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The Limits of Liberty

I’ve been having this post in mind for some two months, ever since seeing that comment on my post about the Georgia Guidestones, asking whether even such good promises of a better world could be worth giving up our liberties for. Yes, the comment itself was likely some sort of spam, but the idea certainly keeps being brought up, often as an argument against pretty much any method or measure that could actually get things done and create major positive changes in this world within a reasonable time frame, so I’ll have a go at it.

The fact of the matter is that liberty is inherently limited, even in anarchy. This becomes obvious when what some people want to do would prevent others from doing what they want to do, so even if there are no authorities to place such limits, they automatically appear when people’s desires clash against each other. And people’s desires constantly clash against each other, meaning that the lack of proper rules will almost certainly result in a “might makes right” scenario, the amount of liberty enjoyed by each person being directly related to their power and ability to take away the liberty of others in order to extend their own. This has been clearly proven throughout mankind’s history.
Laws and forms of government were developed as a result of this, in an attempt to create a more stable society. However, with very few exceptions, the strong form the governments and largely make laws that protect them from others who may challenge their positions. In truth, this does provide stability, the problem being that it doesn’t also provide a similar amount of fairness, plus that it wastes a large part of this potential to do good on selfish struggles for power… Then again, anyone who would end up in a position of authority and not do this would be removed from it soon after, replaced by someone more determined to grab and hold on to that position, almost certainly for personal reasons.

From the above we can determine that the amount of liberty enjoyed by a regular person, one who isn’t among the few powerful enough to obtain and maintain a position of authority, is now doubly limited, in part by the way said person’s desires clash with those of their peers and in part by the will of the authorities, be they formal or informal. This is how things stand, how they stood throughout history and almost certainly how they will stand in the future as well. The specifics may occasionally change, but the general idea remains the same, as this is pretty much the natural and unavoidable state of affairs. Any society needs rules in order to function, even if in some cases said rules may be informal and determined by whoever happens to hold the reins of power at any one moment, and any gathering of beings capable of independent thought results in a clash of desires sooner rather than later.
Knowing this, we can continue this senseless struggle for some utterly impossible ideal of unlimited liberty, or we can try to shape these inherent limits in a way that will result in as much fairness and as many positive changes as possible. We can keep trying to take power away from each other, forcing those who obtain it to put even more effort into holding on to it at the expense of everything else, or we can offer certain powers, along with the related liberties, to those who are most likely to use them to do the most good. It’s all a matter of choice, because the foundation is already there, the only difference being what we choose to have on top of it.

My view is that liberty should be reliably limited in such a way as to properly protect others from undeserved harm and the environment from damage that is beyond its short-term ability to repair locally. I should also note that by “others” I don’t only mean humans, but also any other animal capable of realizing what’s happening to it, of forming memories and of learning from them. While true that these other animals aren’t capable of clearly expressing their needs and desires in ways which most humans could easily understand, our privileged position on this planet also carries the responsibility of taking proper care of the other species we share it with, so we should keep that in mind whenever we want to do something. It may be difficult to create such fair rules regarding the treatment of so many species, not to mention the environment as a whole, but it is absolutely necessary.
On the other hand, the rules dealing with actions that affect people who are capable of making their own decisions and expressing themselves should be much easier to make. In fact, only two rules would be needed in most situations. The first would forbid any intentional action clearly seen as harmful by the person or persons affected by it unless said action is a just punishment for a crime, while the second would force the author to properly make up for any unintentional harmful action within a reasonable time frame after being made fully aware of the harm caused by it. Granted that there will be situations when performing an action would be seen as harmful by one affected person and not performing it would be seen as harmful by another, which creates the need for arbitration, but that system’s foundations are already in place as well, so we don’t need to do something new, but merely to do it properly for once.

To conclude, I’d certainly like to see a body appointed to handle such matters, without fear of retribution. It should be made up of people who would use their powers for the greater good and they should be guaranteed enough time in office to see their plans through to the end. Those plans should deal first and foremost with protecting the environment, humans and other more advanced animals from harm, doing absolutely everything necessary to prevent us from causing any more damage and then starting to repair the damage already caused as well, no matter how many people will hate the measures taken or the methods used. Something like this would certainly be worth giving up some liberties for, especially when it could offer even more in the long run.


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