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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10643/the-duty-to-be-free/

The Duty to Be Free

September 11, 2009 by

By remaining in the old world, we could have been not only secure, but even free of the need to be responsible. Instead, we chose the freedom, the liberty, the independence and the inalienable right to responsibility. FULL ARTICLE by William Faulkner.


Barry Loberfeld September 11, 2009 at 8:54 am


What limits the limited welfare state? Not only has “liberalism” meant ever greater economic controls, but now it means the application of socialist ideology to social issues. This has always been a dubious dichotomy — Is a book a manufactured product or an expressed idea? — and one that didn’t exist among either the classical liberals or the Marxist regimes. Yet a surging number of voices tell us that “equality” demands, not only a redistribution of wealth, but also the banning of speech — not only an end to “economic violence,” but also the suppression of “verbal violence.” How this rhetoric translates into reality can be glimpsed by looking north. The legal perversity that pornography constitutes the criminal “exploitation” and “objectification” of women — a linguistic legerdemain whereby bourgeois feminists exculpate their own capitalist occupations as the “exploitation” and “objectification” of the proletariat, thus metamorphosing themselves from class oppressors into gender victims — was affirmed by the Canadian Supreme Court. This idea, in turn, evolved into that of “hate speech,” which was extended to “protect” other groups, such as homosexuals. So now when the Rev. Jerry Falwell airs his show in Canada, he must edit his preachings on homosexuality, which are not protected by freedom of religion or freedom of speech. Here is a “welfare state” that has gone well beyond taxing millionaires to house orphans.

It’s all really very easy to understand as the philosophic analogue to Mises’ economic analysis. The initial introduction of a socialist law into a liberal society forces the question: Do we accept or reject this violation of the liberal ethic? If we accept it, we set a precedent for the next proposed socialist law. We have made a very clear moral decision — collectivism trumps individualism. In contrast to the cynicism that leads to a deluge of special interest groups, this trend involves taking ideas seriously — i.e., recognizing the mutual exclusiveness of the capitalist and socialist paradigms, and thus the imperative to choose one. It acknowledges the hypocrisy — the incoherence — of bringing the socialist outlook to issue A but not issue B, to the “economic” issue but not the “social” issue.

A commitment to greater statism begets more such commitments, and if what we may call the Ronald Dworkin generation pooh-poohed the “silly proposition that true liberals must respect economic as well as intellectual liberty,” the Cass Sunstein generation repudiates as even sillier the proposition that liberals cannot impose on the free market of ideas the same doctrines and controls they impose on the free market in widgets. (The esteemed professor has insisted that speech, like commerce, must have its own “New Deal.” With Sunstein as thought control’s FDR, who will be its LBJ?)


mpolzkill September 11, 2009 at 9:07 am

This piece boils it down to the essence. There are those who would be moved to say “amen” and those who – if they CAN read or be bothered to spend the ten minutes – would be baffled by it, grow irritated by it, giggle, or perhaps just stifle any feelings or ideas it invokes and then ignore it like they had never read it. What have they got us outnumbered by? Fifty to one? One hundred? Five hundred?

Gil September 11, 2009 at 9:22 am

If the Chinese say “wealth doesn’t usually last longer than three generations” is the larger equivalent “society rarely last three centuries”?

stradun September 11, 2009 at 10:41 am

Fantastic article, eloquent and touching.

@mpolzkill – “amen to that”, there are many of us out here

@barry loberfeld – could you please stop posting off-topic articles from your website in a blatant attempt to gain link popularity from the high-quality and high-traffic Mises site? You’ve polluted a particularly fine piece here and ironically I find this practice quite socialistic, trying to get something (free traffic) for nothing (copying and pasting masses of irrelevant and mediocre content).

Jeffrey Tucker September 11, 2009 at 12:08 pm

This is an amazing article. Incredible.

LightBringer September 11, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Not only a terrifically important subject, but beautifully put. Thank You, and amen.

Raymond T. Walter September 11, 2009 at 2:29 pm

A brilliant refutation of so-called irreconcilable conflicts of society!

I really didn’t know that side of William Faulkner.

Tina Brewer September 11, 2009 at 2:43 pm

now I have to love William Faulkner even more…

Shed Plant September 11, 2009 at 3:03 pm

@straudun, Barry
I’ve learnt to ignore all your self-promotion, but actually it is pretty poor Internet etiquette.

Also, I didn’t really like the term “we” in the article. It’s collectivist (or am I being over-sensitive?).

Barry Loberfeld September 11, 2009 at 4:06 pm


“I’ve learnt to ignore all your self-promotion, but actually it is pretty poor Internet etiquette.”

Indeed? I thought the passage germane to the essay, Mises, and current events.

“Also, I didn’t really like the term ‘we’ in the article. It’s collectivist (or am I being over-sensitive?).”

I should think so: It’s a pronoun, not an initiation of force.

But thank you for your opinions…

ShedPlant September 11, 2009 at 5:05 pm

I don’t think the passage is at all relevant to the essay (“…a linguistic legerdemain whereby bourgeois feminists exculpate their own capitalist occupations as the “exploitation” and “objectification” of the proletariat”), but I suppose we’re not going to get much further than that.

I mention “we” as collectivist because the author uses it to refer to a particular group of people, amongst whom he does not include himself. It isn’t a big deal, however.

Deefburger September 11, 2009 at 6:47 pm

There is unrest in the forest,
There is trouble with the trees,
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas.

The trouble with the maples,
(And they’re quite convinced they’re right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light.
But the oaks can’t help their feelings
If they like the way they’re made.
And they wonder why the maples
Can’t be happy in their shade.

There was trouble in the forest,
And the creatures all have fled,
As the maples scream “Oppression!”
And the oaks just shake their heads

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights.
“The oaks are just too greedy;
We will make them give us light.”
Now there’s no more oak oppression,
For they passed a noble law,
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe, and saw.


mpolzkill September 11, 2009 at 11:21 pm


Yeah, I hypothesized there were, directly under D.C., between six hundred thousand to six million of us.

Russ September 12, 2009 at 6:29 pm


Obviously, what you write in your linked posts is not specifically addressed to the blog post at hand. And some of your linked posts are, at best, tangentially related to the topic at hand. I also would prefer if you would stop doing this. At the very least, if you are going to continue to cross-post here, keep it to a simple link, instead of posting part of your article here as well. Just my opinion…

Bill Ross September 13, 2009 at 8:58 am

Dispute the standard interpretation of the phrase “Duty to be free”, as if it is a choice between equally viable alternatives, a misleading LIE. The truth is:

We live in an action precedes consequence reality. Nothing is real until it manifests as a force in physical reality. The truth is, we can choose to do ANYTHING allowed by the laws of physics. The ONLY choice of others, organized force included is, what they CHOOSE to do in response.

So, the real argument is NOT “let me be free” (which falsely implies freedom can be suppressed and the power to do so actually exists and fraudulent powers actually posses this impossible power). The real meaning of “let me be free” IS: Stop punishing me when I act according to my inalienable freedom (The right to profit or suffer and learn from my own free choices, limited by equal rights of others).

What the founding fathers achieved and subsequent generations of citizens allowed to be stolen is a practical, realistic “social contract” which allowed division of labor and unprecedented prosperity based on unambiguous dispute resolution mechanisms (law):


Bill Ross
(Electronics Design Engineer)

Gil September 13, 2009 at 9:14 am

Duh, Bill Ross – it’s a duty to be free because to argue otherwise is to hope everyone else will ‘play nice’ and not hurt you. The duty is to be literally stronger than those who would crush you. What could is touting the 2nd Amendment and owning guns but don’t have the guts to pull the trigger?

Bill Ross September 13, 2009 at 9:33 am


The “might is right” fallacy is refuted in “Darwin Reconsidered”, linked at bottom of link above.

Truth is, force can achieve nothing except destruction and redistribution of existing resources, at the cost of reducing (or eliminating) production of the goods and services we depend on for survival.

This is also proven in “Mathematics of Rule”, also linked above. Slavery cannot work. The gains of our “masters”, based on subversion, tyranny, historical revisionism, legal and intellectual frauds cannot ever be stable. They are parasites whose greed has destroyed the values / institutions required for productivity on which we, as they depend on for survival.

There is a very large scale war (economic, for now) going on, between elites who acknowledge this and, those who don’t. Once the economic survival tipping point of the majority is reached, they will join the fray (it becomes less risky to dissent than to comply).

mpolzkill September 13, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Tina said on:


[Removing her qualifiers]:

“…life would be a great deal riskier, and generally more demanding, if we were all as free as we are constantly arguing we should be…libertarians can tend to “underestimate the relative degree of chaos which can result from more freedom…Its like the East Germans when the wall finally came down…just give me back the security.”

“Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?”, eh? (ha ha)

There should be a libertarian “Holy of Holies” for discussion on strategy. I don’t think I’d get invited in though, and I’m not taken too seriously at any rate, so here goes:

On another forum, Ackerman was using African hell-holes instead of your East German example. He (and Russ is dishing it out again; where do you rank “faintheartedness” on your sins list, Russ?) also enjoys mocking us as “Utopian”. I believe that many libertarians are definitely on the wrong PR road. I’m not saying I’m on the right one, but I know most of us are on own separate wrong paths to convincing anyone. Every time I hear any libertarian theorist, this Burke passage goes through my mind (ties in nicely too with the “sin” talk)

“History consists, for the greater part, of the miseries brought upon the world by pride, ambition, avarice, revenge, lust, sedition, hypocrisy, ungoverned zeal, & all the train of disorderly appetites, which shake the public with the same ‘troublous storms that toss The private state, and render life unsweet.’ These vices are the CAUSES of those storms. Religions, morals, laws, prerogatives, privileges, liberties, rights of men, are the PRETEXTS. The pretexts are always found in some specious appearance of a real good.You would not secure men from tyranny & sedition by rooting out of the mind the principles to which these fraudulent pretexts apply? If you did, you would root out everything that is valuable in the human breast. As these are the pretexts, so the ordinary actors & instruments in great public evils are kings, priests, magistrates, senates, parliaments, national assemblies, judges, & captains. You would not cure the evil by resolving that there should be no more monarchs, nor ministers of state, nor of the gospel; no interpreters of law; no general officers; no public councils. You might change the names. The things in some shape must remain. A certain quantum of power must always exist in the community in some hands & under some appellation. Wise men will apply their remedies to vices, not to names; to the causes of evil which are permanent, not to the occasional organs by which they act, & the transitory modes in which they appear. Otherwise you will be wise historically, a fool in practice. Seldom have two ages the same fashion in their pretexts & the same modes of mischief.”

I could also go into Dostoevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor”, but I won’t (please, don’t beg). Besides just not having the required mental tools for freedom (sorry, its mean, but HOW did, Donna get “Let then eat cake” out of what Russ said?!? Hopeless!), I believe it is a fact that some large percentage of the population will always crave “Miracle, Mystery and Authority”, as the Inquisitor put it. And, again regarding the eternal vices; if one studies Dostoevsky one probably wouldn’t say, “The only hope is to convince people that they will be, long term, *better off* under a free market [with a virtual guarantee for the shortchanged in life's genetic lottery that they will forever be below the Joneses]. I know Russ wouldn’t be so unrealistic as to actually embrace any hope, but this is no hope of any kind to anyone who knows the infinite spite; or to use Nietzsche’s terminology, the “ressentiment” of the “untermensch” (Ah, Christianity was for many so much the healthier release than its literally unholy offspring, Socialism). SO, my point is, any theorizing about a future world society based wholly on and enforced solely by Reason IS ridiculous.

Now, your example of East Germany (and Ackerman’s of Africa) is one of a power vacuum created by the political powers when they took away the people’s abilities to govern themselves. Tina, have you ever read Nock’s “Our Enemy, The State?” There is no way I can do justice to his portrayal of “social power” vs. “political power”. Please check it out if you haven’t, or if you have, please read it again. To try to sum this up: libertarians need to make it clear that they aren’t so idiotic as to deny the reality of and the need for power. We are opposed to ARBITRARY power; CRIMINAL power; vertical, amassed power as opposed to horizontal, dispersed power; coercive power as opposed to the power to persuade and volunteerism. We are against political power and for social power, and for an orderly transferal of the power, at that (however slowly but as quickly as possible that would be)

And….it is THIS world that is the chaotic, lawless and sick “order”; you give it far too much credit. The peace and security you describe is the peace and security of the house slave; the slaves in the field must pay mightily for that peace. The NET effect of political regimes is not one of order as a quick glance at Africa and the Middle East will attest…or a study of most Americans will attest, for that matter. One last quote by Robert Nisbet to try to get across what’s at stake here and as something that relates to the wonderful Faulkner piece here:

“[America,] the heart of totalitarianism…the masses; the vast aggregates who are never tortured, flogged, or imprisoned, or humiliated; who instead are cajoled, flattered, stimulated by the rulers; who are nonetheless relentlessly destroyed as human beings, ground down into mere shells of humanity.”

Russ September 13, 2009 at 2:23 pm

mpolzkill wrote:

“Russ is dishing it out again; where do you rank “faintheartedness” on your sins list, Russ?”

Somewhere below over-zealousness (if your desired Revolution ever does take place, I imagine I will be shot as a traitor) and excessive pride (specifically excessive pride in one’s ability to use reason to fundamentally re-design society; a sin the socialists also have in spades).

“sorry, its mean, but HOW did, Donna get “Let then eat cake” out of what Russ said?!?”

I was wondering that myself. All I said was that in a truly egalitarian society, rich and poor alike could both die of medical conditions that are easily treatable now. But I guess that would be more “fair”?

Cyelii April 12, 2011 at 10:25 am

maplky Stands back from the keyboard in amazement! Thanks!

prettyskin September 13, 2009 at 6:38 pm

No. Absolutely no. They did not voluntarily gave up their security and pursue inalienable rights to be free. Resources in their homeland were scarce, period. New markets were needed, everyday a sucker is born. The unknown is what they needed to thread upon for survival. And, what did they do as soon as they got to America? Killed, raped and enslaved -took others’ freedom away- people who were just minding they out business – exercising their pursue to happiness and inalienable rights. What about these people who they trampled upon for their own greed, own tyranny, own security, and own country? They were living freely as they knew it to be. In this respect, no thanks Founders.

mpolzkill September 14, 2009 at 9:47 am


Shot?…oh come now, tarred and feathered at worst. [grin, non sardonic grin]

MY revolution? Shot as a traitor? Excessive pride in my ability to use reason to fundamentally re-design society? Are you talking about me, the person who just wrote what you must have read? I can only assume that you’re smoking whatever Donna’s smoking, or that you think my little manifesto above is a tissue of lies. I’m hurt. I can only proclaim that I meant every word. To go back to it:

“your desired Revolution”

“Revolution”: of course from “revolve”, “rotate”; everything upside down (and you suggested earlier that I’m a willful contrarian). I guess your fear of “contrarians” taking over is this simple: you’re comfy today. “The first will be the last”, I bet you don’t like that either, ha ha. Don’t worry, Mr. Utilitarian, you’ve probably got the right horse; we’re no place. There isn’t even a “we” that I know about. I’m not Christian and I’m well aware of the horrifying track record of revolutions. I’ll try to not rehash everything I just wrote, but I think I clearly showed here and elsewhere that I am in favor of MORE law and order; that those who YOU believe are the order keepers are in fact charlatans and criminal parasites; that what remains of order and prosperity today is due to how much social power is still left. I want nothing that is good overturned, I want it strengthened. If you, Russ, provide people with goods and services they willingly purchase why on earth would I want you shot? Or why shot if you didn’t? Then, you’d be a charity case. Strange! Or it’s all a joke? I don’t often laugh at jokes comparing me to a socialist.

“Shot as a traitor?”

Lysander Spooner, “No Treason”? The word “traitor” has no meaning to a panarchist. I think in terms of crime, those great and small. Who would ever think you have betrayed a trust, Russ? You openly and habitually mock those who consistently oppose political (criminal) regimes. I understand that you don’t get it; you’re fearful, the regime has trained you completely (the usurpers of all rights to defend oneself have convinced you that they are the SOURCE of security; sad) What cruelty!: to shoot you!?! Furthermore, as soon as you stop calling for your fellow citizens to be robbed to pay for your security schemes, I’d say you are totally clean AND you would still be perfectly free to remain in bondage to your keepers if you choose.

[an aside]: To go back to my reference to crime: I believe that capital punishment is a crime in itself. For instance, when they asked Mises what he would do if he were the King of the World, without hesitation he said: “Abdicate!” I wholeheartedly concur, but with one hesitation: I would want to pay back Dick Cheney and his co-conspirators for their horrifying war crimes which they FORCED me to pay for. The sentence I would deal? A life time of hard labor on a Guatemalan banana plantation. See? I’m merciful. Sorry for all the blather, but you really have hurt my feelings.

“excessive pride in one’s ability to use reason to fundamentally re-design society”

That was the real Donna moment here, unless you are straight calling me a liar. I JUST got through saying:

“any theorizing about a future world society based wholly on and enforced solely by Reason IS ridiculous.”

I can’t think of the third interpretation. You’re assuming I’m an idiot who can’t keep straight my philosophy which I’ve worked on and put up against open debate to all comers for thousands of hours, I suppose. No, the real answer is: you’ve assumed what my philosophy consists of and you’re enjoying knocking the straw man down.

No: no such society will ever exist; too much fear in humans, above all. There could be an order close to it though: a wise leader (perhaps E.T.) could let them slowly go free without letting them really know how free they are. Like any good parent. There are always problem children though.

Bill Ross September 14, 2009 at 10:57 am


“Revolution”: of course from “revolve”, “rotate”; everything upside down”

Try again: Re-Evolution

To reconsider the institutional choices (adapting to environment) we have made in response to past environmental conditions (not necessarily true, mostly spin and misdirection).

To do so, first step is to KNOW how to sort fact from fiction, to discern TRUE action / consequence relationship (natural law) which, like it or not will determine final outcome (grim, on present course, within present false intellectual paradigm).

Learning the truth will set you free (make you aware of the fact you already are free, per post above).

Heresy, you bet:


Russ September 15, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Wow, I didn’t expect a deconstructionist treatise in response to a few throw-away lines.

mpolzkill wrote:

“I don’t often laugh at jokes comparing me to a socialist.”

What are you going to do? Go all William F. Buckley, Jr. on me? *grin*

Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

mpolzkill September 15, 2009 at 10:44 pm

Bill Ross,

Well, I was going with English, but I know what you’re saying, I like your stuff.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -


Physician heal thyself. No glass covering this house, buddy; I don’t advocate theft out of timorousness.

Bill Ross September 17, 2009 at 7:42 am


“Well, I was going with English”

Orwell warned us:


If you seek understanding, use the REAL, underlying meaning of terminology. The language, concepts and terminology we have been miseducated with has the sole purpose of polarizing and confusing us to avoid social consensus and keep us fighting each other. It is “rule by divide and conquor”

Learn to “agree to disagree” and focus on common interest, in all conflicts.

mpolzkill September 17, 2009 at 9:05 am

Yes, I’ve read that, it’s very useful, thank you.

I WAS going to the underlying usage in trying to identify the exact source of Russ’s derision. In this case he employed the word “revolution”. “Revolution” is merely to revolve. “Revolve” is to roll back. As I understand the root, as RUSS is using it, that would be to “turn back”. I think Russ would basically concur here: he thinks we want to turn back. In his mind, we, being fools, think we are turning back to some imaginary golden age; but (because he knows more than we do) are in fact advocating turning back to violent chaos. I would never use this word (and for myriad other reasons I could go into) and that is why a cutie-pie like Russ want to tar me with it.

“Evolve” means to unroll. You made up a word ( which is fine) which can only mean to me: to go back to unrolling. Fine, fascinating. Nothing to do with anything going on here. What IS going on here is a conservative protecting his special interest (as he does all over this site). There will be no agreeing to disagree from me on Russ’s demand that everyone Russ imagines are his “People” be robbed so that he feels more secure. You go ahead and agree to disagree with statists and then continue to be robbed perpetually. I will continue to be robbed too, of course; because of the vast majority your two camps comprise. (YOUR camp: this is assuming you even have a strong grasp of the conversation Russ and I were having. It’s plain to me that you don’t. Since you have begun the unsolicited advice, here’s mine: get a clearer idea of what’s going on before popping off with condescension and admonitions. I put up with it once, and now you have breached my tolerance level)

Bill Ross September 20, 2009 at 8:25 am


There will be no “agree to disagree” from me regarding violations of law:

Do not initiate aggression and obey the “rule of law”:


To the extent of my ability, in my lawful affairs, violation of the law (as stated above) will receive a proportional response up to and including the death of aggressors (or myself).

Live free, or die trying.

If you have taken the trouble to read my stuff, my basic proven point is:

Freedom equals ability to choose equals ability to adapt to environmental conditions equals survival.

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