Freedom vs. Liberty: How Subtle Differences Between These Two Big Ideas Changed Our World

 

“I see the liberty of the individual not only as a great moral good in itself (or, with Lord Acton, as the highest political good), but also as the necessary condition for the flowering of all the other goods that mankind cherishes: moral virtue, civilization, the arts and sciences, economic prosperity. Out of liberty, then, stem the glories of civilized life.” – Murray Rothbard

The terms “freedom” and “liberty” have become clichés in modern political parlance. Because these words are invoked so much by politicians and their ilk, their meanings are almost synonymous and used interchangeably. That’s confusing – and can be dangerous – because their definitions are actually quite different.

“Freedom” is predominantly an internal construct. Viktor Frankl, the legendary Holocaust survivor who wrote Man’s Search For Meaning, said it well: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way (in how he approaches his circumstances).”

In other words, to be free is to take ownership of what goes on between your ears, to be autonomous in thoughts first and actions second. Your freedom to act a certain way can be taken away from you – but your attitude about your circumstances cannot – making one’s freedom predominantly an internal construct.

On the other hand, “liberty” is predominantly an external construct. It’s the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views. The ancient Stoics knew this (more on that in a minute). So did the Founding Fathers, who wisely noted the distinction between negative and positive liberties, and codified that difference in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The distinction between negative and positive liberties is particularly important, because an understanding of each helps us understand these seminal American documents (plus it explains why so many other countries have copied them). The Bill of Rights is a charter of negative liberties – it says what the state cannot do to you. However, it does not say what the state must do on your behalf. This would be a positive liberty, an obligation imposed upon you by the state.

Thus in keeping with what the late Murray Rothbard said above, the liberty of the individual is the necessary condition for the flowering of all the other “goods” that mankind cherishes. Living in liberty allows each of us to fully enjoy our freedoms. And how these two terms developed and complement one another is important for anyone desiring to better understand what it means to be truly free.

Continue reading Freedom vs. Liberty: How Subtle Differences Between These Two Big Ideas Changed Our World at Ammo.com.

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We Still Haven’t Learned Voltaire’s Lesson

It’s fascinating how easily people accept something they would otherwise know is wrong when someone they view as an authority figure tells them it’s right.

Voltaire observed, in 1765, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” This truth has led to many of the worst horrors in history.

People still haven’t learned the lesson.

There are hordes of people working full-time — at your expense — to trick you into believing absurdities. My hope is that you’re smarter than they expect.

Unfortunately, many of our fellow humans do fall for the trick. They lack awareness of when their behavior violates others. This lack of awareness enables atrocities, too. No one can be expected to quit doing what they aren’t aware is wrong.

Some of these believe the world owes them an easy life because they are so special and irreplaceable. After all, some authority figure has preached this absurdity to them, and it sounds good.

The sense of entitlement this creates is breathtaking. If you threaten to withhold what they’ve been told they are owed, they’re ready to commit atrocities until you relent. They refuse to accept the reality: no one owes you anything beyond not violating you.

These people expect their rights to be respected, but they refuse to respect the rights of anyone else. They even imagine “rights” that would enslave others. They aren’t aware of how absurd this would be.

The good news is no one needs to stay trapped in the absurdities they once believed. Growth requires rejecting those absurdities so you don’t commit atrocities.

The awareness of the rights of others, and how to respect them, is libertarianism.

I first discovered I was a libertarian about 20 years ago. Before then I hadn’t given it any thought, but at that time I began to examine my values and beliefs. I was willing to discard anything that didn’t stand up to scrutiny.

When I was young and accepting of absurdities, I tried to make excuses as to why it was OK to violate some people’s rights under certain conditions. I eventually came to understand you only deserve as much liberty as you respect in others.

I’m glad the realization came before I participated in any atrocities.

Believing absurd justifications of why it’s OK to do things to other people when you know it wouldn’t be right for them to do the same to you is a dangerous trap. Avoid it.

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Underwear in a Wad

Nobody asked but …

I don’t even want to hear my opinion on the outcome of the Kentucky Derby, but here it is anyway.  There are rules for voluntary participation.  And sometimes the rules may be misapplied.  But the basic rules of voluntary behavior are 1) end it, and 2) move on.  Nobody wants to recontend the Derby, except those who have direct skin in the game.

There was a bump, apparently, and the lead horse was involved.  Why have a voluntary rule prohibiting bumps, but then disregard it based on the feelings of the majority?  Why have replay, if you can’t review it, and rely on the officials to interpret the rules to make the call in a reasonable time (it might be noted that the time involved may have been unreasonably stretched)?

We are in a newer world where detailed, multiple angled replays are available, in most sports.  Some people think this means that the findings are open to debate and determination by clamorous democracy.  What is it that they don’t understand about their explicit and implicit risk of not liking the outcome?

— Kilgore Forelle

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“You Don’t Like Cops”

The people around me know I don’t put up with bullies, thieves, molesters, thugs, or any archators. Yet, they choose to characterize this as “You don’t like cops“. Really? That’s what they get from that? That’s what they focus on?

They’re right. I don’t like cops.

Not because they are cops, but because they are bullies and thieves and molesters and thugs and otherwise nothing but archators. Even if they very rarely do something helpful. There is no such thing as a “good cop”– no good person can be a cop. Not because they are a cop, but because of what the “job” requires. In the exact same way that there can’t be a good rapist.

I don’t make exceptions to disliking bullies, thieves, molesters, thugs, or any other archators just because it’s part of the “job” they choose to carry out.

To abbreviate this as “You don’t like cops” is to miss the entire point.

The only reason I can see that this would be the focal point is that those around me make an exception for behavior they would otherwise recognize as bad, as long as it is carried out by a cop (or other government employee). Things they wouldn’t tolerate anyone else doing, they justify when done by a goon wearing a badge. That’s kinda pathetic.

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The ADHD Overdiagnosis Epidemic Is a Schooling Problem, Not a Child One

Childhood exuberance is now a liability. Behaviors that were once accepted as normal, even if mildly irritating to adults, are increasingly viewed as unacceptable and cause for medical intervention. High energy, lack of impulse control, inability to sit still and listen, lack of organizational skills, fidgeting, talking incessantly—these typical childhood qualities were widely tolerated until relatively recently. Today, children with these characteristics are being diagnosed with, and often medicated for, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at an astonishing rate.

Early Schooling Contributes to Increased Diagnoses

While ADHD may be a real and debilitating ailment for some, the startling upsurge in school-age children being labeled with and medicated for this disorder suggests that something else could be to blame. More research points to schooling, particularly early schooling, as a primary culprit in the ADHD diagnosis epidemic.

Over the last several decades, young people are spending more time in school and school-like activities than ever before. They are playing less and expected to do more at very young ages. When many of us were kids, kindergarten was mellow, playful, and short with few academic expectations. The youngest children are the ones most often caught in the ADHD medical dragnet.Now, 80 percent of teachers expect children to learn to read in kindergarten. It’s not the teachers’ fault. They are responding to national curriculum frameworks and standardized testing requirements that over the past two decades have made schooling more oppressive—particularly for young children.

The youngest children are the ones most often caught in the ADHD medical dragnet. Last fall, Harvard researchers found that early school enrollment was linked to significantly higher rates of ADHD diagnosis. In states with a September 1 school enrollment age cutoff, children who entered school after just turning five in August were 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than children born in September who were about to turn six. Immaturity, not pathology, was the real factor.

The ADHD Fallacy

Marilyn Wedge, author of A Disease Called Childhood: Why ADHD Became An American Epidemic, sounds the alarm on ADHD overdiagnosis. In a Time Magazine article called “The ADHD Fallacy,” she writes:

By nature, young children have a lot of energy. They are impulsive, physically active, have trouble sitting still, and don’t pay attention for very long. Their natural curiosity leads them to blurt out questions, oblivious in their excitement to interrupting others. Yet we expect five- and six-year-old children to sit still and pay attention in classrooms and contain their curiosity. If they don’t, we are quick to diagnose them with ADHD.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percent of very young children (ages two to five) who were diagnosed with ADHD increased by over 50 percent between 2007/2008 and 2011/2012. As of 2016, data show that 9.4 percent of all American children, or over six million kids, had been diagnosed with ADHD, and almost two-thirds of current ADHD-diagnosed children were taking medication for it. A March 2019 report on ADHD by Blue Cross and Blue Shield found that among commercially insured children of all ages, ADHD diagnosis rates increased 30 percent in just eight years.

While the symptoms of ADHD may be troublesome, looking first at the environment, rather than the child, may be an important step toward curbing the ADHD diagnosis epidemic. In his book, ADHD Does Not Exist, Dr. Richard Saul, a Chicago behavioral neurologist, explains that individuals diagnosed with ADHD either have external factors that exacerbate normal symptoms or have some other underlying condition that should be identified and treated. In the latter instance, he finds that once the underlying condition is discovered and treated, the ADHD symptoms usually disappear. In the former instance, changing the environment is a key step toward improvement. This is true for both children and adults with an ADHD diagnosis. Dr. Saul writes:

Like many children who act out because they are not challenged enough in the classroom, adults whose jobs or class work are not personally fulfilling or who don’t engage in a meaningful hobby will understandably become bored, depressed and distracted. In addition, today’s rising standards are pressuring children and adults to perform better and longer at school and at work.

An Environmental Mismatch

Addressing an environmental mismatch for ADHD-diagnosed adults could mean switching one’s job or field of study or pursuing a true passion. Maybe you’re an accountant who wants to be a carpenter or a nurse who wants to be an entrepreneur. For ADHD children, changing the environment could mean removing children from restrictive schooling altogether. As Boston College psychology professor Peter Gray writes:

What does it mean to have ADHD? Basically, it means failure to adapt to the conditions of standard schooling. Most diagnoses of ADHD originate with teachers’ observations.

Jennifer Walenski saw firsthand how transformative removing her ADHD-diagnosed child from standard schooling could be. She shares her family’s journey at The Bus Story and told me:

Our kids were actually in public school originally. Our son also was diagnosed with both ADHD and autism while he was in the school system. And they wanted to medicate him. But we said no. Then we took him and his sister out of school and began homeschooling them. Fast forward several years, he has absolutely no need at all for medication. He is just a normal boy who did not belong in that kind of environment. And most of us don’t. Think about it.

Walenski’s experience echoes that of other parents who removed their ADHD-diagnosed children from standard schooling. In an informal survey analysis, Gray discovered that when ADHD-labeled children left school for homeschooling, most of them no longer needed medication for ADHD symptoms. Their ADHD characteristics often remained but were no longer problematic outside of the conventional classroom.

Self-Directed Learning

Gray’s analysis also revealed that the ADHD-labeled young people who fared best outside of standard schooling were those who were able to learn in a more self-directed way. He found that the

few kids in this sample who were still on ADHD medications during homeschooling seemed to be primarily those whose homeschooling was structured by the parent and modeled after the education one would receive in a conventional school.

Replicating school-at-home can also replicate the problematic behaviors found at school, whereas moving toward unschooling, or self-directed education, can give young people the freedom to flourish.

Ending the ADHD overdiagnosis epidemic depends on a societal reality check where we no longer pathologize normal childhood behaviors. Much ADHD-labeling originates from forced schooling environments with learning and behavioral expectations that are developmentally inappropriate for many children. Freeing young people from restrictive schooling and allowing them to learn and grow through their own self-directed curiosity can lead to happier and healthier families and children.

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Obsolescence

Nobody asked but …

One of the frictions that promotes change is obsolescence.  I have looked, this morning, at a drone photo of Hong Kong.  As a species blessed (cursed?) with rational problem solving skills, we seem at the same time to lack problem avoidance skills.  In Hong Kong the traditional problem solving algorithm will eventually kill Hong Kong.  There are too many people.  The solution that becomes a new problem is effected by people doing what Ludwig von Mises says they will do — seek to avoid unease.  Too many people in Hong Kong have an irrational need to remain in Hong Kong.  The unease they seek to avoid is the fear of living apart from Hong Kong.  The natural response, in any urbanization movement, is to act together in ways that will increase density.  Taller buildings increase the density of people who can live in them, while smaller compartments on each level increase the density of people who can live on each level.  Since the invention of multistory buildings, the answer to the problem of population has been to go up and to squeeze in.

Looking at Hong Kong, more than anyplace else, we can see a logical conclusion to the obsolecence algorithm.  Every available segment of verticality will be absorbed.  Horizontal shortcuts will enweb the complex, making it a hive.  Skyscrapers will approach the limits of structural capacity.  People will approach survival occupying only personal space-time.  But that’s enough speculation — we don’t want to gaze upon the Medusa.  The good news is as follows:

  • Misean behavior takes on infinite forms, paths, and interlocking consequences.
  • There are infinite mixtures of events and trends.
  • The requirement that human action arises from unease is not a stricture but an enabling prerequisite.  Anything, real or imaginary, that generates in any experience a feeling of unease will generate behavior hoped to reduce the unease.

Make no mistake.  This is not a description of a Leibnizian best-of-all-possible-worlds.  Hong Kong is a demonstration of the absurdity that will arise from a set of variables — the humanity in Hong Kong keeps fighting the battle of urbanization without asking do we need to change the pattern.  The pattern is obsolete.  A larger pattern applies — that which will end, will end.

— Kilgore Forelle

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