Independence is individual autonomy. It’s the freedom to govern yourself and to rely upon your own independent judgment.
Independence is individual freedom.
What is individual freedom?
Freedom in its fundamental form has one and only one meaning: it is the omission of state force.
Freedom is the absence state force and government compulsion.
Freedom means that you are left alone.
The thing that distinguishes the free person from the unfree person is voluntary, consensual action versus action that is coerced, compelled, or physically forced.
Freedom is one of those things that virtually everyone believes in — that is, until everyone finds out what freedom actually means. At which point, almost no one believes in it.
The difficult thing for so many people to accept about freedom is that it doesn’t actually guarantee much of anything. It doesn’t guarantee success or happiness, or shelter, or food, or healthcare, or education, or a universal basic income, or a level playing field, or a level training field, or anything else that must ultimately derive from the production or labor of others.
Nature guarantees no creature automatic survival or prosperity — the human creature included.
That which is required for life and prosperity comes about through work and the process of voluntary exchange.
There is no type of freedom other than the type that voluntary exchange brings about.
Freedom simply means that you are free to pursue all those things and that if you achieve them, including any and all wealth you may earn from the division of labor and the process of voluntary, consensual exchange, are yours unalienably — which means: these things cannot be taken, transferred, revoked, or made alien.
“The legitimate functions of government extend only to such acts as are injurious to others,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, circa 1785, in his slender book Notes on the State of Virginia, and here Thomas Jefferson is speaking of — and against — the instigation of force.
Around the same time Thomas Jefferson was writing those words, another erudite fellow, a German named Wilhelm von Humboldt, independently came to the same conclusion:
“Any state interference into private affairs, where there is no reference to violence done to individual rights, should be absolutely condemned” (Wilhelm von Humboldt, The Limits of State Action, 1791).
That — the absence of violence, the omission of force — is finally what Independence Day is all about.
Happy 4th of July!
2 Responses and Counting...
I enjoyed reading this muchly. It left earworms, take-aways, and I leaned into it. I just love words that are in vogue. And so what about oppression? I find too many rules oppressive. People follow each one, break them all, run away, or sit in a dither, not knowing what to do…not even knowing all of them or which ones they followed and which ones they broke…or wished they had. In any form, it’s so exhausting and leaves no space for thinking, only reacting. I do agree with you that freedom is the absence of compulsion. But then compulsion is a whole entire topic. I felt compelled to write this and was free to do so at the same time. The Jefferson quote is apt as well. He is also credited as having stated “When people fear the government, there is tyranny. But when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Maybe he did say this, maybe not. So many quotes are attributed to him, Abe Lincoln, Mark Twain, Shakespeare, and the Buddha. I hope you had a wonderful 4th and that your contest ends well. I was free to enter I know, but did not feel so compelled.
Hi Priya. It’s very good to see you here.
Thank you for the lovely comment, and thank you for the 4th of July wishes. I hope you had a wonderful 4th as well.
Thank you for dropping by.