Reply To: Contracts have same problems as Constitutions?


Thank you, Gerard, this is very helpful. You have such a depth of the historical knowledge here, your feedback on my rambling thoughts is greatly appreciated! It’s prompted me to go read Aristotle and Rothbard and a bunch of other things. But I should probably just buy your new book! ?

I suppose my overarching idea, in these last few threads, is basically this: we are already free.

Free to think, free to act, free to choose. All of us. Regardless of the political system under which we live. There is always something free at the core of who we are as human beings.

“Prosthetics” is a short story by Evgeny Zamyatin from the early Soviet period. As the prisoners were ushered into the gulag, they had to remove and register their prosthetic devices. These were early days, following WW1 and the Revolution, so most prisoners had one kind of prosthetic or another.

But one of the prisoners had no prosthetics. He was chuckling the whole time. Finally his turn came: “What, I don’t have any prosthetics?! But I still have a soul. Do you want to take my soul?! I must apologize, you cannot have my soul!!”

What’s the point?

Even in the gulag, you are still free, if you choose to be free.

Life will always present us with constraints of one kind or another. In fact, we cannot avoid them. Many of us have severe physical constraints. Many of us are constrained by the political or cultural or economic environment in which we find ourselves.

But we are still free. Free to think. Free to respond. In fact, this is the only kind of freedom we really ever have: to choose how to respond to the situation in which we find ourselves. Even if they take away our life.

And… what’s my point?

Even though we are free, we have the State.

It’s a universal phenomenon.

This must mean there is some vicious cycle that brings it into being and causes it to perpetuate and metastasize as it grows. And at the heart of that vicious cycle, there must be some intractable conflict that causes it to persist, despite the best efforts of well-intentioned people over hundreds (thousands?) of years to preserve and protect basic human freedom and dignity.

I came up with a tree of cause-and-effect that shows (or tries to show) that all it requires is a very few people to make the kind of foolish decisions we’ve been discussing — and it starts the avalanche rolling down the hill. And really, the reasons behind it are economic. People may be acting shortsightedly but not entirely without reason.

The arrows represent cause and effect. A -> B means “If A, then B”. Read from bottom to top.

I have a much more detailed version — this leaves out several steps in the logic but hopefully is detailed enough to get the idea.