In this blog I will attempt to analyze the ramifications of two profound statements relating to freedom, one from Dennis Prager and one from Milton Friedman, and draw some meaningful conclusions from them.
Dennis Prager made a statement on his radio show recently that “there are many people who prefer security over freedom”. This simple yet profound acknowledgment brought additional clarity to my thinking on equality and freedom.
In his book Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman made the statement, “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself”. Again, a simple yet profound statement that speaks volumes about the human condition.
Let’s work with these concepts and see where we end up.
As noted on our Equality page there are major differences between how liberals view the world compared to how conservatives view the world.
Liberals see the world as having three types of people:
- Victim sympathizers
Conservatives also see the world as having three types of people:
- Those who yearn for security
- Those who yearn for control
- Those who yearn for freedom
One is tempted to think that these two sets of groups align like this: Victims = Those who yearn for security; Victim sympathizers = Those who yearn for freedom; and Oppressors = Those who yearn for control. Not so.
Let’s look a little deeper.
There is a strong correlation between “Victims” and “Those who yearn for security”. Liberals define victims as those who are incapable of helping themselves because they are oppressed by society. Liberals ignore any difference between internal and external oppression. For example, someone who had a poor education by failing to participate while in school then dropping out early is just as much a victim as someone who is forcibly prevented from entering a school. Liberals do not discern a difference between poor choices (internal oppression) and exclusion by force (external oppression). In their view all oppression is external and nobody is a victim of their own actions.
Conservatives view victims largely as those who prefer to accept lower status for themselves and are primarily victims of themselves. In a country with as much freedom as America nobody has to be left behind unless they are unwilling to lift a hand to help themselves. In the conservative viewpoint those who are unwilling to help themselves vastly outnumber those who are unable to help themselves. They see government’s role as helping those who can’t help themselves and providing equal opportunity to all others. With overwhelming examples of folks attaining greatness across all fields of endeavor, despite humble and often times tragic beginnings or setbacks, it is difficult to argue against this mindset.
Those Who Yearn for Security
Liberals see those who yearn for security as a shepherd sees a flock of sheep. In other words, they need to be fed, watered, and protected from enemies. In the grand scope of prey animals sheep are more defenseless than most. They are not fast, ferocious, or armored. And without a shepherd they are easy pickings for predators. Unlike sheep, who are defenseless by nature, people who prefer security are mostly defenseless by choice. They see themselves as unable to help themselves instead of unwilling to help themselves. They will assume the role of victim if someone else will assume the role of protector.
Conservatives see those who value security above all else as willing to make a trade. They will trade security for freedom. That trade has to be made because you can’t have freedom without risk. Freedom brings the opportunity for spectacular success and spectacular failure. These people fear risk, fear failure, fear the unknown and because of this, fear freedom itself. Unwilling to face the possibility of failure they gladly turn to those who promise them security.
Liberal elites see themselves as victim sympathizers, or shepherds if you will. They distrust freedom and see it as their duty to protect victims from the exceptional swings between success and failure. To protect victims they have to limit choice because to allow choice is to allow freedom and to allow freedom is to invite risk and failure. Victim sympathizers are disgusted by success and seek to punish it whenever and wherever it occurs, and as often as possible. The only possibility for success that they can imagine is that a person or corporation achieved success by exploiting victims. No matter how advantageous the benefits of a job are, according to victim sympathizers, the employed are always exploited. They idealize a world where owners, bosses, and workers all have the same outcomes. To reward risk is inconceivable to victim sympathizers.
Conservatives view victim sympathizers as viruses. In their view victim sympathizers don’t protect victims, they create them, much like a virus uses the DNA of its victim to grow and replicate itself. In a world without victims there is no need for victim sympathizers. In a world where freedom abounds and failure is not feared victim sympathizers are without followers. Victim sympathizers need to evoke envy among people to produce a willing group to follow them. And to follow them means to be controlled. To embrace freedom is to reject envy, and envy is the primary fuel that victim sympathizers use to convince someone that they have been exploited and are therefore a victim. That is why victim sympathizers disdain freedom.
Those Who Yearn for Control
Liberals are eager to place this crown on conservatives who are, in their view, synonymous with exploiters and oppressors. Liberals fear freedom because, by its nature, it resists control. Freedom, when placed in the hands of a risk taker, is seen as a method of control since risk takers rarely become successful without support provided by employees, vendors, financiers, etc. They ignore the fact that in a free society with plenty of competition the employees have the ability to move to another company or move to another vocation altogether. Employees also have the option to start their own enterprise and improve their chances of success if they are willing to take a risk. In the liberal view, exploitation is the natural outcome of employment since the employer may gain more than the employee. Of course in their view only employers can exploit and government, unions, or workers are never exploitive.
Conservatives see victim sympathizers as those who yearn for control. Controllers are seen by conservatives as reducing freedom by limiting choice and by trying to minimize the effects of failure and restrain the benefits of success. Controllers see the role of government as the protector of victims and the entity that should reduce the disparity between those who risk and succeed and those who who are not willing to risk and seek security. Rather than being a win-lose scenario conservatives see employment as being mutually beneficial. The employer provides a job (the best social program according to Ronald Reagan) and the employee provides support for success. If the employer isn’t successful the employee will be out of a job. Unless it’s a government job. Government jobs are controlled so that almost no matter what a government employee does they aren’t accountable and are difficult to fire. No glory but also no danger. Which is why those who yearn for security love government jobs.
In the liberal view these are people who are unwilling to help victims. And by help they mean take from the productive and give to the unproductive. That this transfer takes away the incentive for productivity on both ends of the spectrum is a concept lost on liberals. Providing jobs in the private sector makes you a despised oppressor. Asking people to leave government assistance and become self-sufficient makes you an oppressor. Ignoring those who are unwilling to help themselves makes you an oppressor. Firing someone from a victim group, for any reason, makes you an oppressor. The only way to not be an oppressor is to be a victim or be a victim sympathizer who works to control victims by providing them security by taking away their choices and responsibility.
Conservatives understand that capitalism (or free enterprise if you will), by providing private sector jobs, has yielded more freedom and prosperity than any government controlled economy or assistance program ever has or ever will. Lyndon Johnson and the liberal’s “War on Poverty” has spent trillions on this problem and the result has been no change in the poverty rate. The “War on Poverty” has yielded a great deal of changes, unfortunately most of them bad. To its credit are: urban blight, generational poverty, inner city crime, deterioration of urban families, increased drug use, sky high abortion rates among blacks (Margaret Sanger would be giddy), increased school drop-out rates, etc., etc. Why? The “War on Poverty” rewarded dependence. In the conservative mind nothing is more oppressive than dependence.
Those Who Yearn for Freedom
To liberals these are the most dangerous people on the planet. Freedom lovers eschew security and the compromise necessary to acquire it. Freedom lovers defy control. Liberals consider conservatives slightly insane for not seeing the benefits that security (i.e. control by liberal elites) offers them. Liberals believe that the world can only be made better by controlling human nature and changing it to fit their version of utopia. The long misery of communism has repeatedly shown that human nature cannot be changed by government control. Some people will seize control and run your lives as they see fit. If they can convince you that it is for your own good, that you’re a victim and they are your protector, their job is easier. When you realize they are at odds with your well being they are not afraid to resort to force to maintain power (Tiananmen Square sound familiar?).
Conservatives believe that the world is better off when freedom is allowed to flourish and when governments perform a supervisory role rather than a controlling role. Liberals believe in wardens and conservatives believe in referees. People living in free societies are vastly better off and ultimately more secure than those living under tyrannies. Freedom from a controlling government is one of the greatest luxuries mankind can have. Our Founding Fathers believed it to be an “Unalienable Right”, that is, a gift from God. Freedom does involve risk, failure, setbacks, and challenges. But when people are taught to appreciate freedom rather than to crave security all the problems associated with freedom are temporary. In fact, overcoming these problems makes us stronger as individuals and as a country. Avoiding problems or cowering for protection from them makes us weaker as individuals and as a country. After all, who would argue that the people of Greece or the country itself, right now, is strong when they are rioting against being responsible and accountable?
Now that we’ve analyzed the differences in thought between liberal and conservative world views let’s tie things up.
Freedom and Control
Going back to Milton Friedman’s quote, “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself’ let’s look in depth at the ramifications of “lack of belief”.
Let’s start with the premise that you have to believe in freedom or an alternative. What are the alternatives to freedom? Well, there is control and, well, uh, …… I guess there’s only control. Those are the two states of being in a society with a government.
Our Founding Fathers crafted a document that provided the most free society the world had ever seen and the most limited government the world had ever seen. Coincidence? No. Why? The Founding Fathers trusted people with freedom and mistrusted government with control.
The only way for government to provide security is for it to increase its control. People in America who yearn for security always look for it from the government. Those who yearn for control are always ready to exploit this situation for their own or collective power. Those who yearn for freedom are faced with working against this dual headed beast to preserve freedom.
The Crux of the Matter
If you believe in freedom for yourself but not for others you do not really believe in freedom.
If you believe that freedom is good for some but that others (not incarcerated or institutionalized) are unworthy, unfit, or unsuited for freedom then, guess what, there is somebody out there who thinks the same way about you.
If you believe that others should be controlled, even if for their own good, then you believe in control. And remember, there will always be someone that believes you should be controlled.
Ask yourself two things, “Do I believe in freedom or control?” and “Am I better off in a free society or a controlled society?”
If you believe in freedom and the benefits of living in a free society what are you willing to do to defend, preserve, and restore them?