Monday, August 01, 2005

The anatomy of liberty...

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I've always been an individualist, in spite of my adolescent flirtations with the far left. I've always intuitively believed in our spiritual voyage in pursuit of what we ultimately discern is valuable to us. Be it artistry, money, love, or family, or all of the above... our determination of meaning in our own lives, and the journey we take in that regard, is one that government and society should foster, and protect at all costs IMO.

I think that many people, from both sides of the political spectrum, fundamentally treasure liberty. It ubiquitously envelopes the competing visions for the role of government...liberty is threatened, depending upon your perspective, either by the monolithic imperiousness of commercialism and unaccountable corporate power... or the excessive meddling of government...

Liberty is not something, I believe, we are born with as human beings. I do not believe that God endows us with that unalienable right. It is a right we have to guarantee for ourselves, together.

We are inherently social creatures. The whole concept of 'survival of the fittest' and a meritocracy in the absence of collective intervention is inherently flawed. Charting this right wing, anarchistic metaphor for our genetically inherited predispositions actually identifies why it is such a fallacy. Does the strongest caveman survive? The biggest, most capable individual. Or does a collection of cavemen come together to offset his individual advantages?

Hence, even the most ardent and principled free market fundamentalist would see the need to have some kind of authority installed to prevent the excessive growth of monopolies that ultimately supress competition and opportunity for individuals, or smaller companies. To protect our liberty from the excesses of the free market.

Yes, government must always fundamentally accept that success or failure in life is our own responsibility as individuals. It must always place the emphasis on self-reliance. Government must never think it is its place to create some brand of utopia... because by definition, utopia provided for us, isn't any type of utopia at all... happiness is earned, financial security is earned, the success of our relationships with those that we love is a tough journey that we have to take ourselves, experience and grow from. It's governments place to secure our platform, and influence the construct within which we take our journey.

It's why I consider myself quite "hawkish" on most foreign policy issues. We should be acting together as a world, or amongst as many likeminded and capable nations as possible, to reduce the influence of tyranny and oppression on this planet. I am glad Saddam Hussein is gone. The failures of Iraqi reconstruction, which I discussed in my previous post, "Blair's Legacy," cloud the basic truth that the potential does now reside amongst the Iraqi people to build a more free and just society. Military intervention, IMO, was right for a dictator who had used WMD's with such disregard for human life in the past, and had undermined the integrity of the international community by refusing to co-operate with inspections, and a multitude of security council resolutions.

But, military intervention is not always the best remedy. In other parts of the world the intrinsic resonance of freedom is fermenting its roots in the spirit of people, via ever improving technologies and more available means of communication.

And, of course, the exponentially growing cultural force of free societies.

NY Girl, linked to an article where a businessman in Saudi Arabia was shocked to see a group of young girls in Burka's mobbing a star of their TV version of "American Idol." I can think of nothing more profound than the beating of teenage hearts freely expressing themselves inspite of their repressive garments and pervasive ideologies.

The essense of what I'm trying to say is that our lust for liberty as the foundation upon which we are free to make the most of our lives is something that we all crave. But, it is something that doesn't simply exist if we try and restrain the role of government as some kind of universal, inviolate dochtrine. Liberty is an ambition. It is an ideal that we will always be working towards. It something we must stand up together and defend in our communities, in our cities, in our nations, and in the wider world. The activity of governement isn't a threat to liberty. It is what precisely those activities are, and the ideals upon which they are based that determines their positive, or negative influence upon the freedom we are chasing.

At a time like this in London, I'm reminded that we all have a role to play... beyond the votes we cast for representatives to act upon our behalf.


Universal Soldier said...

An interesting post. I personally believe that liberty is an abstract idea that most of us can't afford to deal with in our everyday lives. Our "liberty" is restricted by our need to find work and keep it, to look after our families and provide for them. I'm sure the people of Niger would like to feel that they were free but at present they are too busy trying to keep themselves alive. Fortunately this isn't a position that many of us find ourselves in. So yes we should care about liberty and strive to ensure that our governments allow it.

Graham said...

Couldn't agree with you more Universal Soldier. I think we should also strive for our governments and international institutions to take a more active role in compensating for the inadequacies of the free market, and the wider world. I wish there was more vision and imagination applied to addressing domestic and international problems in politics.

NYgirl said...

Beautifully writen Graham & thanks for the link. There does need to be a better way to address the world's democracy deficite. The first step in it, I believe, should be respect for democracy.

Graham said...

I agree. We should never take our freedom and self determination for granted. That's where it all starts.