Understanding the Spontaneous Society

February 6, 2009

Understanding the Spontaneous Society

[First published July 25, 2005] In my blogs I’ have tried to lay bare the incredible ability of the spontaneous society, that between free people, to provide a social order that allocates goods, runs a family, rules a neighborhood, and governs the relationship among friends, and thus satisfies the desires and values of millions of people. How can this be? So many people, so many diverse interests, so many different values, and yet the spontaneous society, does all this automatically — seemingly untouched by human hands. Certainly, it does it much more efficiency, and with the greater happiness of the greater number, than does the command society.

And how do we understand the role of conflict and cooperation among individuals in such a spontaneous society where people are free to do whatever? Nobody is telling them what to do. Nobody is establishing the framework within which they can interact without conflict. In those social spaces where no boss, government official, or chairman rules, how can people get along? They do, and wonderfully — better than anyone can dictate. What achieves this is a universal process of conflict and cooperation I call the conflict helix. It is shown in the figure below. All its aspects are described in the chapters I’ve posted on my Freedom’s Principles blog, and that have been summarized in the chapter I just posted there.

In sum, the conflict helix is a general process whereby individuals in a free society establish and maintain the understandings, accommodations, and agreements that enable them to cooperate and satisfy their interests. Within this process conflict itself is a means through which they adjust to their different interests, capabilities, and wills; it is a trial-and-error, mutual learning process that achieves an accommodation of some sort between what they want, can get, and are willing to pursue. These accommodations, whether forced or negotiated, explicit or implicit, written or unwritten, constitute a social contract: a structure of expectations defining who owns, controls, influences, gets, or does what. And this structure of expectations is based on a balance of powers (such as the capability of individuals to persuade, bargain, use authority, threaten) achieved by the conflict, such as in a family who chooses the TV programs, takes out the garbage, does the dishes, or how this is decided (flipping coin?).

The social contract that is an outcome of such conflict is initially congruent with the balance of powers established between individuals and defines their social order: it establishes and permits cooperation between them and delineates for them an oasis of peace. Unfortunately, what individuals want, can, and will get changes in time and causes the balance of powers to shift away from the structure of expectations. As the balance becomes less congruent with expectations, a gap is formed between the social contract and the underlying balance of powers. As the gap gets larger it becomes an increasing source of tension until some trigger event surfaces the disparity between power and expectations; new conflict then erupts, as it often does between people who have lived together for a short time, and their structure of expectations — social contract — is disrupted.

This new conflict establishes a more realistic balance of powers and associated social contract; a new phase of cooperation and peace is determined. And eventually, this peace will likewise breakdown into conflict as for this structure of expectations a gap between power and expectations also develop.
Although this process seems cyclic–conflict to cooperation to conflict to cooperation, and so on — and unending, conflict actually can become less intense and frequent. As the two parties learn more about each other through successive conflicts and periods of peace and cooperation, and assuming no change in the fundamental conditions of their relationship, their conflict becomes less intense and shorter, their periods of cooperation more friendly and durable. Thus the helix is an upward spiral in learning as the relationship between individuals progresses through conflict and cooperation.

Link of Note

“Why is F A Hayek a Conservative” (1987 pdf) By Dr. Madsen Pirie

Pirie says:

If there were those who thought from Hayek’s earlier work that he wanted to distil the essence of liberty and use it to build a society anew, his later writing must have changed their opinion. Hayek seeks, as conservatives do, a spontaneous society in which individual actions produce an unplanned order. He rejects, with them, the attempt to construct a rational order and impose it upon people in place of their own decisions. He stresses, as they do, the value of culture in its broadest sense as a repository of wisdom greater than can be retained by any one mind.

Hayek recognizes that societies change; that is what evolution is all about. But it is evolution, not revolution which makes change take place successfully. This, too, is part of the conservative political tradition. In Hayek’s earlier works, we saw, as he did, the differences between his own outlook and those of conservative disposition. He saw the contrast between those who wanted to win back ground for freedom and spontaneity, and those who did not. In his later work we see how his ideas mesh with the political ideas which conservatives have stood for and worked for.

Hayek searched to find a name for the party which would represent people who thought as he did. His search is over. There already is a name for the party which stands for freedom of choice, and which seeks to preserve the spontaneity of outcome which those individual choices accumulate toward. It is a party which recognizes the role played by traditions and cultural inheritance in the safe evolution of society. It is the party which rejects the pretensions of central planners, collectivists, and advocates of a preconceived design. If Professor Hayek has avoided knowing it hitherto, he should know now that the name of this party is Conservative.

The name for such a party that Hayek sought is freedomist. See “Why the Freedomist Network?”
Social Fields and
Types of Societies


Why Freedomist?

January 28, 2009

[First published April 16, 2005] This is a blog for communication and activism among those who want to foster freedom at home and abroad. Whether Democrats, Republicans, or Libertarians, or liberals or conservatives, if you believe in individual freedom foremost as a right of all people, and as an obligation of those who are free to help unchain those now suffering repression and enslavement in one country after another, this blog is for you.

Why invent the new terms, freedomists or freedomism, rather than apply one of the conventional political party labels? (-ist is a suffix meaning a follower or believer in certain beliefs, such as is a socialist or feminist.) Because their general politics to not entail freedom as a core theme, although some of their political leaders may so emphasize. Republicans, if I may take President Bush as most representative, are Freedomists in their foreign policy, to a much lesser extent in their economic policies, and not at all in their traditional social conservatism.

Democrats, judging by Secretary Hillary Clinton, who is not among the far left of her party, and former President Bill Clinton who is a more moderate Democrat than she is, the Democrats do want to spread democratic freedom. But precedence is given to the UN, to normalcy, and to stability in international relations. National defense is important, but second to international aid, sensitivity to the “international community, and “building bridges.” Moreover, Democrats are soft socialists at home, believing in tight government economic regulation and controls, spreading the wealth, and cradle to grave welfare. However, on social matters, they do emphasize freedom not only rhetorically, but in their policies.

Surely, however, there are the libertarians who seems much closer to what I mean by freedomists. When I wore my heart on my sleeve as a youth, I was a democratic socialist, but in the early 1970s, under the hammer blows of von Mises, Hayek, and Milton Friedman, I gave up a belief in socialism for democratic libertarianism. And libertarian is what I called myself until recently. I remain libertarian in domestic policy, which is to say the more domestic freedom from regulation, government control, taxation, and oppressive laws, the better up to a point. I am not an anarchist, but believe social justice means minimal government consistent with protecting and guaranteeing all have equal civil and political rights.

However, on foreign policy the libertarian, with some exceptions, is an isolationist, fundamentally opposed to foreign involvements and interventions, and on this some libertarians have formed an odd coalition with the democratic socialist to communist (Marxist) left. Most libertarians, however, say, “Let international relations also be free. Let there be free trade and commerce, and freedom for other countries to do whatever they want with their people. Not our business.”

On this, the libertarians are blinded by their desire for freedom, not realizing that everything, including freedom demands contextual qualification (should those with a dangerous infectious disease remain free, when they could spread it far and wide, killing maybe hundreds with it?). By their isolationism, libertarians are making the world safe for the gangs of thugs (called dictatorships) that murder, torture, and oppress their people, and rule by fear.

Not our business, the libertarian still will say, although his fundamental belief in freedom is being violated in the most horrible ways. By implication, in his isolationism the libertarian is declaring that since it’s some body else that’s suffering, not me, my loved ones, or my friends, it’s okay.

But besides this basic human me and mine, it is also a blindness to his own welfare and that of his loved ones. For in an age of readily transportable biological weapons, such as anthrax, and nuclear weapons, no longer can a country like the U.S. sit back and ignore what goes on elsewhere in the production and deliverability of such weapons. In the hands of those who hate the democracies and their libertarian values, democracies have too much vulnerability to attack. Now, explicit and concrete opposition to, and intervention in, the rapacious affairs of thug regimes is of necessity a protection of democracies, not to mention advancing human rights and the freedom libertarians praise. Quite simply, no thug regimes can be trusted with either the possession or the capability of producing such weapons.

The isolationist, of whatever political party, is willing to let the thugs rule not only their own sorry people, but the world.

So, I am a freedomists, and I believe many others are as well.


Women’s Freedom In The Middle East

January 26, 2009

[First published May 31 2005] We tend to speak of freedom in national terms. There is so much freedom in country x or y, or little human rights in country z. We should promote democracy in w. And so on. We tend to ignore the treatment from one country or region to another of segments of the population. We should not, for in some parts of the world where human rights are denied, it especially bad for women, who are virtually enslaved, in some Muslim ruled nations such as Saudi Arabia.

Finally, we have a detailed survey of this, with each Middle Eastern and North African nation rated on the degree to which women enjoy nondiscrimination, against, access to justice, autonomy, security, freedom of the person, economic rights and equal opportunity, political rights and civic voice, and social and cultural rights. The survey, with data and essay on the results, is here..

The source gives separate ratings for each nation of five aspects of their freedom. These are not totaled, so I did so below. The best score — women’s freedom comparable to the United States and Western Europe, would be a total of 25, or close to it; the absolute worst is a total of 5. As you can see, Saudi Arabia treats its women worst of all with a score of 6.3, very close to the bottom 5, with a little jump in ratings up to Libya. Oman, and UAE. The best treatment of women among this group is by Tunisia, with Morocco not much worse. But, even for Tunisia, its score is only 16.2 out of 25 possible.


A Freedomist View of Liberarianism

January 19, 2009

[First published January 25, 2006] When I wore my heart on my sleeve as a youth, I was a democratic socialist and a Democrat, but in the early 1970s, I gave up socialism for democratic libertarianism under the hammer blows of von Mises, Hayek, and Milton Friedman. Libertarian is what I called myself until recently. I remain libertarian in domestic policy, which is to say the more domestic freedom from regulation, government controls, taxation, and oppressive laws, the better up to a point. I am not an anarchist, but believe social justice means minimal government consistent with protecting and guaranteeing all have equal civil and political rights, even against majorities.

However, on foreign policy the libertarian, with some exceptions, is a raving isolationist, starkly opposed to foreign involvements and interventions. Let international relations also be free, the libertarians say, which means free trade and commerce, and freedom for other countries to do whatever they want with their people. Not our business.

Lest you think I exaggerate, look at the “National Libertarian Party” platform:

The Issue: Intervention by the government in Washington in the affairs of other nations is an attempt to impose our values on those nations by force. 

 The Principle: The important principle in foreign policy should be the elimination of intervention by the United States government in the affairs of other nations. Solutions: We favor a drastic reduction in cost and size of our total diplomatic establishment. We would negotiate with any foreign government without necessarily conceding moral legitimacy to that government.

Then on foreign intervention, the platform reads :

End the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid, guarantees, and diplomatic meddling. Individuals should be free to provide any aid they wish that does not directly threaten the United States.

I don’t know how one can read this platform in any other way than isolationist, and this is the NATIONAL Libertarian Party.

On foreign policy and fostering democracy, even peacefully, the libertarians are blinded by their desire for freedom here and now, not realizing that everything, including freedom demands contextual qualification (should those with a dangerous infectious disease remain free, when they could spread it far and wide, killing maybe hundreds with it?). By their isolationism, libertarians are making the world safe for the gangs of thugs (euphemistically, called dictatorships) that murder, torture, rape, enslave, and thus rule by fear.

Not our business, the libertarian still will say, although his fundamental belief in freedom is being violated in the most horrible ways. By implication, his isolationism is declaring that since it’s somebody else that’s suffering, not me, or my loved ones, it’s okay.

But besides this basic human me and mine, it is also a blindness to his own welfare. For in an age of state supported terrorism, readily transportable biological weapons, such as anthrax, and nuclear weapons, no longer can a country like the U.S. sit back and ignore terrorism, and what goes on elsewhere in the production and deliverability of WMD, as with North Korea and Iran. In the hands of those who hate the democracies and their libertarian values, terrorism and WMD make democracies too vulnerability to attack and blackmail. Intervention by the democracies in the rapacious affairs of such thug regimes, therefore, is ultimately to protect ourselves, not to mention to advance as a by product the human rights and the very freedom libertarians praise. Quite simply, no thug regimes can be trusted with either the possession or the capability to produce such weapons.

Feeding into libertarian isolationism is an apparent distrust, if not outright hatred, of democracy. They put this in various ways, some pointing out how questioning our classical liberal forefathers were of democracy when they opted instead for an American constitutional republic. Other libertarians simply point out that democracy is a disguised tyranny by a majority. Leaving aside their vast misunderstanding of what democracy means today, which includes the traditional definition of a republic, libertarians generally offer no alternative form of government. The anacho-libertarians among them throw government out altogether, not realizing that any anarchy will evolve into a democracy, gang rule, or a system of self-governing, independent groups, like international relations today.

Then there is the democratic peace, which one libertarian after another has tried to attack, but ended up misrepresenting its propositions, ignoring the relevant literature, doing incompetent empirical analysis, or making illogical claims. All have been wrong in detail, and if anything, their attempts to topple this edifice have only left it stronger. Why they do this is beyond me, except that what appears to aggravate them the most is that the democratic peace proclaims the value of . . . . democracy.

Not able to deal with the democratic peace directly, some take a side path — it is wrong to make war for democracy, they say. The innocents that die don’t care if it be for democracy or by a dictator’s hand. They are dead nonetheless. But, then, who is saying we should spread democracy though war? Not President Bush, not Vice-President Cheney, not Secretary Rumsfeld, not Secretary Rice, not my colleague Pro Forma, and not me. We all argue for doing so through nonviolent methods. The wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, and the other wars before our time that ended with the democratization of Japan, Germany, and Italy were not fought to spread democracy, but democratization was the best answer to the question as to what to do with these countries once they were defeated.

On a different path, a few libertarians argue that most attempts to democratize countries have failed. Okay, say it has failed in 70 percent of the cases, the most pessimistic argument. But, that would mean success in 30 percent of the cases. And consider the happiness of these millions freed from the enslavement and possible torture and murder at the hands of some dictator. With so much at stake, better to have tried and failed, then not try at all.

And perhaps the final argument — there is a stage of democratization where partial democracies are more dangerous to the peace than dictatorships. This view is gaining prominence among libertarians due to the publication of Jack Snyder and Edward Mansfield’s book Electing To Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go To War. I have reviewed the book, and pointed out that their empirical claims for this are faulty. What is most amazing about the libertarian’s reliance on this work, however, is that they ignore its support for the major democratic peace proposition that democracies don’t make war on each other.

So, my libertarian friends, often admirers of my book Death By Government have been upset with my apostasy. I’ve gone conservative, they claim. NO way. I’m as hard on the conservative’s repression of social freedom, as I am on the liberal’s socialism and the libertarian’s foreign policy.

Then, am I still a libertarian, although an insurgent one? No, I no longer accept that label. Instead, I am a freedomist (ist is a suffix meaning a follower or believer in certain beliefs, such as in socialist or feminist). This is one who believes not only in maximum freedom at home, but also unlike the libertarian, in fostering democratic freedom abroad. This is to protect our own freedom, to end war and democide, and to further human security.

Let freedom ring.


Another of my democide paintings. This is of the Croatian fascist Utashi genocide during WWII. Original here.


Why Freedom?

January 18, 2009

[First published February 2, 2006] In his State of the Union speech, President Bush said:

Dictatorships shelter terrorists, and feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction. Democracies replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors, and join the fight against terror. Every step toward freedom in the world makes our country safer — so we will act boldly in freedom’s cause.

Far from being a hopeless dream, the advance of freedom is the great story of our time. In 1945, there were about two-dozen lonely democracies in the world. Today, there are 122. And we’re writing a new chapter in the story of self-government — with women lining up to vote in Afghanistan, and millions of Iraqis marking their liberty with purple ink, and men and women from Lebanon to Egypt debating the rights of individuals and the necessity of freedom. At the start of 2006, more than half the people of our world live in democratic nations. And we do not forget the other half — in places like Syria and Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Iran — because the demands of justice, and the peace of this world, require their freedom, as well.

In the past too many have identified power with greatness, thugs with statesmen, and propaganda with results; they have let moral and cultural relativism silence our outrage, while conceding the moral high ground to the utopian dreamers; they have refused to recognize evil as evil; and they have ignored the catastrophic human cost of such confusions, and the natural and moral right to freedom. This cannot be said of Bush, who well recognizes why people should be free.

In the world today, billions of human beings are still subject to impoverishment, exposure, starvation, disease, torture, rape, beatings, forced labor, genocide, mass murder, executions, deportations, political violence, and war. These billions live in fear for their lives, and for those of their loved ones. They have no human rights, no liberties. These people are only pieces on a playing board for the armed thugs and gangs that oppress their nations, raping them, looting them, exploiting them, and murdering them. We hide the identity of the gangs—we sanctify them—with the benign concept of “government,” as in the “government” of Khmer Rouge Cambodia, Stalin’s Soviet Union, or Hitler’s Germany.

The gangs that control these so-called governments oppress whole nations under cover of international law. They are like a gang that captures a group of hikers and then does with them what it wills, robbing all, torturing and murdering some because gang members don’t like them or they are “disobedient,” and raping others. Nonetheless, the thugs that rule nations “govern” by the right of sovereignty: the community of nations explicitly grants them the right by international law to govern a nation when they show that they effectively control the national government, and this right carries with it the promise that other nations will not intervene in their internal affairs.

International law now recognizes that if these gangs go to extremes, such as massive ethnic cleansing or genocide, then the international community has a countervailing right to stop them. However, this area of international law is still developing, and in the current examples of Cuba, Burma, Iran, North Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria, among others, the thugs still largely have their way with their victims. This is unconscionable. The people of these countries, and all people everywhere have the right to freedom of speech, religion, organization, and a fair trial, among other rights, and one overarching right to be free subsumes all these civil and political rights. This right overrules sovereignty, which is granted according to tradition based on a system of international treaties, not natural law. Freedom, by contrast, is not something others grant. It is a right due every human being.

For too many intellectuals, however, it is not enough to point out that a people have a right to be free. They will counter by arguing that freedom is desirable, but first people must be made equal, given food to eat, work, and health care. Freedom must be limited as a means to good ends, such as the public welfare, prosperity, peace, ethnic unity, or national honor. Sometimes the intellectuals who go about creating such justifications for denying people their freedom are so persuasive that even reasonable people will accept their convoluted arguments. Need I mention the works of Marx and Lenin, for example, who provided “scientific” excuses for the tyranny of such thugs as Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot?

To many compassionate people, such intellectuals, arguing that freedom must be sacrificed for a better life, have had the best of the argument and the moral high ground. These intellectuals have tried to show that freedom empowers greed, barbaric competition, inefficiency, inequality, the debasement of morals, the weakening of ethnic or racial identity, and so on.

To be defensive about freedom in the face of such justifications is morally wrong-headed. No moral code or civil law allows that a gang leader and his followers can murder, torture, and repress some at will as long as the thugs provide others with a good life. But even were it accepted that under the cover of government authority, a ruler can murder and repress his people so long as it promotes human betterment, the burden of proof is on those who argue that therefore those people will be better off

There is no such proof. Quite the opposite: in the twentieth century, we have had the most costly and extensive tests of such arguments, involving billions of people. The Nazis, Italian fascists under Mussolini, Japanese militarists, and Chinese Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek have tested fascist promises of a better life. Likewise, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot have tested the utopian promises of communism, to mention the most prominent communist experiments; and Burma, Iraq, and Syria, among others, also have tested state socialism. All these vast social experiments have failed, utterly and miserably, and they have done so at the vast human cost that has included global social upheaval, the displacement of millions, the impoverishment of billions, and the death of tens of millions from famine, extreme internal violence, and the most destructive wars—not to mention the many hundreds of millions murdered outright.

These social experiments have involved the mass murder of 262,000,000 Russians, Chinese, Cambodians, Poles, North Koreans, Cubans, Vietnamese, and others, such that were their souls to comprise a land of the dead it would be among the world’s top three in population

In sharp contrast, there are the arguments for freedom. Not only is a right certified in international law (e.g., the various human rights multinational conventions), but a supreme moral good in itself. The very fact of a people’s freedom creates a better life for all.

Free people create a wealthy and prosperous society

When people are free to go about their own business, they put their ingenuity and creativity in the service of all. They search for ways to satisfy the needs, desires, and wants of others. The true utopia lies not in some state-sponsored tyranny, but the free market in goods, ideas, and services, whose operating principle is that success depends on satisfying others. Moreover, it is not by chance that:

No democratically free people have suffered from mass famine

It is extraordinary, how little known this is. There are plenty of hunger projects and plans to increase food aid for the starving millions, all of which is good enough in the short run. A starving person will die before the people can kick out their rulers or make them reform their policies. Yet simply feeding the starving today is not enough. They also have to be fed tomorrow and every day thereafter. However, free these people from their rulers’ commands over their farming, and soon they will be able to feed themselves and others as well. There is an adage that applies to this: “Give a starving person a fish to eat and you feed him only for one day; teach him how to fish, and he feeds himself forever.” Yet teaching is no good alone, if people are not free to apply their new knowledge—yes, teach them how to fish, but also promote the freedom they need to do so

Surprisingly, the incredible economic productivity and wealth produced by a free people and their freedom from famines are not the only moral goods of freedom, nor, perhaps, even the most important moral goods. When people are free, they comprise a spontaneous society the characteristics of which strongly inhibit society-wide political violence. Freedom greatly reduces the possibility of revolutions, civil war, rebellions, guerrilla warfare, coups, violent riots, and the like. Most of the violence within nations occurs where thugs rule with absolute power. There is a continuum here:

The more power the rulers have, and the less free their people, the more internal violence these people will suffer

Surely that which protects people against internal violence, that which so saves human lives, is a moral good. And this is freedom

Then there is mass democide, the most destructive means of ending human lives of any form of violence. Except in the case of the Nazi Holocaust of European Jews, few people know how murderous the dictators of this world have been, and could be. Virtually unknown are the shocking tens of millions murdered by Stalin and Mao, and the other millions wiped out by Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il-sung, and their kind. Just omitting foreigners, who are most often murdered during a war, such thugs murdered about 161,000,000 of their own people from 1900 to 1987. Adding foreigners and including the whole twentieth century raises the toll they have killed to nearly the incredible aforementioned 262,000,000.

Even now, in the twenty-first century, these mass murders still go on in Burma, Sudan, North Korea, and the Congo (DR), just to mention the most glaring examples.

What is true about freedom and internal violence is also so for this mass democide:

The more freedom a people have, the less likely their rulers will murder them. The more power the thugs have, the more likely they are to murder their people

Could there be a greater moral good than to end or minimize such mass murder? This is what freedom does and for this it is, emphatically, a moral good.

There is still more to say about freedom’s value. While we now know that the world’s ruling thugs generally kill several times more of their subjects than do wars, it is war on which moralists and pacifists generally focus their hatred, and devote their resources to ending or moderating. This singular concentration is understandable, given the horror and human costs, and the vital political significance of war. Yet, it should be clear by now that war is a symptom of freedom’s denial, and that freedom is the cure. First:

Democratically free people do not make war on each other

Why? The diverse groups, cross-national bonds, social links, and shared values of democratic peoples sew them together; and shared liberal values dispose them toward peaceful negotiation and compromise with each other. It is as though the people of democratic nations were one society

This truth that democracies do not make war on each other provides a solution for eliminating war from the world: globalize democratic freedom

Second:

The less free the people within any two nations are, the bloodier and more destructive the wars between them; the greater their freedom, the less likely such wars become

And third:

The more freedom the people of a nation have, the less bloody and destructive their wars.

What this means is that we do not have to wait for all, or almost all nations to become liberal democracies to reduce the severity of war. As we promote freedom, as the people of more and more nations gain greater human rights and political liberties, as those people without any freedom become partly free, we will decrease the bloodiness of the world’s wars. In short: Increasing freedom in the world decreases the death toll of its wars. Surely, whatever reduces and then finally ends the scourge of war in our history, without causing a greater evil, must be a moral good. And this is freedom

In conclusion, then, we have wondrous human freedom as a moral force for the good, as President Bush well recognizes. Freedom produces social justice, creates wealth and prosperity, minimizes violence, saves human lives, and is a solution to war. In two words, it creates human security. Moreover, and most important:

People should not be free only because it is good for them. They should be free because it is their right as human beings.

In opposition to freedom is power, its antagonist. While freedom is a right, the power to govern is a privilege granted by a people to those they elect and hold responsible for its use. Too often, however, thugs seize control of a people with their guns and use them to make their power total and absolute. Where freedom produces wealth and prosperity, such absolute power causes impoverishment and famine. Where freedom minimizes internal violence, eliminates genocide and mass murder, and solves the problem of war, such absolute power unleashes internal violence, murders millions, and produces the bloodiest wars. In short, power kills; absolute power kills absolutely.

Now, to summarize, why freedom?

Because it is every person’s right. It is a moral good—it promotes wealth and prosperity, social justice, and nonviolence, and preserves human life. And it enables all other moral goods.


Happiness — This Utilitarian Argument For Freedom Is True

January 16, 2009

[First published February 7, 2006] One of the best sources for how values are distributed is the World Values Survey (here), and I have consulted its results a number of times, such as providing evidence on how Arab peoples view democracy (here). Now, I want to provide their results on the relationship between freedom and subjective well being — happiness and satisfaction. I think all of us assume that the more freedom a people have the greater their happiness and satisfaction with their lives. If this is true, the utilitarian argument — policy should promote the greatest happiness and least pain — alone justifies promoting freedom.

Is it true?

The World Values Survey has published a study by Ronald Inglehart and Hans D. Klingemann, ” Genes, Culture, Democracy, and Happiness,” (in pdf; go here, and search under Hans Klingemann) which tries to answer the question. Utilizing surveys done by the European Union over 25 years about respondents’ well being in 11 European nations, the author’s first show that national language differences are not responsible for different survey responses on happiness and satisfaction. They moreover establish that there is not much change within nations over the 25 years. The correlation between earliest and latest EU survey in 1998 is .80. For the World Values Survey sample of 64 nations, it is .81, an amazing stability.

That out of the way, the author’s show that subjective well being is highly correlated with economic development (.70) as measured by GNP. No surprise there. But, they point out:

This process is not linear, however. The correlation weakens as one moves up the economic scale. Above $13,000 in 1995 purchasing power parity, there is no significant linkage between wealth and subjective well being. The transition from a subsistence economy to moderate economic security has a large impact on happiness and life satisfaction, but above the level of Portugal or Spain, economic growth no longer makes a difference.

Another factor in subjective well being is so commonsensical to many of us that I hesitate mentioning it. But it is commonsensical to all but the Marxists out there, who won’t believe it anyway. That factor is whether a nation was communist or not:

Virtually all societies that experienced communist rule show relatively low levels of subjective well-being, even when compared with societies at a much lower economic level, such as India, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. Those societies that experienced communist rule for a relatively long time show lower levels than those that experienced it only since World War II.

Religion also plays a role, especially Protestantism. The author’s show that:

Virtually all historically Protestant societies show relatively high levels of subjective well being. A similar effect persists today in countries (the United States being an exception) where only small minority of the public regularly attends church. As Max Weber pointed out, Protestant societies were the first to industrialize, and although economic development now has spread throughout the world, Protestant societies still are relatively wealthy in large part because of this early lead.

Now for the most relevant part. Subjective well-being is critical to the stability of a nation’s political institutions and particularly the stability of democracy. The authors measure freedom using the Freedom House annual freedom ratings (here), which they added together for 1981 to 1988. Since the ratings summed for both civil liberties and political rights for a nation for a year vary from 2 to 14, with 2 being the freest, they subtracted the summed ratings for a nation from the highest total rating to reverse the freedom scale. This way the highest total rating is the freest. They then plotted freedom against the percent of a nation’s people happy and satisfied with their life. It is below (click it to enlarge)

The correlation between well-being and freedom (liberal democracies, in effect) is .78. This is linear. The curvilinear (polynomial or logged correlation would be higher, since it would account for the slight sag in the middle of the distribution) of a number of partially free nations, some being electoral democracies such as Mexico and Turkey. Although the plot seems to imply that freedom is the cause of well-being (it can’t be the other way around), the authors believe that this is in question, and that other factors may better account for well-being.

So, they did a multiple regression of well being against measures of a nation’s economic development, whether it was historically ruled by Protestant elites or not, its years under communist rule, and its measure of freedom. These variables account for 80 percent of the variation in well being, a remarkable fit. They then removed independent variables with low significance in stages to achieve of fit of 78 percent of the variance with three significant variables, which in the order of their significance are: GNP per capita, years under communist rule, and freedom. Aside from applying sample tests of significance to a universe of cases, a problem with their analysis, is the high multicollinearity among these three variables (on this problem, see my blog here). Without eliminating this intercorrelation, it is impossible from this regression alone to determine what variables are dominant.

They conclude:

These findings in no way refute the evidence that genetic factors play an important role in subjective well-being; we find that evidence compelling. But these findings do indicate that genetic factors are only part of the story. Happiness levels vary cross-culturally. Since cultures are constructed by human beings, this suggests that the pursuit of happiness is not completely futile. Genes may play a crucial role, but beliefs and values also are important. Our findings also indicate that varying levels of well-being are closely linked with a society’s political institutions: sharp declines in a society’s level of well-being can lead to the collapse of the social and political system; while high levels of well-being contribute to the survival and flourishing of democratic institutions.

We now know that a nation’s past communism, economic development, and freedom are closely related to well being, and that freedom has the highest correlation with well being suggests that it is the strongest factor.


see the regression of human security on freedom


Why Foster Global Freedom

January 10, 2009

[First published March 8, 2006] I’ve noticed a trend in the major and alternative media towards a neorealism, which is away from fostering freedom abroad toward accepting the status quo, especially if it means that the Islamicist/terrorists will be denied an election they might win, and we will not be caught in the “quagmire” that is another Iraq. Better the friendly dictator we know than an election of a Terrorist group or Islamicists. Note this rhetoric from Niall Ferguson in the LATIMES:

The Republicans would certainly be foolish to cling to what is left of Bush’s foreign policy. Nearly all of its premises are crumbling before our eyes. The theory of a democratic peace is a chimera; give Muslims the vote and they vote for militants. Regime change in Iraq has not enhanced American security; its principal beneficiary has been Iran. As for the unipolar world….

Therefore, it is appropriate and timely to follow up my posted summary of the “U.S. National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism” and General Chong’s “This War Is For Real” with a return to the question: Why Freedom?”

President Bush summarized the answer well in his 2006 State of the Union speech. He said:

Dictatorships shelter terrorists, and feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction. Democracies replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors, and join the fight against terror. Every step toward freedom in the world makes our country safer — so we will act boldly in freedom’s cause.

Far from being a hopeless dream, the advance of freedom is the great story of our time. In 1945, there were about two-dozen lonely democracies in the world. Today, there are 122. And we’re writing a new chapter in the story of self-government — with women lining up to vote in Afghanistan, and millions of Iraqis marking their liberty with purple ink, and men and women from Lebanon to Egypt debating the rights of individuals and the necessity of freedom. At the start of 2006, more than half the people of our world live in democratic nations. And we do not forget the other half — in places like Syria and Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Iran — because the demands of justice, and the peace of this world, require their freedom, as well.

In the past too many have identified power with greatness, thugs with statesmen, and propaganda with results; they have let moral and cultural relativism silence our outrage, while conceding the moral high ground to the utopian dreamers; they have refused to recognize evil as evil; and they have ignored the catastrophic human cost of such confusions, and the natural and moral right to freedom. This cannot be said of Bush, who well recognizes why people should be free.

Today, billions of human beings are still subject to impoverishment, exposure, starvation, disease, torture, rape, beatings, forced labor, genocide, mass murder, executions, deportations, political violence, and war. These billions live in fear for their lives, and for those of their loved ones. They have no human rights, no liberties. These people are only pieces on a playing board for the armed thugs and gangs that oppress their nations, raping them, looting them, exploiting them, and murdering them. We hide the identity of the gangs—we sanctify them—with the benign concept of “government,” as in the “government” of Kim’s North Korea, Stalin’s Soviet Union, or Hitler’s Germany.

The gangs that control these so-called governments oppress whole nations under cover of international law. They are like a gang that captures a group of hikers and then does with them what it wills, robbing all, torturing and murdering some because gang members don’t like them or they are “disobedient,” and raping others. Nonetheless, the thugs that rule nations “govern” by the right of sovereignty: the community of nations explicitly grants them the right by international law to govern a nation when they show that they effectively control the national government, and this right carries with it the promise that other nations will not intervene in their internal affairs.

International law now recognizes that if these gangs go to extremes, such as massive ethnic cleansing or genocide, then the international community has a countervailing right to stop them. However, this area of international law is still developing, and in the current examples of Cuba, Burma, Iran, North Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria, among others, the thugs still largely have their way with their victims. This is unconscionable. The people of these countries, and all people everywhere have the right to freedom of speech, religion, organization, and a fair trial, among other rights, and one overarching right to be free subsumes all these civil and political rights. This right overrules sovereignty, which is granted according to tradition based on a system of international treaties, not natural law. Freedom, by contrast, is not something others grant. It is a right due every human being.

For too many intellectuals, however, it is not enough to point out that a people have a right to be free. They will counter by arguing that freedom is desirable, but first people must be made equal, given food to eat, work, and health care. Freedom must be limited as a means to good ends, such as the public welfare, prosperity, peace, ethnic unity, or national honor. These intellectuals also have been allowed to assume the moral high ground. Freedom, they tell us, empowers greed, barbaric competition, inefficiency, inequality, the debasement of morals, the weakening of ethnic or racial identity, and so on.
Sometimes they are so persuasive that even reasonable people will accept their convoluted arguments. Need I mention the works of Marx and Lenin, for example, who provided “scientific” excuses for the tyranny of such thugs as Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot?

To be defensive about freedom in the face of such justifications is morally wrong-headed. No moral code or civil law allows that a gang leader and his followers can murder, torture, and repress some at will as long as the thugs provide others with a good life. But even were it accepted that under the cover of government authority, a ruler can murder and repress his people so long as it promotes human betterment, the burden of proof is on those who argue that therefore those people will be better off

There is no such proof. Quite the opposite: in the twentieth century, we have had the most costly and extensive tests of such arguments, involving billions of people. The Nazis, Italian fascists under Mussolini, Japanese militarists, and Chinese Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek have tested fascist promises of a better life. Likewise, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot have tested the utopian promises of communism, to mention the most prominent communist experiments; and Burma, Iraq, and Syria, among others, also have tested state socialism. All these vast social experiments have failed, utterly and miserably, and they have done so at the vast human cost that has included global social upheaval, the displacement of millions, the impoverishment of billions, and the death of tens of millions from famine, extreme internal violence, and the most destructive wars—not to mention the many hundreds of millions murdered outright.

These social experiments have involved the mass murder of 262,000,000 Russians, Chinese, Cambodians, Poles, North Koreans, Cubans, Vietnamese, and others, such that were their souls to comprise a land of the dead it would be among the world’s top three in population

In sharp contrast, there are the arguments for freedom. Not only is a right certified in international law (e.g., the various human rights multinational conventions), but a supreme moral good in itself. The very fact of a people’s freedom creates a better life for all.

Free people create a wealthy and prosperous society

When people are free to go about their own business, they put their ingenuity and creativity in the service of all. They search for ways to satisfy the needs, desires, and wants of others. The true utopia lies not in some state-sponsored tyranny, but the free market in goods, ideas, and services, whose operating principle is that success depends on satisfying others. Moreover, it is not by chance that:

No democratically free people have suffered from mass famine

It is extraordinary, how little known this is. There are plenty of hunger projects and plans to increase food aid for the starving millions, all of which is good enough in the short run. A starving person will die before the people can kick out their rulers or make them reform their policies. Yet simply feeding the starving today is not enough. They also have to be fed tomorrow and every day thereafter. However, free these people from their rulers’ commands over their farming, and soon they will be able to feed themselves and others as well. There is an adage that applies to this: “Give a starving person a fish to eat and you feed him only for one day; teach him how to fish, and he feeds himself forever.” Yet teaching is no good alone, if people are not free to apply their new knowledge—yes, teach them how to fish, but also promote the freedom they need to do so

Surprisingly, the incredible economic productivity and wealth produced by a free people and their freedom from famines are not the only moral goods of freedom, nor, perhaps, even the most important moral goods. When people are free, they comprise a spontaneous society the characteristics of which strongly inhibit society-wide political violence. Freedom greatly reduces the possibility of revolutions, civil war, rebellions, guerrilla warfare, coups, violent riots, and the like. Most of the violence within nations occurs where thugs rule with absolute power. There is a continuum here:

The more power the rulers have, and the less free
their people, the more internal violence these people will suffer

Surely that which protects people against internal violence, that which so saves human lives, is a moral good. And this is freedom

Then there is mass democide, the most destructive means of ending human lives of any form of violence. Except in the case of the Nazi Holocaust of European Jews, few people know how murderous the dictators of this world have been, and could be. Virtually unknown are the shocking tens of millions murdered by Stalin and Mao, and the other millions wiped out by Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il-sung, and their kind. Just omitting foreigners, who are most often murdered during a war, such thugs murdered about 161,000,000 of their own people from 1900 to 1987. Adding foreigners and including the whole twentieth century raises the toll they have killed to nearly the incredible aforementioned 262,000,000.

Even now, in the twenty-first century, these mass murders still go on in Burma, Sudan, North Korea, and the Congo (DR), just to mention the most glaring examples.

What is true about freedom and internal violence is also so for this mass democide:

The more freedom a people have, the less likely
their rulers will murder them. The more power the thugs have,
the more likely they are to murder their people

Could there be a greater moral good than to end or minimize such mass murder? This is what freedom does and for this it is, emphatically, a moral good.

There is still more to say about freedom’s value. While we now know that the world’s ruling thugs generally kill several times more of their subjects than do wars, it is war on which moralists and pacifists generally focus their hatred, and devote their resources to ending or moderating. This singular concentration is understandable, given the horror and human costs, and the vital political significance of war. Yet, it should be clear by now that war is a symptom of freedom’s denial, and that freedom is the cure. First:

Democratically free people do not make war on each other

Why? The diverse groups, cross-national bonds, social links, and shared values of democratic peoples sew them together; and shared liberal values dispose them toward peaceful negotiation and compromise with each other. It is as though the people of democratic nations were one society

This truth that democracies do not make war on each other provides a solution for eliminating war from the world: globalize democratic freedom

Second:

The less free the people within any two nations are,
the bloodier and more destructive the wars between them; the
greater their freedom, the less likely such wars become

And third:

The more freedom the people of a nation
have, the less bloody and destructive their wars.

What this means is that we do not have to wait for all, or almost all nations to become liberal democracies to reduce the severity of war. As we promote freedom, as the people of more and more nations gain greater human rights and political liberties, as those people without any freedom become partly free, we will decrease the bloodiness of the world’s wars. In short: Increasing freedom in the world decreases the death toll of its wars. Surely, whatever reduces and then finally ends the scourge of war in our history, without causing a greater evil, must be a moral good. And this is freedom

In conclusion, then, we have wondrous human freedom as a moral force for the good, as President Bush well recognizes. Freedom produces social justice, creates wealth and prosperity, minimizes violence, saves human lives, and is a solution to war. In two words, it creates human security. Moreover, and most important:

People should not be free only because
it is good for them. They should be free because it is
their right as human beings.

In opposition to freedom is power, its antagonist. While freedom is a right, the power to govern is a privilege granted by a people to those they elect and hold responsible for its use. Too often, however, thugs seize control of a people with their guns and use them to make their power total and absolute. Where freedom produces wealth and prosperity, such absolute power causes impoverishment and famine. Where freedom minimizes internal violence, eliminates genocide and mass murder, and solves the problem of war, such absolute power unleashes internal violence, murders millions, and produces the bloodiest wars. In short, power kills; absolute power kills absolutely.

Now, to summarize, why freedom?

Because it is every person’s right. It is a moral good—it promotes wealth and prosperity, social justice, and nonviolence, and preserves human life. And it enables all other moral goods.

Links of Note

The Case for Democracy”> Washington Post Editorial (!):

Those who promote democracy as the best alternative do not imagine that it will succeed quickly, or in all places. It’s important to press autocratic allies such as Mr. Mubarak to create more space for political parties, so that when elections do take place Egyptians can take advantage of them responsibly. Of course elections aren’t enough; of course civil society and prosperity and the emergence of a middle class matter, too; and which comes first, and in what ways, will be different in every country.
But without elections, or the prospect of elections — without some measure of accountability to the people — what will induce a dictator to allow civil society to grow? The “realists” need to answer that question, too.