Today’s #MondayMotivation is this astute observation by economist Milton Freidman, who is widely regarded in libertarian circles as one of the 20th century’s most effective communicators of the freedom philosophy, but whose more pragmatic and less principled approach sometimes divides opinion of him.
Friedman’s remarks help us remember that libertarianism is as much about living one’s life according to a rational faith in human freedom as it is living without false belief in government action creating peace, prosperity and progress.
The latter only brings confusion, disappointment and despair. The former, in contrast, brings clarity, optimism and hope – which are essential ingredients for true happiness founded on truth and not ignorance or delusion.
In our private lives, consisting of both our personal relationships and our economic exchanges, we all act according to some degree of faith in the freedom of others that we possess, whether we realise it or not. Some of us have more than others, but we all have it. Parenting and then experience hardwires it into our brains. Anyone who allows their husbands, wives, friends, family and coworkers to act according to their own will is unconsciously demonstrating their faith in the freedom of those people.
If I lost or abandoned my faith in the freedom of the people in my life, then I would find myself needing and wanting to control their behaviour. Since the only way to do this would be by using coercion, doing so would destroy my relationships with these people and thus the value they add to my life and the value I add to theirs.
If they could, then at the first opportunity they would flee my tyrannical attempts to control them and I would never see them again. If escape was somehow impossible, then they would lose all love and respect for me, and all desire to stay in any kind of relationship with me.
My loss of faith in their freedom would transform the people in my life into my prisoners; victims instead of voluntary participants. And that would be no life at all. For them or for me.
Belief in freedom, faith in free markets, is essentially faith in human goodness and kindness; the belief that most human beings, when allowed to peacefully pursue their own goals, won’t (intentionally or unintentionally) harm you and don’t want to do so. It’s this and more.
It’s also knowing that such freedom has unlimited capacity to benefit us all, and thus having faith that increasing individual liberty will benefit everyone. This isn’t fantastical thinking, it’s rational thinking based on experience, and the science of ethics and economics.
What is truly fantastical thinking is believing that we will all be wealthier and happier if we get to live lives designed and planned for us by people wielding government power like it’s a magic wand and not the lives we are each designing and planning for ourselves as we live.