When You Are Free, Nothing Is Free

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February 16, 2015 by Liberty

Freedom is a state of mind more than it’s a property of life.

At the risk of sounding insensitive, I can virtually guarantee that there were men and women in chains throughout history that are multitudes more free than I could ever imagine being. These men and women in chains would have understood the responsibility they have over their own life. More importantly, they’re willing to pay for that ownership of themselves.

(Of course, I’m sure there are accountants living comfortably in middle class that are more free than me too. I used an exaggerated example to help emphasize the point.)

For years now, I’ve been trying to trace back the minds of some of the people I admire. I’ve been looking for a trail of crumbs that mind lead back to how they ended up so free in certain aspects of their life. While I remain virtually completely ignorant, I feel like I’ve realized something important.

The Drug Dealer

A former close friend of mine was a drug dealer. (Actually, multiple of them. That’s actually kind of weird looking back… Hell… I didn’t even do drugs…) He and I would share laughable philosophical conversations. Intellectually, he was completely free of the morality of legality. This was long before I got into libertarian politics and probably made absolutely no sense to me at the time.

He was older than me. Externally, he looked like one of the biggest burnouts you could find. He lived in a studio apartment with 2 other people (and possibly one or two or their girlfriends.) He had a ton of luxuries (being a drug dealer and all) but he seemed to make no attempt to look like he was successful. They were mostly luxuries for personal enjoyment.

I was on the other end of this spectrum. I was in college. I was getting a degree. I was going places. Sure, I wasn’t going to Harvard Law or anything but in my audience, I looked like I was headed right for the middle class.

Me, being the insensitive but curious guy I am, decided to ask him about this one time. I don’t remember the exact wording of the conversation but it went something like this:

“Why do you live like this? You’re f***ing smart man. You’re f***ing smarter than me man. At least get your own place.”

He smiled at me and responded “You think I wasn’t like you?” He ended up pulling up some pictures on his computer. In the pictures he was wearing a suit and had a full head of hair instead of his Mohawk. He said he was in sales making a fortune. (From that moment I didn’t quite know if I believed him but he was damn good at telling his stories.) Eventually he ended it with, “I just wasn’t willing to pay the price.”

At the time I dismissed it as the usual cliché. I really didn’t consider the words in any depth.

The Price Of Anything

Nothing is free. And that’s a good thing.

Air is not free. They just haven’t found a way to properly sell it yet. (Just look at bottled water.)

Your body is not free. You need to invest food, air, and water to keep it running.

Everything costs something. Some people charge you through dropping ads in your entertainment. Some charge you through getting space in your mind to sell to later. Some directly ask for money. (Hey, by the way, I’ve started accepting donations through bitcoin. The address is in the sidebar.)

The price is ultimately, a little bit of work from you. If you want to get value from someone or something around you then you need to be willing to put in the work to deserve it.

What about with freedom?

How Are You Not Free?

There are plenty of ways that people aren’t as free as they’d like and virtually all of those ways eventually come down to not being willing to pay the price.

I’ll start this with a relatively mundane example:

You are not free to go over the speed limit.

Physically, you’re probably able to press down on the cars pedal. Your car is, hopefully, capable of driving above the speed limit. In reality, you probably regularly drive over that speed limit. You may have even been caught by the police going over the speed limit. In that case, you’re ordered pay a fine (or lose your license in some cases.)

That’s the price you pay for the freedom. I’ll go with one more example before clarifying it a bit better.

You are not free to sell illegal drugs.

You’re restricted in a number of ways but in no way are you completely stopped. You’ll have trouble finding suppliers but they’re out there. You’ll have trouble not getting arrested. You’ll have trouble selling the product without anyone willing to advertise for you. There are tons of problems. That being said, those are just more barriers to entry increasing the profits that you end up making when you’re successful.

You pay a price in the risk of jail time and protection costs. There are ways you can minimize that risk (blind drops, highly outsourced, bitcoins, etc.) but it’s difficult to rule out the risk completely.

That’s Not The Same!

I can virtually hear the objections yelling in my ears.

By this definition of freedom, everyone is physically free. “Sure, a slave can be free of their slave owner but they’ll probably get a bullet in your head.” Yes, I still think everyone is physically free. Some physical and psychological barriers are a whole lot more painful than others.

I believe that everyone is psychologically free. That being said, the psychological chains are the ones that tend to be most difficult to break.

This is where I think of my old friend selling drugs. To the rest of the world, he looked like a complete burnout but he never talked like that. He talked with pride. It’s a quality I envy. To this day, I doubt the decisions I’ve made but to the rest of the world, I look like a success story. I fight for more and more external validations of my success all while arguing for more freedom. While I’ve made progress, there is always more to go.

Freedom is not something that anyone else can give you. It sure as hell isn’t something to be earned politically. Don’t waste your time waiting for government. It just comes down to whether or not you’re willing to pay the price.

Do you want to know how to live with more liberty today (without waiting for the permit?) Be sure to follow this blog and read the archives. Thanks to all the donators so far. If you haven’t donated yet then please consider a donation to help keep this blog growing consistently.

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