To Live in a Genuinely Free Society

Lysander Spooner famously wrote in No Treason:

But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case it is unfit to exist.

I think about the vaunted American devotion to liberty in a similar way: Either the American people have greatly preferred serfdom to liberty or those who truly loved liberty have been so few and so weak in their resolve that they have been powerless to obstruct the long-run march toward participatory fascism since the late nineteenth century.

In either case, it is a travesty to make a great show, as Americans habitually do, of their extraordinary love of liberty. Such avowals are at least 90% hot air, and at present it is doubtful that even one American in twenty would give up his smartphone in exchange for the opportunity to live in a genuinely free society.

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Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute and Editor at Large of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and he has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, the University of Economics, Prague, and George Mason University. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and Stanford University, and a fellow at the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation.

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Don Duncan
5 years ago

I don’t control what others do, and don’t want to. But most give away their power to an elite who try to control them and me. The elite is exempt from control of course, but they don’t admit it and the majority ignore it. Given that society is irrational and self-destructive, I do not respect it or its control (law). I self-govern. I take care of myself and my own. I have been aware that I live in a fascist society since I was 16 (1958). I don’t salute the flag or worship rulers (politicians, bureaucrats, authorities). For my own… Read more »