FREEDOM OF THE INDIVIDUAL
It requires complete freedom of action to develop rich individuality.
The capacity for liberty is developed by liberty itself.
Full freedom must be gained for oneself, and be conceded to others.
To be free we must keep alive the ideal of independence.
To live a free life is to live in accordance with the law of equal freedom.
Would you be free? Then set yourself free; do not wait for others to do it for you. An enlightened individual regards others as well as himself.
Mediocrity is uniformity; genius is versatility.
The real thinker will be indifferent to the man who dares not to be different.
An authoritarian assumes the right to superintend your conduct.
Freedom to act in accordance with one’s nature, within the limits of the law of equal freedom, implies that one may live for himself or for others as he likes.
The really free man will not feel bound to do the thing that is disagreeable to himself. That would be a form of servitude that would not square with freedom. If one performs an act of kindness from choice it is because he derives pleasure or happiness from it, and pleasure and happiness are altogether selfish, as one cannot be happy for another; but such an act, giving pleasure to both, is properly called enlightened selfishness.
The free individual often finds himself in conflict with society because it holds to the theory that man was made for society and not society for man. So society teaches individual self-sacrifice; that is, living for others. The free man contends that society exists for the individual’s benefit.
The theory of self-sacrifice is not possible for all, for in order to sacrifice one’s self it is necessary to have someone willing to accept the sacrifice. But how about the one who accepts the sacrifice? Is he not just as bad as the sacrificer is good? Certainly he is. But this bad one is necessary in order to develop a good one, and the outcome of the teaching of self-sacrifice is to develop a lot of bad ones.
Don’t forget that it is a gross selfishness in society that causes it to teach that the individual who helps society is good and the one who helps himself is bad.
For what purpose does society exist if not for the individuals composing it? If it is not for the individual, then he should withdraw from it. If society refuses to look out for his welfare, then he should oppose it. The reason for society is that it gives the individual some advantage that he does not possess alone. But when those advantages cease, then his relation with it should cease. Real slaves of society teach “Live for God’s sake,” “Live for heaven’s sake,” “Live for society’s sake,” “Live for the church’s sake,” Live for anything or anybody’s sake but your own sake.
The Libertarian believes that to live for others is to slave for others’ sake, and slavery in all its forms is degrading. So he teaches, Live for yourself-first, last and all the time.
Living for one’s own sake is elevating to the individual and is beneficial to the race and society as well, for a race of slaves is a benefit to but few and a detriment to mankind.
The owner of slaves always taught his subjects duty. Now, duty is that which is due. It is doubtful if the slave owed the master anything; surely the free man owes no master obedience. The slaves to duty degrade themselves and injure those they serve.
There is a class of people that profit financially by having obedience taught to their employees. There are old doctrines that suit them: “Servants, obey your masters in all things.” “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the forward.” “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh with fear and trembling.” While this is pleasing and profitable to the masters, it is degrading and unprofitable to the servants. Doctrines of obedience, humbleness, contentedness, may do for slaves, but they will not do for the free man or woman.
It is often asked if independence is not selfishness. Of course, it is. All motives are selfish. All men are equally selfish. Wrong does not arise from selfishness. If it did, all men would be wrong.
Desires are not wrong. If so, all men and women would be at fault. It is not even strong desires that cause the trouble, for one may desperately desire a thing that would not only benefit himself, but the whole race as well; while another with no stronger desire may benefit himself and injure all the race. To illustrate: Take a man who has a strong desire to possess all the knowledge there is. Now, such a man is as selfish as it is possible to be, for all he wants is all there is. This is the acme of selfishness. But such a man will do no one harm because of his selfish desire, and may benefit the whole human race if he succeeds in acquiring all knowledge.
Now, take another man, who desires all the land there is. Now, his selfishness, his desire, is no greater than the first man. He only wants all there is, just as the first man did. The difference between the two is not that one desires less than the other; the difference lies in the thing desired and the method of obtaining it.
We approve of the man who wants all knowledge, but disapprove of the one thai wants all the land. The desire for land is not a bad thing, for man must have it to live. The wrong is not in desiring land, but in desiring all of a thing that is limited in use and necessary to others. Knowledge, like many abstract things, is unlimited in use, while a concrete thing like land has its use limitations.
Now, this ought to make it plain that it is not selfishness in the one case that made it bad, and unselfishness in the other that made it good, for there may be a third man that has just as strong a desire as either of the others mentioned, who wants something altogether different. Are we to say what he wants is selfish or not, according to the thing wanted? This would be absurd, for his desires are the same as the others, regardless of the thing wanted. How it may affect society is a different question. He may happen to want the thing that society wants him to have, but that in no way lessens his selfishness. He stands a better chance, possibly, of having his wants supplied, by wanting what they concede to him, but it does not make his desires any less selfish than the man who wants what society disapproves of his having. Society will call the one good that does the thing it wants done, and will call the other bad who does the thing it dislikes and that does not profit it; but their actions are equally selfish regardless of results.
Society’s desire to own land will have a tendency to limit the desire of the individual who wants it all, so there may be an agreement reached between the conflicting interests; but that in no way makes the individual selfish and society unselfish, for those composing society get together to take what they were not able to take alone. Their selfishness was the same as that of the one in possession, the difference being that individually they did not have the cunning or the power to take it.
Therefore, selfishness is not to be condemned, for all desires are selfish, whether it results in what society calls good or bad; and society’s real function is to maintain a position of non-interference so long as these desires do not interfere with the like liberty of others to indulge their desires. An enlightened self-interest is in harmony with equal freedom.
All men have the same instincts, but they do not have the same intellect. The difference between the unique individual and the herd is one of intelligence, not of instincts. When unhampered by the mass, the unique one will soon demonstrate his superiority in thought and action. The mass would benefit more by imitating than by suppressing. Solidarity usually means overriding the intellectually unique one.
Two ways to establish one’s importance are to hire others to announce it, as politicians do, or assert it yourself. It is downright hypocrisy to pretend that there are other things of more importance to you than yourself. Will you be yourself or will you abdicate? That is the question. To lose confidence in one’s self is to fail before a start is made.
The individual will make a place for himself in the world of the ordinary. He will impress even the stupid that there is something about him that is unique and exceptional. And in asserting his selfhood he will, of course, collide with the established order of things.
To subordinate the self-conscious individual is to retard progress. The mass cannot lead; it can only follow. To be one’s self is to be charged with being anti-social. The Renaissance was a deviation from the respectable and the established order. To be at his best the individual must be free to express himself in acts as well as ideas.