The Struggle - the Long Arc of Advances in Human Liberty
Here is some good news: The march of liberty has so far proven to be generally unstoppable. Over the span of human history there have been periods during which hardly any sign of respect for human liberty had been in evidence. In other eras the globe has seen advances toward human liberty by leaps and bounds. That is to say, in some periods clear evidence can be pointed to showing that some men and women – such as kings, queens, czars, Pharaohs, Caesars, dictators, tyrants, politburos, political bodies of all types and uncivil majorities – have began to recede in their efforts to suppress other men and women, to treat them as their tools, instruments, subjects, and such. In other periods the opposite trend has been in evidence.
Still, overall the trend has been toward the spread of liberty. More and more of us have become masters of our own lives, fewer and fewer are in the position of ruling others. Even when in some areas, such as national economic policy, liberty has taken a beating, there are others where fewer impositions and restrictions are made into public policy – for example, the basic rights of members of minorities, women, gays, natives, the press, etc., are being recognized and provided legal protection alongside onerous economic policies. And globally, while the former beacon of human liberty, the United States of America – itself, sadly, never fully committed – is now rather halting in its defense of human freedom, other communities – for instance, the former Soviet and other colonies – are slowly but surely shedding the idea and practice that would have some people run roughshod over others, especially as a matter of official public policy.
Now this is not all that surprising. In any area of their lives people can do better or worse or just linger in some kind of mediocre limbo. And this is so when it comes to political matters. Sometimes, in fact, there can be improvement in one sphere of human life and a decline in others – for instance, while economic liberty can widen, it is possible for personal or cultural fulfilment to be on hold for many. Not everything is moving in the same direction at once and with the same speed. (One can easily confirm this by just checking one's own life and noticing that there can be advances in one area while another can be faltering – one's career can even soar while one's health might not improve.)
All this is enhanced by the sheer fact that the surrounding natural world in which men and women may struggle to strive, to flourish, isn't uniformly supportive – storms, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, diseases and other adversities not of our making are often complicit in making life not so triumphant for us all. Fortunately, here, if men and women are substantially free to live their lives without being oppressed by others, they tend to do better at figuring out how to deal with these non-human adversities – the sciences, philosophy, technology, education, and other features of life tend to get improved treatment when we are free, less time needs to be spent on fending off the intrusive ones among us.
So, as one contemplates developments in one's immediate or the broader human sphere, it is a good idea to keep in mind how even without a inevitable trend toward a better and better existence, in the long run human beings are experiencing a better and better life (just as the late Julian Simon and his students (e.g., Matt Ridley) have been stressing in the midst of the endless doom-sayings of the likes of Paul Ehrlich and Paul Krugman).
Quite often predictions of doom come from politically disgruntled folks, those who still believe that they should be in charge of others and not respect the rights of everyone to sovereignty, self-government. Also, as one gets older and senses that ones own life is slowly declining, one may be tempted to project this on to the rest of the world and declare it all going to hell in a hand basket.
No, there isn't a guarantee of a steady march toward liberty – it is truly a matter of eternal vigilance. But fortunately there are many, many people who exhibit this vigilance in various parts of their lives, throughout human history and around the globe, and thus help keep afoot the advances toward greater and greater freedom and, alongside, a better chance of overall improvement in human affairs.
Posted by EDD on 01/01/11 08:48 AM
@Badsanta and the DB
I have thought about a way of maybe having a platform where like minded individuals can continue discussions about topics raised by the articles posted by the DB. Perhaps there can be a discussion forum initiated where certain threads can be explored. What do you think?
Reply from The Daily Bell
A new iteration of this site is upcoming; hopefully that will add to the ease with which such thoughtful individuals as yourself can present feedback and commentary.
Posted by Badsanta on 12/31/10 11:33 PM
True. There are grains of truth in many philosophies and religions...especially if you go to the Source. I look forward to continuing this discussion with you. Happy New Year.
Posted by EDD on 12/31/10 05:46 PM
Very true, to an extent. Jesus did not condemn religion, only chastised those who misused/corrupted the philosophical premises of religious issues. And, he did not start a 'religion', he came to show us how to live in harmony with one another. It was those who came after that set a 'doctrine'.
You wrote; "what of the personal relationship movement that Jesus Christ Himself taught?" When you live as he taught, the doorway opens for the Creator to fill your heart with Love, and here I am not speaking of the way of 'making love' as has been twisted by some, but a Love that comes to one with tremendous healing quality. Anyone who has experienced this infilling within the heart, that one will never again question whether God exists or not.
Again; "If a religion becomes diluted to the point of "controlling the masses", then it indeed is ONLY a religion." This is where I make a distinction. If you read my posts carefully, you will perceive that I write from a spiritual point of view, not a 'religious' one. All of the worlds 'religions' have become 'watered down', or as you expressed, 'diluted'. That being said, I have found through experience that regardless of how 'diluted' a philosophical pursuit becomes, there are grains of truth embedded therein.
These 'grains' have become, to me, pearls without blemish.
Again, to all, Happy New Year!
Posted by Paul on 12/31/10 04:25 PM
Whether Dr. Machan's article is true or not, can be tested with a handy time machine. Either there are many times and places people would rather be in the past (even considering only political and social freedom, not technology), or there are few to none. Would you abandon the present? About the only destination that tempts me, is 1830's America, in the west; and that only a little bit.
Actually, the prospect of watching the end of empire makes me very happy to be in the present, despite the danger.
Posted by Badsanta on 12/31/10 01:26 PM
Happy New Year to all ? (was supposed to be a HAPPY FACE) :)
Posted by Badsanta on 12/31/10 01:23 PM
It seems to me that the pendulum of social beliefs is at the peak of its anti-God swing. First and foremost, I see the word/concept of "religion" intertwined to oft with "personal relationship with one's Creator". Click to view linkom the ashes of the Crusade...rise the anti-Christian/anti-"religion" movement, but what of the personal relationship movement that Jesus Christ Himself taught? Is not the word "Christian" to mean "Christ-Like"? If a religion becomes diluted to the point of "controlling the masses", then it indeed is ONLY a religion.
If I recall, Jesus Christ was murdered for confronting the "Religious" leaders of the day. So...Jesus Christ Himself was a rebel against religion?!
Happy New Year to all ?
Posted by EDDh on 12/30/10 08:54 PM
I had to read your post several times to begin to understand your take on religious issues.
My first comment is; I am not an apologist, I do not use religion as an exercise to hide anyone's action. We, individually, are solely responsible for our actions. You may know of someone who has had a 'religious' experience that changed their life, and that is good for that person and could be an example for others. However, that person may become so strong willed that he/she will try to 'convert' others to the point of being an extremist.
My 'faith' rests not only in much of what is mentioned in Biblical literature, but as I have studied other philosophical concepts, have come to realize that each have ingrained truths within the volumes of literature from these various philosophical lines of thought. You wrote, "We shouldn't let the Bible off the hook with the "Golden Rule" foppery." Maybe you are unaware that each of the worlds major religions have a version of the 'golden rule' and even though different words are used, they all say the same thing, listed as follows;
Christianity: "All things whatsover that ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets."
Judaism: "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man; that is the entire law; all the rest is commentary."
Buddhism: "Hurt not others in ways that yourself would find hurtful."
Zoroastranism: "That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto others whatsover is not good for itself."
Islam: "No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself."
Brahmanism: "This is the sum duty: Do not unto others that which would cause pain if done unto you."
Confucianism: "Is there one maxim which ought to be acted upon throughout one's whole life? Surely it is the maxim of loving kindness: Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you."
Taoism: "Regard your neighbor's gain as your gain, and your neighbor's loss as your loss."
Cayce: "Love is law, law is love; God is love, Love is God."
So my question becomes, 'are they all wrong'? Or do you suppose that just perhaps each philosophical pursuit had an enlightened soul, who, by living his/her philosophy started a movement which was credited to that person. I don't try to convince anyone that one faith is greater than another, rather have come to the realization that each has its truths inherent within its teachings. I have come to the conclusion that we are not individuals which may have a 'religious experience', rather that we are 'spiritual individuals having a human experience'.
@Puck T. Smith Thanks, but-----don't you 'believe in desert thunder gods'? ;-)
One last thought, there is not enough space in these posts to elucidate the processes involved which led to the conclusions I posted in my first remarks. However, by example once again, Kirlian photography shows the 'aura' which exists around living tissue and this aura has been seen by spiritually adept individuals throughout history. Just because we don't see something doesn't mean it's not there.
Everyone, have a happy New Year.
Posted by Puck T. Smith on 12/30/10 06:33 PM
"do not unto others which you would not want done to you"
The best formulation of that dictum I've seen is from Hillel the Elder in the Babylonian Talmud: "What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor."
And the beauty of it is you don't even have to believe in desert thunder gods to put it into practice.
BTW, I had issues with this piece as well.
"Quite often predictions of doom come from politically disgruntled folks, those who still believe that they should be in charge of others and not respect the rights of everyone to sovereignty, self-government. Also, as one gets older and senses that ones own life is slowly declining, one may be tempted to project this on to the rest of the world and declare it all going to hell in a hand basket."
That really bothered me, but many years ago I learned that instinctive aversion is often a defense mechanism. Before I dismiss what Dr. T is saying I will have to do a little self-examination. Especially concerning that last sentence.
Then again, maybe I'm just so hungry for something, anything, to feel optimistic about.
Posted by Ral on 12/30/10 04:06 PM
How true! 250 years ago there was mostly religious feudalism, now an increasingly tolerant world interested in more liberty. For progress of people working on voluntary and non-governmental solutions worldwide, see Click to view link
Posted by Darby Jie on 12/30/10 03:59 PM
I would like to purchase a pair of those nifty rose-colored glasses that Dr. Machan is sporting-could he kindly provide an address where I might also purchase same?
Posted by Oldgeezer on 12/30/10 03:42 PM
Again the philosophical philanders are quoting ying and yang in an effort to appear as ultra-intellectuals. Some good thoughts above. It is unfortunate that we, as society, can not turn those words into actions. One's words are just that...words with no force if uttered into space where they are lost. To make changes one's words must fall on willing ears and be the cause and effect of change. If not then no change can happen. That is apparently where we are at present. Happy New Year to one and all.
Posted by James Kormaqn on 12/30/10 03:09 PM
I would like to think that Dr. Machan is correct but over the last 50 years, I have seen a relatively robust civilization deteriorate into an ever suffocating/nanny state melange of rules that is killing liberty on a frightening basis.
Posted by Job on 12/30/10 02:39 PM
You postulate: "Even though it may not be seen in this dimension, the condition of mankind's inhumanity towards each other today, (wars, thievery, fraud, abortion, etc., etc.), are misuses of the Creator's energy. These misuses are the opposite of the 'Golden Rule', 'do not unto others which you would not want done to you'. It may be a stretch for many to conceive, but these misuses of energy actually take on a weight which cannot be observed physically. However, this weight becomes an overlay of burden upon the planetary body. Hence, there comes a time when the earth must throw off this negative energy and does so by adjustments within the earth itself, through earthquakes and other so called natural disasters."
Once again, an example of a religious apologist failing to recognize one of history's greatest stumbling blocks to Liberty -- the Bible! (Not to let other religious texts, like the Koran, off the hook).
I propose that the polar opposite to Liberty is SLAVERY! The Bible is a virtual "Slave Keeping for Dummies" manual with it's dozens of rules on who, how and when slaves are to be kept. To this day there are millions of slaves kept using religion as an excuse for the behavior. (Although getting frisked at the airport is a monster threat to Liberty, too. Ha ha).
We shouldn't let the Bible off the hook with the "Golden Rule" foppery. This ridiculously simple nicety from the book of Matthew does not even come close to outweighing the multitude of slavery rules throughout the Bible. Any kid on any playground in the world figures out that relationships with other kids are nicer if you treat them nicely. One little inanity offered up by a Creator does not outweigh clear Biblical approval for slave keeping.
As to the theory of misuse of a Creator's energy leading to increase in mass leading to earthquakes(!) once again a religious apologist is caught out fabricating a supernatural cause for a natural occurrence.
Science handily explains earthquakes in the field of Plate Tectonics. There are mountains of scientific MEASURABLE evidence that explain earthquakes.* No need to fabricate "weight that cannot be observed physically." By that definition there is ZERO EVIDENCE of "Creator Energy" magically transformed into weight and then into earthquakes. Let me guess -- we gotta have "faith," right?
One of the themes that the Daily Bell doesn't emphasize (to my taste, anyway) is the role religion plays in the control of the masses and the repression of Liberty. The DB dances close comparing the Gutenberg Press with the Internet, but here's to hoping that the internet can do a better job of bringing religion down a peg than the Gutenberg Press did in (sadly) bringing the Bible to more people, thereby increasing religious power.
Napoleon said that "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich." If I were advising any "power elite," you can bet I'd recommend that they get as heavily involved in religious thought control as possible!
*(Literally "mountains of evidence," too. It explains how fish fossils get to the top of mountains. Noah's flood isn't required.)
Posted by Bionic Mosquito on 12/30/10 01:40 PM
This editorial does not sit well. At first, my reaction was the same as that of ZenB, Bluebird, and others. "What is this guy talking about?" I thought.
I struggled with my struggles. I have had trouble putting these into words. I will not list reasons why human liberty has retreated in this time. Especially the audience at TDB knows this too well. We discuss this daily.
However, many areas have improved, or not grown much worse at least. I think about the major calamities of the first half of the 20th century. The oppressive regimes of the Soviet Union and CCP. In the US, the centralization of Roosevelt, the civil liberties smashed by Wilson and Lincoln. Slavery in its most blatant form was institutionalized and legalized in much of the world prior to the mid-nineteenth century. Today, the average person in the west lives a life that even a king could not dream of 150 years ago.
I remain troubled by this editorial. This is because it treats very casually a subject that in reality requires much depth, and is not as simple as the author presents. I would expect to see this happy-go-lucky treatment in the NY Times. It certainly is not a subject that should be explained only in positive terms while ignoring the reality of the steady march of freedoms also being destroyed.
Posted by Mike on 12/30/10 01:04 PM
@ Cindy " How can you have true freedom without morality or values?
I completely agree that the founders' vision was based on Judeo-Christian ethics. Such ethics are lacking in the real people imitated by Gordon Gecko in Wall Street. To be clear, our government is filled with the likes of Gordon Gecko. Greed and the accumulation of wealth is an alternative source for self actualization and self worth. It gives rise to the arrogant and self promoting belief that the "gifted" should regulate and control the "less gifted." This is a foundational level division between the Left and Right though certainly not the only one. The question and challenge is: Can deists survive in the techno-scientific age such that the principles of freedom can be articulated and perpetuated?
Posted by Robert on 12/30/10 12:12 PM
While I enjoy the majority of writings authored by Dr. Machan, this morning I find myself aligned with the very amusing and enteratining feedback from 'Zenbillionaire' as well as 'bluebird'. The increased 'freedoms / liberties' of so-called minorities has been achieved at the expense of 'freedoms and liberties' of the majority via the tyranny of 'political correctness' and "affirmative discrimination". The more rabid and militant so-called minorities enage in incessant additional intrusion into the lives of others via an ever increasing body of corrupt, ill conceived and misapplied "civil rights legislation".
Posted by Cindy on 12/30/10 11:32 AM
Whilst it appears to be true that freedom of sorts is expanding (as Dr. Machan describes), the workings of it seem to elude even the learned people... still! How can you have true freedom without morality or values? Without a moral compass or God it will once again spiral downward into a corrupt orbit. This is the uniqueness of the Constitution. It assumed people were striving to keep a moral code of ethics. This is where the United States has lost it's way. In my humble opinion, you will never reach the pinnacle of freedom "Value-less". You won't even be able to understand the machinery of it much less live it and/or propagate it.
Posted by Heuristic on 12/30/10 10:30 AM
"We are one world and indeed our 'brother's keeper'."
I can hardly think of a more succint statement of the anti-capitalistic, collectivist ethos.
Posted by Heuristic on 12/30/10 10:25 AM
I am grateful to the writer for giving me the opportunity to use the phrase, "whiggish waffle."
Posted by Bluebird on 12/30/10 10:13 AM
Dr. Machan is teasing us today, is he not? Any liberty granted today seems to be to fulfill a larger social entrapment of the granters, IMO. Only an illusion.
I won't address all of his "minority" list, but freedom granted women seems to be to break down the family, put women in the work force, which means more tax payers. Some may think it grand, but I don't buy it.
The others on the list also seems to serve a purpose of the freedom "granters". I will leave it at that.