Wednesday, May 14, 2014
I am Optimistic for the Future of Liberty
I am optimistic about the future. I believe that more people will enjoy liberty in the future than ever before in the history of the world. It's easy to become pessimistic when you learn about the constant abuse of human freedom by governments around the world. I don't necessarily believe liberty is always increasing. There are certainly speed bumps along the way where things can get worse (sometimes much worse). But I will briefly focus on two reasons why I do not fear for the overall future of liberty.
History is my first reason to have a bright outlook on things. While history certainly does not show a linear increase in personal freedoms, it is difficult to deny that an overall gain exists. One does not have to look very far back in history to learn about the divine right of kings. Kings wielded absolute power over their subjects and it was said that God himself gave kings the right to rule. There was absolutely no admission that individuals had any right at all. Any attempt to overthrow a king was viewed as an act of rebellion against God's will.
Other cursory glances at history will show that governments completely dominated religion. Citizens were required, by law, to join the state-approved church and act accordingly. People were not free to follow the dictates of their own consciences. The government decided the moral and religious precepts of the people because it was a very convenient way to control people. Need people to fight a war? Just tell them God says it's required and they will go!
Contrast these facts with today. Today most people know that a king has no greater rights than anyone else. Most people know that the government should have absolutely no influence on church affiliation. These gains in individual liberty are downright incredible! Granted, they took time to accomplish, but they are still astonishing. So the question is this: What political dogmas that exist today will be completely done away with in the next century, or two, or three? Government monopolies? Public property? Taxes? Democracy? The idea that a ruling class is necessary? The possibilities are endless.
The second reason for my optimism is economic in nature. One of the main features of economics is the market. The purpose of the market is to provide humans with the tools to satisfy their needs and wants. This happens all day, every day. Right at this moment, someone, somewhere, is exchanging money for a product or service that will benefit them. Entrepreneurs who continue to satisfy human needs and wants are rewarded. Entrepreneurs who invent products and services that solve human problems that have never been solved before are rewarded immensely. This process will continue forever, in spite of government laws and regulations that hinder and obstruct the free market. Of course, a market devoid of government interference would solve human problems at an incredible and exponential rate, but even a semi-crippled market will progress quite rapidly.
Now, here is where it gets exciting. As more and more people learn about the principles of liberty, more and more people have a problem. This problem is called "government" and it is no different from any other problem faced by humanity. When humanity was restricted from increasing the population for lack of food, the market invented agriculture. When humans could not record their history, the market provided systems for writing. Before a certain time, people could not enjoy products from far-away places, and so the market developed international trade. More and more individuals are learning that government is a problem that needs to be overcome. What will the market provide in order to obviate the need for government? It is impossible to predict exactly what products and services the market will invent but you can be certain that, eventually, problems that are shared by a significant number of individuals will be solved. If government itself is one of those problems then it is just a matter of time.
Liberty is Inevitable
When you view the world through these two lenses, history and economics, it becomes clear that people are destined to enjoy a greater degree of liberty. It may not happen today or tomorrow, but it will happen. Does knowing this absolve us of our responsibility to increase awareness and eliminate aggressive institutions? Of course not! Without the endeavors of people like you and me, no amount of history or economics will increase liberty. Let us, therefore, redouble our efforts, with the knowledge that our difficult work will not be in vain.