the apparently contradictory belief of "freedom under force", as I have mentioned in my earlier essay: The Assault on Liberty

While there may exist other answers, these three seem to be the most prominent in Singapore today.

So what exactly is the freedom that libertarians strive for, and is it attainable?

I will not be addressing subjectivism, since that would entail that all concepts are meaningless and that they have no objective definitions - that as long as people feel that they are free, they are free. I will reserve an article on addressing such epistemological relativism for another time.

Consider a working-class labourer - he survives on bare subsistence; he works hard to make the money he does keep, so that he can feed himself (and his family). The alternative that confronts him is natural - produce, or die. Is he free to make choices in his life?

Then consider a rich man that has benefited vastly from cronyism; he, by virtue of the state, gains a coercive monopoly - his job is easy, but he is subject to the list of legal by-laws that hold him liable at the point of a gun. The alternative that confronts him is man-made - obey the men that make the laws, or die. Is he free to make choices in his life?

The proponents of socialism often cite the shoddy imagery of a poor person having no other choice but to take a job, to work under an employer, since the alternative he faces is production, or death. In that manner, they claim, he is not free. Is he really? One merely needs to examine that very same claim objectively to determine its irrelevance - The richest man in the world too faces the same alternative, except that he has more resources to rely on. If we were to reach the logical conclusion of such faulty reasoning, then by any account, no man is free. And that would be true, simply because no man is free from the conditions that are demanded by reality.

The fact remains that reality is absolute, that simply by existing, there are certain pre-conditions that you have to fulfil in order to survive. People who formulate moral and political philosophies on the basis of trying to avoid this "tyranny of reality" are thus woefully misguided.

What the proponents of this manner of reasoning do is to damn man's limited identity:

"His argument, in essence, ran as follows: man is limited to a consciousness of a specific nature, which perceives by specific means and no others, therefore, his consciousness is not valid; man is blind, because he has eyes—deaf, because he has ears—deluded, because he has a mind—and the things he perceives do not exist, because he perceives them." - Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual

In the same regard - man is not free, because his identity is limited.

Factually, capitalism is the only system that allows for the liberation of men from the necessities of nature. Imagine yourself, if you will, a man in a third-world country working on his land from dawn till dusk, relying on natural fertilizers and on the mercy of the elements. Then consider the American "capitalistic" farmer, who only works half as much, aided by a tractor, and then retains the physical capacity to read the "Communist Manifesto" prior to sleeping every night. 

When was the last time America had a famine? When was the last time a poor farmer in a third world country experienced one?

We do not advocate, nor seek to remove the alleged "shackles" of nature. 

What about man-made scenarios? What about the "shackles" enforced by men?

Freedom, as properly espoused by libertarians, is freedom not from reality, but from the coercive actions of men. The facts of nature are immutable, but the facts that are made by man not necessarily so.

Libertarianism then, as a political idealogy, advocates political freedom, not the freedom to avoid the necessities of nature.
Axact

Libertarian Society Singapore

We believe that freedom and liberty is a moral right. The role of the Singapore government is not to run the economy and run our lives, but simply to protect the rights of Singaporeans. Find out more on various social media avenues!

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