The freedom to become the person you want to be
|What will become of us?|
Each human travels along a unique and personal pathway and which unfolds before them. This pathway will take different directions depending upon individual cumulative experience and current experiences which expose a new personal interest or desire to acquire a capability to do something.
Freedom provides us with the choice, amongst many and at all times, of becoming more of the person we wish to be. What this is will change however. Both a young mother and her child are on such journeys which will mould their future relationship as well as those between themselves and their children and grandchildren.
Freedom, it is so important.
Amongst the strange intellectual baggage of some politicians there is a concept, very much evident today, that all that matters is our relative positions on a competitive scale where we are rated in terms of income, worldly material possessions, status and power. Quite often status and power are associated with material wealth. However there are people, including some economists 1 , who sense that these “value sets” disorientate individuals from more productive pathways they might tread during their lifetimes. Unfortunately British political parties even compete in promoting values whose lowest common denominator suggested the electorate is no more than a consumer whose horizons are roughly fashioned by how much money people have to spend or no more than spectators, here to admire the latest fashion in political party identity with “leading issues”, thought up, incidentally, largely by the parties themselves.
The economists often consider freedom of choice as something which allows individuals to maximize some “utility function” at any point in time and that this is why freedom is important. But as explained in the article, "Using statistical indices to mislead" in this month's edition of Real Incomes, much of what makes up utility to a person is often immeasurable in terms of economic values of exchanged goods and services.
We each, in life, travel a personal road which shapes our character and at the same time exposes us to new sensations and experiences and arising from these we adjust our appreciation of life as well as wonder perhaps what might become of our life. Rather than dream in a fatalistic fashion whereby we see the hand of the “powers that be” being the determinants of our final status, it is so important that each, at some point in life, grasp the notion that life and personal freedom can permit us to shape our future. Indeed at some point it is important to realize that freedom allows us to become the person we want to be. The economist James Buchanan expresses this as follows 1 :
|"Man wants liberty to become the man he wants to become. He does so precisely because he does not now what man he will want to become in time. Let us remove once and for all the instrumental defense of liberty, the only one that can possibly be derived directly from orthodox economic analysis. Man does not want liberty in order to maximise his utility, or that of society of which he is a part. He wants liberty to become the man he wants to become."|
Nothing is written in the sense of fate determining how each will live out their lives. At all stages of life we are gaining new experiences and we learn and this can shape future ambitions and relationships. Motherhood and fatherhood change perceptions and, over time, people have an evolving relationship with their children and eventually with their children. The shifts in perception of what we would like to become can be influenced by those who come into existence within our families as well as by those we meet elsewhere.
The concept of a wish to become does not signify that currently we occupy some lower status but rather that experience exposes us to a constant evolution of possibilities and options and one can only appreciate their existence as a result of personal experience. Thus personal evolution is not so much a question of “bettering oneself” but rather one of growing to fill other dimensions of life in a way which satisfies one’s evolving preferences.
It is such preferences which are important and which in terms of personal realization rise above the preferences proffered by political parties which have been thought up by some policy-maker. There can be no doubt that the preferences which matter are those we shape ourselves and yet constitutionally political parties never seek to address these for in reality they do not know what they are and nor could they ever reconstruct such diversity in a realistic manner. But the general sense of personal preferences amalgamate in the conscience of each person and yet there exists, remarkably, something called community conscience which although combining the values of many different people can find, on the basis of freedom of expression and without compromise, common agreement on what constitutes normal expectations of behaviour 2.
The imposition of damaging compromise
The greater danger comes from our political parties who promote other preferences according to perceived utility functions but who fail to understand that the fundamentally important preferences depend upon an enhanced individual freedom defended against arbitrary decisions through bringing to bear the oversight of the community conscience. Political parties seldom compromise on trying to impose their preferences and in doing so compromise the individual freedoms of the whole population. Our defence against such impositions at law have been subtely stripped away through the gradual elimination of the oversight of the community conscience, in the form of a jury, over legal decisions. The outcome is less freedom marked by the occasional arbitrary decision harming the prospects of the innocent.
Freedom, it is so important
The people in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland need a political system which upholds freedom so that each can become the person they wish to be. Unfortunately, the record of statements by representatives or the actions preferred by all British political parties demonstrates that they have little appreciation of such freedom or of the notion that each of us might become who we wish to be on an individual basis. Politicians intellectually-shackled to their party collecives see freedom as a right dangled before the people by the legislature and in exchange demand obligations or "responsibilities" to be exercised by an obedient mass responding to their "value set". Such people seem to be intellectually challenged by the concept of personal freedom and volition just as they fear contemplating that the community conscience is a more valid basis upon which to exercise freely formed and uncompromised decisions in the defence of freedom.
1 See: "Natural & Artifactual Man", from "What should Economists Do?" Buchanan, J.M., Indianapolis Liberty Fund, 1979, pp: 93-112 (originally presented at the Liberty Fund Series Conference, Blacksburg, Virginia, July 1978. This is also a chapter in "The collected Works of James M. Buchanan, "The Logical Foundations of Constitutional Liberty", Liberty Fund, 1999 pp:246-259. ISBN: 0-86597-241-1
Note: This work will be reviewed in Real Incomes at the end of March 2008.
2 See: "Families", Chapter 2, pp:21-28 "The Briton's Quest for Freedom, our unfinished journey", McNeill, H.W., July 2007, HPC Portsmouth, ISBN:978-0-907833-01-7