As I see it, one of the most difficult questions for the freedom lover (who worries about the ways to maintain/obtain/regain it under the encroachments of modern life) is whether individual human freedom will be more readily enjoyable if "protected" from above (i.e. via government decree) or "taken" from below (i.e. there because there is no government).

The former would be a socialist form of solution, the latter anarchist. I will ignore the capitalist version since in practice it is so focused on the rights of businesses as opposed to people (and I know businesses are owned by people...) that it tends to leave out most of what matters in life while fostering wealth creation at the expense of all else.

While anarchy or local-only forms of social organization may vary wildly in their provisions for personal freedom, they might at least be easier to escape from.

The large scale, national or worldwide solution may seem at first to be a good way to create a "floor" of certain sorts of "basic" human rights, but why should it even have to? If it were not for the same sorts of large scale organizations (government, business or social) preventing our ability to do as we please, these so-called protections would not be necessary.

You will notice, for example, and this is largely ignored from what I have seen, that the "Bill of Rights" in the U.S.A. is not a formal declaration of human rights, but an attempt to limit the government from usurping or regulating them. In other words, the government document does not "guarantee" the simple and inalienable rights we all would simply enjoy if nothing interfered, but simply lists a few, very few, that the government is not supposed to infringe upon. Not that it even works, of course.

I read things like "one reason to be proud to be an American is that we have rights." I'm not worried right now about the foolishness of pride (which goeth before a fall...), but the logic inherent in that statement. Is it because a few amendments were hurriedly tacked onto the constitution, when the writers realized they had left out a few important details, that Americans have human rights? Somehow, I find the logic hard to appreciate. It seems to me that even the people who live under the right wing military dicatorships fostered as U.S. client states, and those living under left wing military dictatorships propped up by the former Soviet Union, and even those living under the ridiculous "royal houses" that sell us oil, have whatever human rights could ever be considered "inalienable."

Those folks certainly yearn for them and know what they are, and that is just about what we mean by "inalienable" at any rate. To pretend that they are based on any sort of deity or religious teachings is silly, since the world operates under many widely varying spiritual traditions, none of which seems to have destroyed (or substantially increased) man's desire to be free.

If amending the basic documents of ever more powerful, centralized governments or creating new, even larger such central governments are the only ways of protecting individual liberty from the onslaught of those very same governments and similarly huge corporate organizations - then maybe what we really need is simpler, and fewer, large, centralised organizations to worry about. As it stands we seem to be stuck with the giant multinational corporations, and as such we need some sort of mechanism to defend ourself from them. Then when they usurp the mechanism, we have to overthrow it and start again...

11/4/01

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printed 30 January 2023
© Huw Powell