Man was born free but he is everywhere in chains
According to Jean-Jacques Rousseau“Man was born free and he is everywhere in chains”. It is not a given to think that everyone wants to be free. Most people are willing to sacrifice freedom for security. In an economically free society, the primary role of government is to protect individuals and their property from aggression by others. Studies have shown that living in a country with high overall economic freedom is a relevant determinant of feeling in control of one’s own life. Therefore, economic freedom also influences individual happiness by giving people the decency of being able to earn a living, be prosperous, and the feeling of being more in control of their lives. However, it is a misconception to believe that everyone wants to be free.
Can you handle freedom?
It is not a given to think that everyone wants to be free. Most people are willing to sacrifice freedom for security. J.M. Buchanan noticed that the majority of scientists, scholars, and academics have assumed that people want to be at liberty to make their own choices, to be free from coercion by others. This assumption has failed to emphasize the fact that liberty carries with it responsibility and it is evident that many people do not want to shoulder the final responsibility for their own actions.
Buchanan noticed that many persons are indeed afraid to be free. Relatively few persons are sufficiently strong as individuals, to take on the full range of liberties and their accompanying responsibilities, without seeking some substitute or replacement of the parental shelter they had when they were a child. Religion does serve this purpose. Organized communities constitute partial parental replacements for some. But more importantly, the State takes on this parental role by stepping in and relieving the individual of his responsibility as an independently choosing and acting adult. In exchange of course for this safety, the State reduces the liberty of the individual considerably and dictates every aspect of his life directly or indirectly. For some individuals, the order and certainty that the State provides may be well worth the sacrifice in liberty. Those persons want to be told what to do and when to do it; they seek order and security rather than insecurity and freedom, and order comes at a cost that they seem willing to pay.
Man was born free but he is everywhere in chains. But it doesn’t have to be this way
It is possible to find freedom in an unfree world and this is exactly what Harry Browne wrote in his book “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World,” it is natural for people to look for security, to look for something reliable and safe. The three forms of security that most people are seeking are: (i) financial security, (ii) intellectual security (the assurance that one is right in his belief), and (iii) emotional security (assurance that one will always be loved).
To be self-reliant is to recognize the fact that no one is as concerned about your future as you are, and no one knows as much about you as you do. People who are self-reliant know that the responsibility for anything concerning their life remains with them and they accept that responsibility. Harry Browne teaches us that a free person takes full responsibility for both the good and the bad in their life. If the market for their service should change, it isn’t a disaster as they are mentally prepared for this possibility and immediately look for something new while others sulk over their bad luck. If the product they sell goes out of fashion, they look for something else that is in demand. If the government raises taxes, they look for a way to legally avoid them. A free person recognizes their own sovereignty. They value their life above all and refuse to make others responsible for their future. Freedom is the opportunity to live your life as you want to live it. It is easy to think that you lack the opportunity to be free because someone has the power to enslave you. But those prison walls only exist because you have chosen to allow them to stand.
The secure individual knows that the future is uncertain but is vigilant. To be vigilant is to recognize that there will be constant change in the world. There will always be unknown factors that could affect your plans. The secure individual is always prepared for changes and surprises and is prepared to deal with them as they arise. Self-reliance means being honest with oneself, acknowledging mistakes as they become known, and not brushing them under the carpet and pretends they don’t exist. If you can accept your mistakes, you can correct them, pay for them (there is always a price to be paid), and learn from them.
Insecurity comes from vulnerability. The insecure person relies upon protectors, institutions, and people who (they hope) will guarantee the result for them; but intuitively they know that their interest can’t possibly be the paramount interest in someone else’s life and remain vulnerable. Vulnerable people often spend more energy trying to look for unreliable protectors than trying to improve their own self-reliance. Having security is always possible, but it can only come from the willingness to handle situations as they arise and having the knowledge and confidence to know that you can do so.
Intellectually insecure people will look for a philosophy that will confirm their moral correctness. They will look for a leader to compensate for their lack of confidence and will look for an enemy to justify whatever goes wrong. That individual refusal to take responsibility for their own actions will condemn them to the illusion of being free when in fact they are in shackles.
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The desire to be loved, to be understood and appreciated is universal. The problem is that most people believe that the only way to be loved, understood, and appreciated is by earning it. Most people seek perpetual love and understanding by getting married, by joining groups, or by having children. A challenging idea that Harry Browne puts forward is the idea that if you rely upon yourself, you know that you can find the type of person who will appreciate you. If you rely solely upon marriage, family, or groups, you know intuitively that you are vulnerable; you can be deserted at any time. You may find someone to marry, but that doesn’t mean that they will always love you or that they will always understand or appreciate you. When you get married, that person does not belong to you, matrimony does not equate to being in a ‘marital prison’.
“Relationships are like birds, if you hold tightly they die, if you hold loosely they fly, but if you hold with care, they remain with you forever!”Unknown Author
Live and let live
Being free also means letting others be free. “Everyone’s freedom ends where the freedom of others begins.” Being free means freedom from the urge to control others. The idea is to be able to get to the point where you don’t feel that someone must act in a prescribed way towards you. You don’t have the responsibility to make people see what you see and to act the way you act. It is not your responsibility to convince others of the rightness of your idea. Your only responsibility concerning other people is how you deal with their actions that affect you and the choices you then make. People are free to be and to act the way they want; each person sees their own happiness in their own way. Some may be successful in their Quest, some may not. Your Quest is to understand that you are sovereign, to understand that you have choices, to live your life the way you want, to free yourself from self-imposed shackles, and to try not to fall into the traps and boxes that await you along the way.
For a more detailed analysis on this subject please refer to Chapter 7 of my book “This Is Your Quest.”
 Jean-Jacques Rousseau (28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778 – Switzerland) –Philosopher, writer, and composer. Best known for his book “The Social Contract or Principle of Political Right” said to have influenced the French Revolution. James McGill Buchanan (3 October 1919 – 9 January 2013 – USA). Economist. Best known for his work on “Public Choice Theory.” Harry Browne (17 Jun 1933 – 1 March 2006 – USA). Author best-known for his book “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World.” 1789 Date of the French Revolution Declaration of Individual Rights of Man and Citizen
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