The Natural Flow of Freedom
People often use the quote, “The only constant is change.” Sometimes this phrase (or something similar to it) is used to bash over the head those who prefer liberty and freedom to government interventions. We are told that those who don’t embrace social change through government must love the rich, hate the poor, and enjoy seeing people remain in their current undesirable status quo living situations. The irony is that government is not what initiates true change on the human level. Collective government force is no more convincing than an individual thief holding a gun to your head – you may do what he tells you to do, but you’re not going to suddenly change your view of the world because of it. If anything, you will increasingly resent the thief the longer he holds a gun to your head and tells you how to live. True change comes on an individual basis, and the only “system” in a social sense that ever truly embraces and supports this change is freedom.
I like to think of freedom as a natural river. It creates and develops its own course while adjusting to storms and other barriers that may present themselves over time. The river may choose to run off into countless tributaries, just as various human civilizations throughout history have chosen to pursue different goals. However, all those tributaries come from the same source somewhere high in the mountains no matter how far they may stray during their journey to the sea. The many smaller streams cover wide portions of land and make their own paths, but they are all part of that initial head river.
Think of the government as a dam in this scenario. A group of enlightened, flawless, and selfless people (kidding) with the greatest of intentions decide the river is best served by molding it into a lake by creating a dam. The freedom of the river is impeded, but the source and flow of the river remains the same (however minor and ignored it may be). This is a key concept to grasp when trying to understand freedom and the free market. No matter how much government intervenes in the marketplace and civil liberties of individuals, the natural forces of freedom are always at work. A dam may hinder the river’s progress, but no matter how big the dam the natural river will always maintain its usual flow. In other words, no matter how grand and daunting the government may appear, the natural flows of freedom will always be in the background chipping away at the inevitable flaws of a nanny state.
This is exactly why every communist, socialist, and any other big government society built on coercion either has or always will fail. These governments are built and survive purely on force and coercion. You’d be hard pressed to find a government that could remain intact were people allowed to choose tomorrow whether or not to support it with their lives and labor. People naturally choose freedom and liberty, and collective government force is the dam to that natural course.
Freedom is the only “system” built on the assumption of human change and creativity. Government programs lock people unnaturally into one way of thinking; governments do their best to convince us that they just need a little more power over the people to end some sort of misery in the world. Governments also attempt to plant the idea that without them the whole world would enter sheer and utter chaos, as if governments haven’t already been able to achieve that with countless wars, displacement and slaughter of millions of people, and now the buildup of trillions of dollars of debt and worthless paper money to pay for bankrupt and corrupt systems.
Regardless of your political or economic views, true sustainable change will only come through freedom on an individual level. Change will not come from these central geniuses who somehow are qualified to solve all of humanity’s problems; change will come from individuals on a local scale utilizing their unique creative expressions. Top down movements never last because they are not built by the people for whom they are intended. Freedom’s beauty is that it unleashes individual creativity in ways that a government bureaucrat could not begin to comprehend. Freedom gives people the chance to create the life and world they want to live in; it doesn’t force them into a Utopian society as imagined by a few politicians and bureaucrats. One of the odd things that crosses my mind as a 17 year old is: why am I forced to pay taxes (when I haven’t even been able to vote yet) for programs created before my grandparents were born, by some politicians I never would have supported, all of which will probably be bankrupt within the next 20 years? At least I can look forward to voting on the next crook who will manage my own money even though he didn’t do a thing to earn it.
As farmer, lecturer, and author Joel Salatin explains in his book Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal, government laws currently discourage local cooperative farms, sustainable living techniques, and even prevent people from building a house smaller than 900 square feet. Both national and local government laws, regulations, and codes prevent individual creativity and actual change from being unleashed as it would in a true free market situation. The primary side effect of all government intervention is that the state essentially mandates that things be done a certain way, no questions asked. You either farm this way or it’s illegal. You either build the house this way or it’s illegal. You want to grow hemp and use it for ethanol, plastics, and clothing? Sorry, it’s illegal. What kind of a boring, confining, pitiful setup is this? Such a system is guaranteed to put a damper on the creativity and ingenuity of individuals, and that is exactly what it does.
Remember that each individual in this world is unique in some way, shape, or form. You can try to put the perfect system on paper, who will manage it, how you will enforce it, how you’re going to have everyone else pay for your Utopia, and what you’ll do to people who don’t accept your line of thinking. Now consider; is the most successful social system or principle going to be the one that uses a top down, bureaucratic, centralized power approach? Or is it going to be the one that encourages individual creativity, responsibility, and initiative? Most likely the latter will appear more attractive. In reality, all you need to achieve these honorable goals is one simple but very powerful tool: freedom. A society built from the ground up on the daily voluntary interactions of free individuals. That is where real change will begin.