“I believe with you that morality, compassion, generosity, are innate elements of the human constitution; that there exists a right independent of force; that a right to property is founded in our natural wants, in the means with which we are endowed to satisfy these wants, and the right to what we acquire by those means without violating the similar rights of other sensible beings; that no one has a right to obstruct another, exercising his faculties innocently for the relief of sensibilities made a part of his nature; that justice is the fundamental law of society; that the majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society . . .”
—Thomas Jefferson to P. S. Dupont de Nemours, April 24, 1816
The mission of this blog is nothing less than making good on its title — the rebirth of the city of Spokane as the “Free City of the Northwest.” It will offer a new ideology, a new public ethic, and a new set of goals and ideals, all of which will, hopefully, impart a new confidence and a new reputation as the city where ambition is admired, imagination and individuality are encouraged, innovators are welcomed, and despotism in any form and on any pretext is rejected — as a place where someone with a dream will be free to make it happen.
It will vigorously challenge both the archaic, fallacious, and tiresome dogmas of the Left and the witless superstitions and jingoism of the Right. It will be decisively anti-Green (though not anti-environment). In short, any doctrine, dogma, or agenda which would trample the freedom of individuals to live the lifestyles they prefer and pursue happiness as they define it will be fair game.
What, though, does it mean that a city, a country, or a person is “free”? Well, obviously, cities and countries are free when the persons who inhabit them are free. And a person is free when he or she is able to live his or her life as he or she chooses, without interference from others. That entails that each person may, for example,
• Profess and practice the religion of his choice;
• Speak, write, and publish whatever he desires to say, to whomever desires to hear him;
• Travel wherever his interests and desires lead him;
• Pursue the trade, occupation, hobbies, and amusements of his choice;
• Enter into relationships and form associations, for any purposes and on any terms, with anyone he desires who likewise desires to enter into the relationship, and to decline to enter into relationships with anyone with whom he prefers not to associate;
• Devote his time, efforts, talents, and rightfully acquired resources to satisfying his own interests and pursuing his own goals, whatever they may be.
The freedom of individuals — including all the freedoms just listed — who happen to live in a social settings are of course subject to one limitation: that the rights of others not be violated in their exercise; that one person’s exercise of freedom not inflict losses or injuries on anyone else.
I should probably also mention some things that the concept of freedom does not entail. A free society is not a “free lunch” society. It does not embrace the misbegotten concepts of “positive freedom,” i.e., the notion that a person is only free if he or she possesses the necessary resources, both personal and material, to effectively pursue his or her desires, or of “social justice” — the belief that “societies” have a duty to supply whatever resources someone may lack. The freedom of which we are speaking here, political freedom, is a moral notion — the freedom from interference by other persons; it refers to the actions of moral agents, to the mutual moral obligations of persons who find or place themselves in a social setting. It does not refer to physical freedom or any kind of abstract, hypothetical freedom. A person is not unfree in the moral, political sense — the relevant sense — because he cannot fly like a bird, swim like a porpoise, sing like Caruso, shoot baskets like Wilt Chamberlain, or crank out inventions like Edison. Other persons have duties not to interfere in his exercise of whatever talents and capacities with which Nature may have endowed him or which he may have acquired through his own efforts and volition; they have no duties to make up for any insufficiencies or inequalities he may suffer which are not of their doing.
The reader can also expect challenges to a few other fashionable myths related to the ideas of “positive freedom” and “social justice.” Most of these derive from what I call the “Organic Fallacy,” the notion that modern, civilized societies are akin to organisms, with individuals being the constituent “cells.” This organism, “society,” is presumed to be a moral agent in its own right, with interests and goals of its own, distinct from and which transcend those of any mere individuals — the so-called “public interest” or “common good” — which can be divined through the workings of democracy and to which individuals must defer in accordance with a “social contract.”
Those terms — “positive freedom,” “social justice,” the “public interest,” the “common good,” the “social contract” — are all part of a structure of myth derived from our species’ tribal, primate heritage. They are atavisms with no more relevance to the realities of contemporary societies than the ragings of Odin, the doings of disembodied spirits, or the mandates of long-dead ancestors. It is a myth which it is time to put aside, with those other childish things.
We can start here in Spokane.