Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Cost of Freedom (Part 2)

We can't hope to value our freedom if we don't pay the cost.

First lets establish a working definition of terms. Freedom is the ability to choose or act without constraint; in other words, to have certain authority over ones own self. This is the thread that weaves together "Freedom" and "Authority"; they are facets of the same jewel.

But, what is the cost that one must pay to have and value our freedom?

The Thomas Pain quote in Part 1 was used by Robert Heinlein as an introduction to Chapter 6 in Starship Troopers. In this chapter we saw an exchange between a professor and his student Mr. Rico; exploring in general terms how the human experiences defines the cost and value of things in life.

Later in Chapter 12, I believe Heinlein gives an answer to the cost of freedom specifically. The following is an exchange between the same professor and student looking back at the "failed democracies" of the past, which would be our present.

The professor begins:
"...This universe consists of paired dualities. What is the converse of authority? Mr. Rico."
          He had picked one I could answer. "Responsibility, sir."

"Applause. Both for practical reasons and for mathematically verifiable moral reasons, authority and responsibility must be equal - else a balancing takes place as surely as current flows between points of unequal potential. To permit irresponsible authority is to sow disaster; to hold a man responsible for anything he does not control is to behave with blind idiocy. The unlimited democracies were unstable because their citizens were not responsible for the fashion in which they exerted their sovereign authority... other than through the tragic logic of history... No attempt was made to determine whether a voter was socially responsible to the extent of his literally unlimited authority. If he voted the impossible, the disastrous possible happened instead - and responsibility was then forced on him willy-nilly and destroyed both him and his foundationless temple. (Pg 183, my emphasis)
The cost of freedom/authority is clearly responsibility.

Responsibility is a supreme cost because it demands nothing short of self imposed hardship/discomfort/suffering; that is...
  • Integrity
  • Discipline
  • Self-control
  • Sacrifice
  • Humility in acknowledging and...
  • ...Submission to a higher authority than oneself.
Responsibility is the process/action required to value/actualize freedom in life.

This makes sense of the premise I proposed in an earlier post; "the best things in life are attained through agony, sweat, and devotion".

Conclusion: To learn to value freedom in your life, you must pay the cost by being responsible with the time, energy, resources, and opportunities you are given.

What happens when we have freedom/authority, but don't value it (i.e. pay the cost with responsibility)? In Part 3 I'll explore this question and applications to specific types of freedom stated in Part 1.

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