Links to Understanding Materials and 1978 newsletter. My essay on freedom and responsibility appeared in May 1978
Discussion of the Principles
A child usually conceives of freedom as the "right" to do anything he wants whenever he wants, perhaps as long as it doesn't "hurt" anyone else. When we grow up freedom becomes the opportunity to make decisions for ourselves, develop our own values and take responsibility for our own actions.
Much of the rhetoric during the 1976 political campaign dealt with what economic and social decisions (value judgments) a central government should make for us. Our civilization approaches a singular critical point in history as the finite natural resources it has grown accustomed to exploiting now dwindle. Decisions made by the so-called "free market place" - short term economic interests may hasten catastrophe by prolonging wasteful practices profitable only in the short run. There is no question that we do need a coherent, centralized national plan to deal with this problem, just as we would need one to defend our freedoms against military attack.
However, gradual decentralization of our economy
and encouragement of personal initiative and generosity may, in the long run, reduce our need to have big government dictate morality and have government take care of poor people who are unpleasant to face person-to-person. For example, use of solar energy in principle allows the individual homeowner to install and maintain his own apparatus; use of nuclear power requires complex administration of safety and constant surveillance for security.
The central issue for personal freedom however, is still the individual's making his own decisions about his personal life, and his accepting responsibility for them. Responsibility in an interconnected society requires that everyone take his own job seriously and not leave details to someone else.
In Communist countries there is
thoroughly centralized planning and usually a genuine attempt to provide
everyone with bare adaptive necessities but the individual is not allowed to
develop his own personal values. In
Individual differences are taken to follow mostly from lucky inheritance and to bear little relation to basic "survival competence". No one is allowed to develop his own surplus in life for his own purposes until the fundamental "adaptive" needs of everyone have been met. No one is allowed to use group (religious, ethnic) associations and commitments to bolster his own ego. Consumer technology is viewed with suspicion enabling some persons to obtain convenience or advantage at the expense of others less aware or conscious of what is happening.
According to many religious theologies, individual human rights are not innate but are granted by God to serve a predetermined purpose. Some people can
find liberty in spiritual surrender to God and to the uncritical humanitarian service to the needs of others which must follow. Unfortunately men in power often use religious (or political) collective allegiances to support group "manifest destiny" which supported by religious fervor throws nations at each others throats and again threatens catastrophe for the entire planet. When this happens, the individual is no longer supposed to understand what he believes, or relate it to anything unique in himself. Soon he is no longer responsible for his own life; he is automatically "OK" as a person because he follows his particular religion. He may even feel he has the right to impose the "moral code" of his own particular religion on others not of his faith.
The purpose of this very general discussion is to suggest that humans start in attacking social and economic problems. Whatever one's personal experience with some particular controversial political or moral issue, thinking should start with what encourages the individual to work on his own happiness. The lives of citizens (and families) in any territory should be more important than someone's idea of the destiny of his own group. Responsibility at the individual level can do much toward producing wealth without destroying the planet and toward sharing it equitably.