Punchinello’s Chronicles

November 4, 2009

Choice Creates and Measures Freedom

Filed under: Word of the Day — Punchinello @ 2:25 am
Tags: , , ,

What’s the definition of freedom? Seems like a simple thing, right? Many people have a general sense that freedom means being able to do whatever you feel like doing, or whatever you want to do. Is that freedom, though? I’m free to shoot someone in the head, right? If that’s what I feel like doing?

The conundrum seems to be the contrast between the freedom to do whatever I want to do, versus some kind of legal system that prevents me from doing bad things. What are bad things? Are there universally bad things? Is there an absolute good or bad? That’s where it starts to get tricky.

Is a prisoner “not free” because they’re behind bars? Or are they not free because they’ve been declared to be a prisoner? Is it the declaration of the law or the bars that remove someone’s freedom? What was removed? What does it mean to be “a prisoner of your own mind?”

One definition is that freedom is the ability to do whatever you want to do and not have to worry about how you’ll pay for it. It’s a pretty good definition, but what about societies that have no money? If we go back 50,000 years, before even barter systems, would we say that nobody was ever free because there wasn’t any money? Or do we say everyone was free because without money, nobody worried about paying for anything?

Then there’s the problem of money and owning money. Or owning people. Do we say that people are slaves because someone owns them? What if the slave-owner doesn’t have any money? Lots of people have been slaves and there wasn’t any discussion of price. One group is stronger than the other and has guns, whips, and chains. If you choose not to be a slave, you get killed.

Ah, and that’s where the concept of freedom begins to clarify. It’s in the word “choice.”

Look around you today. Many people don’t have jobs. Others have jobs, but they’re certainly not the jobs they would have chosen. In fact, more and more people are being thrown into poverty where they have fewer and fewer choices. Instead of a country where people have lots of choices, we have fewer choices.

When you go shopping, you see more and more of the same-old-same-old. That’s why people are shopping more online, because there are more choices. Tiny micro-businesses offer craft items, handmade items, or unusual and hard to find items. They aren’t international conglomerates offering cookie-cutter products…with no choice!

A man who owns another man, making the second man into a slave, only needs to remove all choice from that second man. The slave-owner doesn’t need money. Nor does he really needs guns. In whatever way, when one man removes choice of action from another, that creates slavery.

Consider the various new acts of congress under discussion. Do they offer more choices…or fewer choices? Who dictates the number of choices? When one central authority attempts to control choices, do we end up with more or fewer choices than free-market competition?

The conservative argument, nowadays called “extreme,” is that with less and less choice we have less and less freedom. But few people are defining freedom, and few people understand that it isn’t the loss of freedom that leads to less choice! It’s the loss of choice that, by definition means the loss of freedom!

Are you happy with your life right now? Many people are, but many more are not. How much choice do you have about what you’d like to change? How many options do you have as to what you’d rather be doing? Americans today are the first generation in a very long time with a lower standard of living than the previous generation. Did you choose that, or is the falling US dollar “forcing” you to deal with it?

When you have no choice but to go to work in order to pay your bills, then you no longer are free to act in whatever way you want to act. It’s not about whether or not you can pay for whatever it is you want to do! It’s about whether you can CHOOSE whatever it is you want to do!

That’s why we can clearly and unequivocally prove and demonstrate that no person truly can own another person. It’s because nobody can remove one’s choice to think or not to think. Excepting with drugs, lobotomies, and other damage to the human brain. However; with enough damage to control whether or not someone thinks, how much value remains in the human being controlled? Are they still human?

Another way to control someone’s mind is to present them with what appears to be a reality that doesn’t actually exist. Illusions can cause someone to think they’re choosing the correct action, when instead they’re being manipulated into acting according to whomever controls the illusion. That would be modern mind-control techniques, or “psy ops.”

All of that’s interesting and fun to discuss, but the bottom line is that we’re trying to define the word “freedom.” The concept of freedom, and the word itself, refers to a set of terms meaning “status” or “condition.” It’s a state of being. That’s the subsuming set, and we need only to find the unique identifier.

What’s unique about freedom? What separates it out from all other states of being? Choice.

Animals aren’t particularly free, in that they’re controlled by instincts. We don’t understand enough about living minds to know about animals for sure, but we currently tend to believe that most animal behavior is driven by low-level body conditions and/or instincts. An instinct is a biological motivator embedded in the cellular material, somewhat like a reflex. Even so, a dog does have some choice as to whether to bite or not bit, eat or not eat, piss or not piss.

Insofar as anything can make a choice on its own, that thing is free. Indeed, freedom is not an entity, nor is freedom an attribute. Freedom is a measure! Freedom measures the amount of choice relative to action. The more choice you have, the more freedom you have (or anything has). Choice requires a processing mind of some sort. We don’t say rocks are free. Freedom refers to living beings, and mankind has more choice opportunity than a squid.

The US Constitution, written by a group of philosophers, attempted to codify the principles of human freedom. The Declaration of Independence laid the foundation for intrinsic rights, granted by a Creator:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

The problem is that there wasn’t any definition of the word “rights.” Nor was there a definition of “happiness.” Indeed, the Founding Fathers held that God and Creator were the same concept, and purposefully did NOT hold anyone to a particular version of God. They did NOT specifically refer to a Christian God, or any other religion. America was particularly unique in that separation between the Church (religion) and the State was a fundamental aspect of the basic structure.

We all “assume” that the Declaration sets forth the argument in favor of freedom, and that the Constitution defines how the citizens of America will hold on to their freedom. But we don’t have the clear and absolute definition of exactly what is freedom. It’s the ability to choose and act upon those choices within a moral system, but primarily the ability to choose. To choose to affect reality around us.

Capitalism is the legal and moral system by which we retain the ownership of our chosen actions (if we choose to make something, build something, invent something, create something). “Ownership” is a legal right, granted within the structure of a legal system, and guaranteed through a contract.

A government has only a few basic reasons for existence. One of those reasons is to uphold and sustain contracts.

The ballot box and our right to vote is fundamentally about choosing our representative leadership. Freedom is the same thing as voting! It’s not that we have the right to vote, therefore we’re free. It’s that we are free, which means we MUST have the right to choose…to vote.

The US Constitution guarantees our right to choose. Capitalism produces the legal system by which we not only are responsible for our choices (and actions), but it’s the system of contracts that guarantee private ownership. The State has NO rights! The State is only granted authorities, and limited authorities at that. The State is NOT “free” to choose how “it” will or won’t act!

America was founded on the right of the individual to choose a social governance structure. That right to choose is what makes us free. We are not “granted” freedom! We simply ARE free! Free to choose! We have chosen to be constrained in our actions by a moral code, and presumably, a legal system that was supposed to agree with that moral code. Lately, we have less and less say in the matter…in ANY matter! Less and less choice, means we are less and less free.

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