Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Homo Economicus

I think that it is time to have a discussion on the nature of freedom.

What I have been noticing in the past thirty-odd years is that somehow folks have been so jaded by the incredible amount of freedom and material wealth allowed us that they have been steadily narrowing their sights to focus on some very marginal activities and treating minor transgressions of those marginal "freedoms" as a cardinal sin. As I stated yesterday, not everything puts your feet upon the slippery slope to Nazism and Fascism.

More importantly, folks have been heaping more and more importance on "economic freedoms". The idea that being rich is somehow equivalent to being free.

This damaged and sadly mistaken idea was popularized by that old fraud Milton Friedman in the 70's and 80's. He had his little PBS show to tell the boomers (as anyone who reads this screed knows, I place the problems that we are in now at the feet of this pathetic excuse for a generation), that they could have everything that they want, and everyone can be rich, and the money that you make is a symbol of your freedom.

What an asshole.

When I consider the nature of freedom, I cannot with good conscience assign financial success an importance beyond a secondary or tertiary input. What is important to me is the access to knowledge and free thought. By concentrating on the desire for material wealth and social status within this society, people actually limit their freedom of thought and freedom of action.

You see, I cannot imagine a society based on economics as being truly free. Economics is necessarily a zero-sum game. All the posturing that we have been doing about the unlimited possibilities of the internet, the global economy, the idea of a platform economy, are all based upon the idea that you can get something for nothing. As you are seeing now, that misconception is being rather rudely brought to heel.

At the end of the day, a society based on an individual's personal wealth will always degenerate into a mirror of the Ancien Regime with its nobles, it's priests, and its peasants.

So to me, all the squealing about the ban on short selling or whether or not the government is going to far into the economic sphere is nothing but some folks being seduced by an illusion. What is being attacked now in the sphere of Wall Street and finance is the idea of wealth being available to all, and that wealth is deserved by all.

So give up your dreams of a fairyland of golf and material goods. Look instead for your freedom in the ability to have discussions such as these. Read Machiavelli and Hobbes, read Friedman and von Mises, read Erasmus and Luther, read Schirer and Hitler, because your true freedom lies in the thoughts in your head, not what is parked in your driveway.


1 comment:

Mayberry said...

While I do agree with your thoughts on freedom, I have to point out that whether we like it or not, to some degree, there are financial boundaries where freedom is concerned.... One might be free in thought, but enslaved financially, as a great many of us are now, and will be in the near future. True, complete freedom can't be acheived until one is debt free, as well as free to think, speak, and act as he chooses. Clearly none of this is entirely possible in the America we know today, which is most unfortunate.