The polar extremes of self and public/broad interest are especially distinct when applied to freedom
Yesterday, amongst other things, I talked about how values can be paired as polar opposites on a continuum with a self interest basis on the one side and public or broad interest on the other. This distinction matters on our perspectives, even for a treasured virtue like freedom. By this I mean that freedom can be understood from a self interest standpoint, and a public interest one.
Freedom can be defined as simply the ability of one’s own will to act, behave, think, etc. To do or say what one wants without limitation. This is the self interest perspective, and with it, at its extreme, there is no constraint of responsibility. You could travel, shop to your heart’s content, build what comes to mind, write that great book you have in your head, or maybe find your soul mate. Or maybe you want to beat puppies, burn down a house, cut down the largest tree in the forest, or leave your spouse and kids to fend for themselves because you have your own life to live. Even if it’s illegal, if you have little or even no conscience, what is there to stop you if you feel free to do so?
At the other extreme is emancipation, the freedom we help others achieve. Through this perspective, we explore and understand the constraints that exist and/or arise in our interconnecting lives and work to remove them. To enable ourselves, instead of engaging in conflict. A river passes between our communities? We build a bridge. Want to develop skills or learn more about the world? We build schools. Face bias in your community because of your gender or race? Teach tolerance or enact rules against such behavior.
At its best, the self interest perspective allows you to discover your identity and capabilities, to express and contribute your uniqueness to the amazing and wonderful diversity that strives to surface even against the most oppressive forces. Yet it is also capable of being the source of that oppression when driven by selfish motivations. There are no limits to the positive possibilities from the broad interested perspective of freedom, even when the choice of self sacrifice is required to open opportunities for our loved ones. Why else do we respect and celebrate our heroes and volunteers, including those in military service?
How compelling is this distinction between self interest and broad interest when it comes to freedom? The validity of a theory depends not only on the strength of its logic, but also on how broadly you can apply it.
In business, the 2008-2009 global recession was largely caused by free-wheeling self-interested financiers developing and selling worthless mortgage-backed securities whose confidence was borne by greed rather than the promotion of honest value. Simple trade, on the other hand, is built on the idea that it is better for people to specialize and exchange goods and/or services rather than doing everything themselves. If I grow tastier carrots and you grow more tomatoes, we are better off each growing one kind and trading rather than doing both individually.
Yet FREE trade does not mean blithely allowing businesses to go wildly unconstrained into markets without regard to their impact on local economies. It is the extension of the benefits of trade through its emancipation from unjustified constraints that otherwise prevent markets from optimally enjoying the value presented by honest buyers and sellers. Like stopping a neighbor from forcing you to buy his lower quality carrots by putting up a toll booth in front of my garden (yes, this is the theoretical standpoint, but the real world faults and concerns of free trade involve many other complex issues that I expect to someday write further about).
Self interested freedom can be motivated by greed, indulgence, hate, ego – feral instincts that still connect us with our ancestral wild unforgiving jungle existence by which survivalist rules dictated that those who could dominate and conquer should gain the fruits of life solely for their own enjoyment. Emancipating freedom is driven by love, compassion, openness, curiosity, creativity, industriousness – a desire to see others to succeed and thrive in their lives just as much or even more as your own. To mutually explore the broader possibilities that can emerge through cooperation and coexistence.
This is all delicious food for thought made possible, with great appreciation, by the openness of free thinking people like you, my readers, and those who used their liberty to enable writers like me to post opinions like this in this ever expanding forum. All this providing further support towards understanding the direction we should be heading towards on this dichotomy when it comes to freedom.