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With Real Freedom, How Would We Behave?

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by Ian Tartt

Many people look at what other people do now and use that as evidence that freedom is unworkable. “If people act this way with as much government as we have now, imagine how much worse they’d act in a free society!” But that’s looking at this the wrong way. That’s assuming that people would make the same (or even worse) decisions they make now regardless of the level of government. The impact government has on human behavior is completely overlooked.

Almost everyone alive today will grow up in a society controlled by a government. Modern governments control every area of our lives from birth to death. A few examples include our upbringing, the amount of money our parents have to spend on us, the type of money they can use, the value that money possesses, the things they can use that money to buy, our transportation, our schooling, our careers, our healthcare, and our retirements. The amount of control governments have over our lives has massive consequences on the way we think, speak, and act, especially to and about other people.

Everyone is used to living in a society in which at least half of the things they do are done under the threat of force against them if they refuse. Everyone inherently knows that government is force (If you don’t believe government is force, try not paying taxes and see what happens), and therefore everyone is used to the idea of force being an acceptable way to get things done. How could that not affect our behavior, thought processes, etc.? Those are all further affected by the fact that so many people grow up in violent homes, where physical violence, verbal abuse, and threats of both are used to make someone (whether that person is a kid or a spouse) do what the abuser wants them to do.

Imagine something different. Imagine how society would look if most people grew up in peaceful homes, where instead of force and threats, persuasion and compassion were used. Imagine no dominant power structure that everyone would be trying to grab onto so they wouldn’t get crushed in its wake or try to use against people they don’t like. Imagine how differently this would make people think about and act toward one another. Imagine a society where peaceful, voluntary relationships were the norm. Would there still be people trying to hurt others and take their stuff? Undoubtedly. There is no guarantee that a society like this wouldn’t have those kinds of people, but modern society is a guarantee that those kinds of people will exist and will have a much better chance of pushing people around than they would in a free society.

Could a society like this happen? Absolutely. With all the progress humans have made over time, there’s almost nothing we couldn’t do if we set our minds to the task. History is filled with one example after another of naysayers being proven wrong (in many cases well after their deaths) and forward-thinking people being proven right (also well after their deaths in many cases). If it’s tried as best as possible and doesn’t work, at least we’ll know once and for all. But if it does work, then we could be on a path never before set upon by humans. A path to unprecedented peace, prosperity, and freedom. There’s only one way to find out. We’ve seen what millennia after millennia of the old order has done. Are you ready to try something different?

EDITOR’s NOTE: The views expressed are those of the author, they are not representative of The Libertarian Republic or its sponsors.

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