Saturday, 7 December 2013

I want to revisit an old post today for elaboration and clarification, since in its current form I'm not really happy with it. I am referring to this one:

I did not mean by this that, for example, if you are a slave you should remain as such because freedom isn't really all that great. I support freedom in virtually any situation because I believe it to be demonstrably preferable to oppression. I believe it to be an ideal worth striving for, because it is better than the alternative.

A classic argument for Austrian economics is that people are better suited to make choices for themselves than the government is to do so for them. The vast amount of variables and individual preferences and needs in any economy is too much for any human centralized power to control. By leaving choices to the individual, and allowing a self-regulating market, people are able to live their lives as seems best to them. While mistakes will inevitably be made, they are almost certainly not as common or as damaging as a mistake made by a controlling power that has to attempt to regulate everything at once. And there's another aspect, too: people are more likely to learn from their own mistakes and the mistakes of those close to them then they are to learn from the government's mistakes, or even more likely than the government is to learn from its mistakes. There are a lot more details and arguments in favour of this system, but for now, there is just one fundamental principle to remember: it works better than the alternative for maximum benefit to all concerned.

There is also, of course, the very probable outcome of the ruling power not even trying to work for the benefit of those within. Slavery causes far much more damage on a whole than any good it might conceivably do for the ruling class. Governments may make policies based on popularity rather than practicality, in an attempt to stay in power - or they may just outright force their will onto everyone under them.

On the other hand, there are certain specific situations where freedom is not the best ideal. One is the matter of children. When they are very young, they simply can't handle making all of their own decisions. Their parents have to stop them from shoving whatever the find into their mouths, because hey, that can kill you. Their lives need to be regulated until they learn how to make proper, beneficial decisions.

I'm going to use myself as an example for this. About a week ago, I failed my driving test before I even got out of the parking lot. I got too close to another vehicle while attempting to turn out, the examiner had to tell me to stop, and that's an automatic failure. Obviously, I wasn't very happy about that. At the time, I probably thought that was a bit extreme, to fail me on such a small thing. But it actually makes perfect sense. The point of that test is to see if I can drive without someone supervising me. If the examiner has to tell me when to stop, then I obviously don't meet that qualification. So I failed based on "judgement". Until I have better judgement of when to stop my vehicle, I can't have the freedom to drive on my own. While I'm not legally a child, I still can't drive on my own until I can make better choices in that matter.

The other main case in which "freedom" is not inherently preferable is that of God and humans. In this case, we have a centralized power that is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. He knows exactly what is going on in any given moment, and exactly what is best for that situation. A common objection to divine authority, particularly in novels, is the idea of an aloof god, who can't truly understand humanity, with all of their flaws and imperfections, and so is not qualified to judge. This is simply not the case. Omniscience means, by definition, that He does know everything about us. He does truly understand all of our imperfections. Not only that, but He sent Jesus to live as a human, to actively experience the world exactly as we do. In this case, there's no justification for claiming that God couldn't possibly understand your situation well enough to justify obeying His commands. He really does know best.

As a final note, a friend of mine left a pertinent comment on the original post: "Freedom exists only where submission is made. The modern man is free to be a slave to his own desires." One can question whether true moral freedom even exists, or if those who do not follow God are only slaves to their base instincts.

There is more to be said, especially on the nature of morality. But I think that would be better left to another post. For now, I hope I have shown that freedom is valuable beyond an abstract ideal, but not to the extent that it is grounds for rejection of God's authority.

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