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09/01/2006 Archived Entry: "What Sustainable Freedom is (and isn't)"
WHAT SUSTAINABLE FREEDOM IS: The condition in which inspirational individuals and society's customary institutions reinforce freedom-oriented behavior. (My columns introducing the topic, in case you haven't read them: link, link, and link)
What it most emphatically is NOT: An attempt to hold freedom in stasis by "institutionalizing" it.
Every society encourages certain behaviors and discourages others. This is done more through social interaction and custom than by legislation or regulation.
Behavior can be reinforced cruelly (as with high-school girls backbiting each other or a pope declaring an inquisition). Behavior can be reinforced in benign ways (as when thoughtful, polite people inspire others to rise to their standards or when an e-commerce vendor offers options for anonymous transactions).
The behaviors reinforced can be negative or positive. Today we have multitudes of systems that encourage the growth of dependence (e.g. government subsidies and handouts, lobbying groups and NGOs whose sole purpose is to get more government). It's equally possible to have free-market systems that encourage the growth of independence (e.g. private ID or non-coercive online systems for establishing an individual's credibility).
Sustainable Freedom isn't a fixed set of behaviors -- though it is based on certain fixed principles like self-ownership, individual responsibility, and the right to private property. It is a social system that encourages the maxium possible individual freedom of (non-coercive) behavior -- and the independent, creative thinking that goes with that.
Posted by Claire @ 11:31 AM CST