2012-10-10

Actually, Freedom IS Free

Freedom Isn't Free
We see the bumper stickers everywhere. They ominously remind us that freedom isn't free. They imply that freedom is "paid for" by the "sacrifice" of armed servicemen in foreign countries. For example, we "paid for some freedom" when we went into Vietnam and chose sides in a bloody civil war. We "paid for some freedom" when we went into Nicaragua and did the same. We "paid for some freedom" when we defended Kuwait in the first Iraq War. We "paid some more" when we kept going back and bombing and subsequently re-invading Iraq. We are paying for some freedom in Afghanistan. We paid for some in the former Yugoslavia. We bought some freedom in Rwanda, albeit a bit too late to get too much freedom there. We're paying for freedom in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. We're threatening to pay for some more freedom in Iran.

Despots of the world, take heed! We have the means to pay for freedom, and we're not afraid to use them!

Yep, we have to pay for freedom, alright, or so says our government and our population's nationalists. Over the course of three decades of life, I have seen exactly how it is we pay for freedom, and the answer is, we go in and invade little countries.

Lucky for us, there is the valiant libertarian movement. They also offer us ways to pay for our freedom. For example, the Ludwig von Mises Institute offers us swag. The LvMI offshoot, Laissez-Faire Books, offers us... books, as well as some subscription services. Peter Schiff offers us financial services. Freedomain Radio offers us a lot of free stuff as a means by which to sell additional speaking engagements and the like. The Cato Institute sells all kinds of stuff, but if you're not in the market for any of it, they are more than happy to accept your generous donation.

Actually, the same goes for the LvMI, Freedomain Radio, The Molinari Institute, The Ayn Rand Institute, and pretty much every other libertarian organization out there.

Two Competing Views Of Unfree Freedom
And so it goes. We find ourselves confronted with "two alternatives" in the epic battle for our own personal freedom.

On the one hand, we have "the state," who promises us freedom in exchange for our blood, spilled over and over again on foreign soil, "protecting American families" from such threats as communism and terrorism. No one ever stops to consider that the number of American civilian lives ended by communism and terrorism combined is a pale and minute fraction of the number of lives our government has personally ended through military force on foreign lands. The philosophical question might be this one: How many foreign lives are worth one American life? How many people in other countries must we kill in order to save one American life? If the number is very large, how can we morally justify this? As the storm troopers set up shop in our airports, high schools, malls, and grocery stores, are we ever moved to ask whether the "cost" of freedom is giving us any return on our investment? As our freedom disappears to pay for our sense of freedom, who among us is prepared to question the "price" of whatever "freedom" we have left?

But that's just on the one hand.

On the other hand, we have the libertarian movement, be they avowed advocates of a "stateless" society, or mere minarchists vowing to work "within the system." They assure us they are doing important work, "spreading the word of liberty," which for the most part consists of selling books and tickets to public speaking engagements. They write compelling essays with which we all, naturally, agree completely. Gosh, how eloquent they are. And the t-shirts are to die for (well, not literally). Did I mention they are on sale? Not enough money for a t-shirt? Then how about a button? A bookmark? A hat? A hoodie? Support liberty! Buy our stuff!

Making Sense Of It All
Don't get me wrong. Of the two "options," I would much rather "pay for liberty" using my hard-earned cash on useless swag that proclaims my allegiance to the "liberty movement." That is certainly a preferable option to dying or getting maimed in a faraway land, or being groped at the airport, or being roughed-up on my way to Trig class, or being pulled over on the highway because my physical features look vaguely exotic. Or whatever.

So, yes, the option of just wasting a lot of money on cheap crap certainly appeals to me more than physical harm.

Still, there's something very cheap about this libertarian movement. It seems to be big business. Books, podcasts, YouTube videos, books, speaking engagements, books, books, articles, books, donations, t-shirts, books... All to "spread the word." All to "educate."

But if you believe in the case for liberty, do you really need all this stuff? If, for you, markets and human rights and being left alone are where it's at, what do you get out of wearing a button? Of what benefit is a t-shirt with Murray Rothbard's head on it? More importantly, what to gain from reading, listening, or watching your favorite members of the libertarian movement repeat arguments and tropes with which you already fully agree?

In short, what exactly are you spending your money on?

Actually, Freedom IS Free
Consider this: In the information age, with access to the internet, you can learn anything about freedom you want to... for free. There are numerous websites dedicated to the topic - yes, even many of those I listed above. You can take free college economics courses; you can audit some of the finest university courses in the world, also free of charge. You can study and learn and immerse yourself in the information of liberty to your heart`s content.

So, if you want it, for heaven's sake, don't feel you have to pay for it.

But that's really just a sideshow. There is something more important going on here. Listen carefully: No one needs to be an interlocutor between you and your freedom. You simply don't need a laundry list of libertarian celebrities defining your freedom for you.

Why not?

Because freedom simply is. What is a human right? A human right is something that belongs to you, simply because you are alive. You don't need a state to "give it to you." You don't need an intellectual to describe it for you. All you need is you.

You have the right to think and speak and live however you please. It's true, over time, we have had a massive overrun of government rules that have impeded our ability to live as we please. It's also true that we should take it upon ourselves to scale back the rules and keep our political system as liberal as possible - that is, having as few rules as possible. All of these things are true.

But you don't need to keep hearing that over and over again. You don't need to buy t-shirts and books that describe all this for you (especially since you can get all that stuff for free, anyway). Your personal sense of freedom is something that belongs to you - and nobody can take it away. Moreover, no one is better equipped to understand the freedom that you have than you.

You don't ever have to pay for freedom, not ever. Freedom is something you already have. You can choose to exercise that freedom or not, in light of the various obstacles our governments and activists groups choose to throw in your way. But you don't ever have to pay for it. You already have it.