The Wealth of Nations — Part 2: Freedom

 

Very little freedom
Very little freedom

If you ask me what are the necessary causes of the wealth of nations, I will answer — having spent decades learning about and pondering that question — in just one word: Freedom!

Freedom is the sweetest word I know in English.

The advancement of civilization is essentially the expansion of individual freedom — the release from constraints imposed by nature, by other humans or by one’s mental and physical limitations. The notion of the freedom of a group has content only when individuals of that group are free. If the individuals are not free, the group cannot be considered to be free in any sense.

Freedom means you have the right to do whatever you please, provided you respect the corresponding right of others to do as they please. In short, mind your own business. A free society is one in which everyone minds only his own business. Free societies are prosperous societies.

The greater the collectivization of society, the greater the size of the government, the greater the constraints on individual liberty, the less free the society, and consequently the less prosperous the society. Unconstrained democracy is inconsistent with individual freedom, and therefore group freedom, and consequently leads to impoverishment.

Below I outline briefly why the universal application of the notion of minding one’s own business leads to the possibility of universal prosperity through individual freedom. And conversely, when people poke their noses into other people’s businesses, it leads to needless misery.
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Diogenes of Sinope

Diogenes with his lantern and faithful dog
Diogenes looking for an honest man

Diogenes of Sinope lived in a tub in the marketplace. Since it was a long time ago, around the 4th century BCE, the details are few. He is also known as Diogenes the Cynic.

I feel a certain intellectual kinship to Diogenes because I too am a cynic. He must have been a remarkable man, going by the stories told about him.

It is said that he sometimes walked around with a lamp even in broad daylight. When asked why, he replied, “I am looking for an honest man.” A cynic to the core.  Continue reading