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Americans Have Absolutely Zero Clue What True Freedom Means
Christians have sadly forgotten as well
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” — John 8:32
Americans do horrible things to the English language.
Take the word freedom, for instance.
Hyper-individualist Americans think it means “I can do whatever I want.”
But that’s not at all what freedom means.
That’s what autonomy means.
Imagine you live all alone on a desert island. You can eat all the coconuts, cut down the trees, overfish the pond, and spray the whole island dead with seawater if you like.
But if there are two people on the island, suddenly, your rights get cut in half. But that’s not a bad thing. By surrendering some of your autonomy, you gain a co-laborer, a trading partner, someone to care for you when you are sick or injured, maybe even a friend. In other words, there is only one freedom. And it’s supposed to be shared equally.
Now pretend North America is an island with a few hundred million people. The social contract makes us all surrender some of our autonomy, but it’s traditionally been a pretty good deal — we can work together to improve standards of living, fill every role with the best person for the job, and collectively defend ourselves from attacks foreign and domestic. We also enjoy a huge amount of reciprocal legal benefits — when we surrender our right to steal and murder, we receive the right not to be robbed and murdered.
So what, exactly is autonomy? Christian apologist Abdu Murray puts it extremely well:
“ Autonomy comes from the two Greek words autos, meaning “self”, and nomos, meaning “law.” Someone who is autonomous is a law unto themselves. He has no restraints whatsoever. An autonomous person can do or be whatever he wants, whenever he wants, however he wants. That ultimately leads to total chaos because if I’m a law unto myself and another person’s “law unto themselves” conflicts with my law, who will decide who’s right?”
The ancient Greeks (and Biblical writers) didn’t define freedom as autonomy.
To them, freedom was the ability to do what was right regardless of circumstances.
In other words, modern American “freedom” — autonomy — is actually a collective anti-freedom.
Abdu Murray again:
“We talk about freedom all the time, but we’ve stopped talking about freedom a long time ago. Now we’re talking about autonomy. Freedom is different than autonomy. Freedom has boundaries. Truth is one of those boundaries. And morality is one of those boundaries. Autonomy is the ability to do whatever you want whenever you want in whatever way you want. The problem is this: If I’m autonomous and another person is autonomous, and I have preferences and those matter more than the truth, and that person has preferences and their preferences matter more than the truth, when two autonomous preference-seeking beings come together and their preferences don’t match, who is going to win? If truth is on the bottom shelf, truth won’t decide. What will decide will be power. And isn’t it ironic that in our quest for “freedom”, someone gets enslaved?”
This is a powerful concept that every American (and human) needs to take to heart.
Let’s look at another example that’s currently destroying our world:
When we refuse to limit the autonomy of investors in economies, we lose the collective joys of freedom from economic exploitation. This is what Adam Smith and the classical economists envisioned when they wrote about free markets: Their dream was a market free from parasitic autonomists: free from rentiers, free from land-lorders, free from interest-charging bankers, free from monopolists, free from all the parasites that hinder the real economy from facilitating trade between buyers and sellers.
Here are some other real-life examples of prioritizing freedom over autonomy:
We have laws against theft and rape and murder (limiting autonomy) so that we all get to enjoy the (shared) freedom of not being robbed and raped and murdered.
We have some basic laws against pollution (limiting autonomy) so that we all get the (shared) freedom to enjoy relatively poison-free air, water, soil, and food.
We need to ban rent-usury or tax it out of existence (limit the autonomy of house-monopolizers to economically exploit non-property owners) in order to free us all from rent-serfdom.
We need to ban interest-usury or tax it out of existence (limit the autonomy for banksters to economically exploit people in need of money) in order to free us all from unsustainable interest payments, asset bubbles, market crashes, and the gross inequality and violent brutality that usury always creates.
Abdu Murray one more time:
We’ve confused autonomy with freedom, thinking they’re synonymous when they’re not. True freedom is different. It requires boundaries; specifically the boundaries of truth and facts. As Chesterton pointed out, we don’t have the freedom to draw a giraffe with a short neck. Freedom entails limits. True freedom is not the unfettered ability to do, say, or be whatever we want in any way we want.”
Freedom and autonomy are not the same thing.
America’s founding myth is that it is the “land of the free.”
But it is not.
America wasn’t founded on freedom.
America was founded on violent autonomy.
America is “the land of the autonomous.”
In other words:
America was founded on a lie.
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