• Editor, The Gray Sparrow

Self-Reliance is Freedom

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

'Liberty' and 'freedom' are among those terms kicked around so often that their meaning has been rendered somewhat vague and shapeless over time, signifying vastly different notions to different people. What is uncontested is that most Americans would admit to holding their freedom dear, however they happen to conceive of it.

How freedom may best be defined has been the subject of an active philosophical debate for centuries in the English-speaking world, pitting thinkers like Hobbes, John Locke and John Stuart Mill against one another, each with his own nuanced definition. But as we are aiming to keep our discussion down-to-earth, we will define it in the following practical terms:

Freedom consists of all the actions men and women can take under the physical laws of nature, which do not directly harm other living beings.

This plain and hardy definition of freedom presupposes and recognizes only two sets of natural restrictions on the actions of human beings: the immutable laws of physics and the primary code that every civilized society was founded upon, not to harm or obstruct anyone's body or property.

This means that by default, any further restriction imposed on a human being by other people automatically constitutes an infringement on his or her natural freedom. He or she may have voluntarily adopted such restrictions and knowingly abdicated a set of freedoms as the price paid for living in a given society or partaking in a certain organization, but both parties of that transaction should never be allowed to forget that it ever took place. Like any other deal we willingly opt into, the price should always be marked clearly on the bill.

In as much as we are all living in a complex society and have all tacitly consented to a wide array of man-made restrictions meant to enable millions of people to safely coexist, we should all be wary of automatically accepting every government mandate as the built-in price for living in America. But putting aside a discussion on our civic duty to counter and check the expansionist tendencies of government, our main point here will be that it is the duty and self-interest of every American to build a life that maximizes his or her individual freedom within the current playing field.

To that end, it is important to grasp the inextricable tie between the concept of freedom and that of self-reliance, which used to be a pillar of the American ethos just a few generations ago. To depend on something is to cede authority and relinquish freedom to it; and the more dependencies we allow for in our lives, the more we stake our livelihood on the grace and whim of others.

Those depending on the government for their safety and well-being; those depending on their employer for their basic living; those depending on the mainstream media to provide them with their information on the world; and those depending on the opinions and example of society to protect their own family's health - all have learned the hard way in 2020 what the full price of freedom and responsibility relinquished truly is.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, we believe the time has come to look ourselves in the mirror and ask: in what ways can we be more self-reliant and maximize our freedom from now on?

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