Freedom is a Fact

On pages 149 and 150 of the book The Discovery of Freedom, written in 1943 by Rose Wilder Lane, we read the following brilliant passage:

“Freedom is not a permission granted by any Authority. Freedom is a fact. Whether or not this fact is known, freedom is in the nature of every living person, as gravitation is in the nature of this planet. Life is energy; liberty is the individual control of human life-energy. It can not be separated from life. Liberty is inalienable; as I can not transfer my life to anyone else, I can not transfer my liberty, my control of my life energy, to anyone else.

My exercise of self-controlling energy can be forbidden, restricted, prevented, by force, by putting me in jail or in chains. My spirit may be so weak, or I may be so ignorant of facts, that I try to behave as if I did not control my own acts. But my self-control, which is freedom, can be taken away from me only by killing me.

So long as I live, I am self-controlling and responsible for what I do. Ignorance is no escape from a fact. Rocks fell on men before an apple fell on Newton. Not knowing how fast you are driving is no escape from the fact of momentum. No one escapes from the fact of freedom, by lacking the brains or the nerve to face it and say, “I act like a coward only because I am a coward. If I act like a crook, I am a crook. No one and nothing but I, myself, can be responsible for what I do.”

I can not crawl out from under, saying, “I have to do this, if I don’t I’ll lose my job,” or, “We’ve got to, we can’t afford to lose the contract,” or, “I have a family to support,” or, “We have a responsibility to the stockholders,” or, “It’s the Party Line; the end justifies the means.”

Liberty is inalienable. I can not transfer my responsibility to anyone or anything.

This fact is not recognized when individuals submit to an Authority that grants them “freedoms.” Implicit in that plural is the belief that individuals are not free, that adult men and women must be controlled and cared for, as children are, and that, like children, they are naturally dependent and naturally obedient to an Authority that is responsible for their acts and their welfare.”

Read the entire wonderful book here,


4 Responses to Freedom is a Fact

  1. ruleofstupid says:

    um, er… (pulls a lot of consternated faces)… We are not free – nor can we be – nor is freedom even desirable.
    Think about language. If a word were free to mean what it liked, it would mean different things all the time and would become useless in language. Words must be both fixed fundamentally, and flexible of nuance, but not free. For language to work it cannot be free – yet from all the fixed points of words come infinite plays, books, songs…
    Likewise humans are not free. Our birthplace is not our choice, our language is inherited, our genes inherited, we have governments, borders, cities, laws, rules etc. But it is only within this fixity that we can have meaning and expression (ie. freedom).
    The great debate over freedom or ‘not freedom’ comes from a failure to understand that the absence of freedom is the prerequisite to freedom – just as rules are prerequisite to chess. The debate comes because we mean two mutually exclusive and codependent things with the word ‘Freedom’ – ‘Freedom as infinite choice’ and ‘freedom’ as in ‘self-beingness’. The freedom to be requires the unfreedom of rules.
    This extract seems to think that we are free to forget we “have a family to support”, or to throw away our jobs in the name of freedom. Easy to say, but is starvation or poverty really liberating? If so why do the west call the third world undeveloped, why not call it ‘Freedom-land’?
    This sort of ‘we are free’ message, which ignores the pain of ‘freeing oneself from employment’, only supports the Power-serving illusion that our present inequality is all good, because we’re free to be all we can be – so it must be our choice to be hungry.

    • Thank you for the comment.

      You, of course, must see the irony of your statement….right? By going onto wordpress and posting a comment about not being free, your are disproving your own point. Or are you prepared to put forth that you are obligated by some environmental or biological imperatives beyond your control that force you to go online and read and comment on blogs?

      Yes, some things are beyond our control. How we react to such things is entirely within our control.

      Words do not necessarily have fixed meanings. When I was a teenager, I said something was “sick” if I thought it was cool. A liberal used to be a person who believed in maximum liberty, now it is a person who believes in the welfare state. New words are being created all the time. You are free to choose which words you want to use. You can speak Spanish or German if you prefer them to English. You could even speak in gibberish if you’re prepared to deal with the consequences. The choice is yours. You chose to put “um, er” in front of your comment to make my post seem inconsequential and stupid. “Em,er” could certainly have a different meaning in a different context.

      Governments, rules, and borders change all the time. Is it because of environmental factors beyond anybody’s control or is because human beings with free will bring such changes about?

      I believe, I assume like you, that it is immoral to fail to support one’s family. However, humans are absolutely free to abandon their families. It happens all the time, every single day. The abundance of single mother families is sad proof of that fact. You are free to starve as well. Anorexics do it even in the richest countries. Any of us is free to kill ourselves. Starvation is a heartbreaking reality. However, each person in a third world country has the freedom to decide how they will cope with their harsh reality. Will they wake up and fight with their barren sliver of the earth each day or will they succumb to death? Will they try to move to another country. Freedom is a fact, albeit a sad fact sometimes.

      With regards to inequality, thank goodness there is freedom. If there weren’t freedom, the inequality of means or sustenance would just be a fact of life. We’d have to accept it. There would be nothing we could do about it. However, we are free. We can volunteer, we can donate to charity, we can provide jobs, we can raise our kids to be caring and conscientious individuals. Those are choices that we can make, thank goodness.

      So, I repeat: freedom is a fact. If you choose to respond, you’ll prove my point.

  2. ruleofstupid says:

    Good response. It’s a debate that could go forever so I won’t continue it here. I did just want to say that my um, er, was levity, intended to signify the struggle of my own brain, and was not intended to mock you or your post – I do not think it right or respectful to try and make people look stupid and I apologise that this was the impression I gave. Your post and response would belie such in any case.

  3. Thank you for the message. I too apologize for my erroneous reading of the situation. I actually have gone back and reread your post and realized that I didn’t really refute your chess example. Indeed, on the chess example we share common ground. We are not free from the physical laws of nature and scarcity. Those are the rules of the game within which our freedom operates. In that sense, we are not entirely free. Very good point. I wish you all the best.

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