What’s Wrong With Freedom?

CW responded (TableAus Jan/Feb 2007) to my articles on the morality and virtue of a society based on the banning of the initiation of physical force, with various arguments about what is wrong with such a free society.

I am afraid that CW’s Letter to the Editor (TableAus, Jan/Feb 2007) amounts to the argument “I strenuously object to a society in which the initiation of physical force would be forbidden, because my personal political aims and morality cannot be achieved without it!”

So strident is C’s reaction that the shrapnel includes some remarkable claims. Apparently I propose a society that is “anarcho-capitalist” yet with a “strong police and military” (look up “anarchy” in the dictionary, C.). Apparently it includes apartheid, even though that is impossiblewithout the initiation of physical force to maintain it. Apparently it is “Orwellian”, despite the essence of Orwellian dystopias being dictatorships and police states founded on force. And so on.

The kind of free society I promote can only exist as a consequence of the kind of philosophy it grows out of, namely one based on rationality and its implicit virtues of honesty, justice, integrity, independence, productiveness and pride. The monsters C fears shrink from the light of such a society. Sure, there might be some people who discriminate against others on the basis of irrational prejudices. But in the absence of institutionalised (or for that matter, personal) force to impose that discrimination, they can only be a minor irritant not a major problem: and a self-limiting irritant, because they are irrational, and the irrational cannot last because by its essence it is opposed to reality. There are plenty of nasty people in the world and probably always will be, and their nastiness is no better or worse for why they’re nasty. If we’re going to outlaw nastiness because we don’t like it, I suggest that the desire to initiate physical force against others as a shortcut to one’s goals is about as nasty as one can get! But settling arguments by force is not the way. To paraphrase a quote often attributed to Voltaire, “I disagree with what you say and do, but I defend to the death your right to say and do it.”

Similarly, the other goals C professes could and would easily be achieved in a free society – it is just the ability to impose them by force that would be barred. How exactly to achieve those ends is however not of great interest to me, as those ends are not the justification of my philosophy, just a natural consequence of a philosophy whose fundamental value is human life and fundamental method is adherence to reality. It is easy enough to work out how and why it must be so – for anyone in the top 2% of IQ who cares to understand what I’ve written and proceed to think about it.

However I do agree with the other of C’s assumptions: if indeed his aims could only be achieved by the initiation of physical force then I say those aims would and should fail. If the only way you have to achieve your aims is by force, then it is your aims that are faulty, not your victims. Perhaps I am but a dewy-eyed idealist, but it never ceases to amaze me: the astounding arrogance of those who are so sure that their morals and aims are right, that they think they are right to impose them by force on people who disagree. I have many times been accused in the pages of TableAus of being “overly certain” – yet I would never stoop so low.

© 2007 Robin Craig: first published in TableAus.