An Epiphany About Liberty

A few folks in our culture prod us to restore our liberty, standing up against the constant encroachments of the federal government and the bankers who seem to own those who govern, driving their behavior.  I have certainly been among such activists, even in recent years, but my understanding of the situation has continued to evolve with further study.

What these “liberty movement” activists don’t seem to understand—and what I have not understood until recently—is that the Americans who put up with these encroachments are using their liberty to do so. This is what they choose. They choose not to reform anything. They choose to be ignorant and lazy and irresponsible and subordinate and disinformed. They choose to promulgate a system that is low-maintenance and low in principle. This is what they want.  This is the lifestyle they prefer.

Understand then, dear activist, that what you’re asking them to do is not to adopt liberty where they had none before, but to use their liberty to do something different from what they’re using it for now—something different from giving in to the government’s profit-and-power-building encroachments.  You’re fussing at people who already consider themselves to be free, and who can easily maintain that view of freedom without having to exert themselves in the least. So if you want them to change their paradigms, and to expend their liberty on a higher cause than the one they already find more-or-less satisfying, you’re really got your work cut out for you.  Such a scheme would require finding a way to prompt non-thinkers to think, non-learners to learn, non-workers to work, non-carers to care, the non-courageous to take courage, and the non-valiant to become valiant. And once you get all that solved, then voila!, you’ll have your reawakening!

But you don’t see it this way, friend.  The way you see it, it’s a matter of liberty vs tyranny. More accurately, however, it’s a matter of using one’s liberty to do this rather than to do that—-to use it in a high-principle, high-maintenance plan, rather than in a low-principle, low-maintenance plan.

Not only do you not understand it accurately, but you’re trying to achieve your goal by attacking the branches, and not the root of the problem.  Are you trying to reform the very foundation of the public’s thinking processes?  Are you asking them to adopt a new method of cognitive processing altogether? No, you’re not trying to change the scheme; you’re just trying to change the outcome of their thinking on a few points—on whatever you deem necessary to make “patriots” of them. You want them to draw different conclusions on a few matters, but are not trying to get them to adopt new cognitive processes by which to reach those conclusions. Your work is being done up in the branches, and not at the root.

So even if you do manage to convert someone whose primary interests and motivations are more simply described as “soccer mom” or “hard working farmer” over to what you would call a “patriot”, you will not have made “patriots” who have shunned irrationality, cognitive laziness, and cognitive bias in all their forms—but only in whatever forms must be shunned to convert over to your model of “patriot”. Thus will your own movement invite into it the irrationality, cognitive laziness, and cognitive bias that plagues every other movement, including the ones you hate. Ironically, it will enslave itself to the tyranny of its own bad thinking—-and it will do so in the name of “liberty”, just as millions are currently supporting the very status quo that you are seeking to change.

If you haven’t noticed, they support the “nanny state”, “police state”, and “war state” all in the name of “liberty”.  This is how they support our mercantilist oligarchy.  But at the same time, you use the same word, “liberty”, in an attempt to get them to stop these very things that they are already doing so proudly.  Call me crazy, but that’s not the smartest plan I’ve ever heard.

I suggest that the highest principle and form of liberty plays out in the mind, and consists of freeing oneself from cognitive laziness, ignorance, irrationality, and cognitive bias. Fortunately, the individual can enjoy this liberty—if he is willing to achieve it—even if living among the tyranny of the masses, who opt for something else, supporting systems of government under which we all are forced to live.  Very few people seem to discover such cognitive liberty, however—even among those in the “liberty movement”.  Those who don’t, bring the same nasty habits of spin, favoritism, cognitive dissonance, and my-side bias into the “liberty movement”, where these things serve in ways that are counterproductive to the supposed cause.  It is the irony of people who have not freed their own minds trying to help others to free themselves from their conditioning as subjects of an overreaching government.

Yes, government is generally overreaching.  Yes, the rule of law is in shambles.  And yes, many of the formerly-recognized liberties in this nation are no longer legally available.  Yet the people still have free will as humans, and still decide daily what they will put up with and what they will venture to improve.  Ironically, your battle for “liberty” is being fought against the very conception of liberty held by those who do not think your cause is worth the trouble.  They are quite content to stay on the lower rungs of the liberty ladder, and most of the “liberty movement” folks are content to occupy the rung just above them.  But who climbs to the top?

I’m not writing this to encourage you to stop your efforts.  Rather, I’m writing to encourage you to climb to the top of the liberty ladder,  reforming your own thinking in order to rid yourselves of all cognitive laziness, irrationality, and bias—for your own sakes.  From there, you can train those who are willing to do the same, and you will find that some of them will indeed be inspired by your example to invest their own liberty in higher causes than those that presently suit them.

As it is, you are either “preaching to the choir”—repeating yourselves to those who already agree—or chiding those who don’t agree, telling them that they are “part of the problem”.  Little is done, however, to inspire in them a vision for a higher ideal of society.  Rarely is such a “big picture” shown as the desired outcome.  Rather, the activists simply fuss at folks, hoping they’ll turn themselves in and volunteer to do more work without really understanding why it should be worth it.  And I should mention, of course, that this strategy doesn’t seem to be particularly effective.

As long as people willfully fetter their own minds with irresponsibility, laziness, ignorance, irrationality, and bias, there’s no real hope that they will free themselves from a government that thrives off these predictable habits of the people.  You heard me right:  The strategies of the bank/government cartel that runs this place play on the corrupted psychology of the American people.  That corruption is wholly necessary for the whole scheme to keep operating.  Get rid of the corruption in the citizens’ thinking, and you get rid of the very thing by which they are being controlled.

The American people must first learn cognitive maturity before they can be fit to spank their own government and put it into its rightful place.  Sadly, though, people who are yet far from cognitively mature can still adopt the habit of fussing about the encroachments.  The fact of the matter is that it simply does not take a cognitive giant to fuss.  Nor does it take a cognitive giant to point the finger at the poor behavior of others, whom he insists should pitch in to help more.  And this accounts for the lion’s share of what goes on in the “liberty movement”:  people who are still much too prone to cognitive miserliness, irrationality, and cognitive bias are telling the rest that they need to become champions at beating back the government to some smaller size and power.

But it’s not working—and for the reasons I have already laid out.

If these activists understood this, they would change their tactics and teach epistemic rationality (Reality-Based Thinking) as a sustainable way of life, understanding that it will yield the kind of reformers they should want.

The highest liberty does not come from having one’s government conform to one’s own civic ideals; it comes from having one’s own thoughts, decisions, and beliefs conform to reality.  No individual is powerful enough to reform the government alone, yet every individual is perfectly powerful for reforming the habits of his or her own mind.  Only those who attain to that status are well-equipped for helping others to do the same.  And only after a few million have achieved this will there be any real hope of making meaningful political reforms in this country.

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