Freedom is an illusion. Every minute of every day the human being is constrained by one thing or another. Getting out of bed in the morning entails a push against gravity just to get vertical. Thereafter the day is a series of struggles with adversity or at least adversity in potential. These battles are an ordinary part of existence for all living things in the elemental universe. If there is any freedom in this it has to be minimal.
Issues of freedom are usually discussed in the political domain and it is then more to do with degrees of coercion. Free societies prefer to coerce less than totalitarian ones although it has to be said that the free ones often coerce just as much albeit in subtler ways. They do however leave some room for individual expression and by doing this free societies allow for new ideas to come forward and as a consequence hopefully better ways of innovating can emerge. These emergent ways are measured ultimately by how well they work for the majority. The best ways possible would be those that work for everyone but universal benevolence is rarely if ever achieved. Until societies reach their optimum state, room has to be made for the creativity and imagination of individuals.
However, that said, I think it is the coercive society that should triumph finally and not the free one. When the coercive society eventually does its job well in the interests of all, something it has hitherto failed to do, when the traditional problems have been solved, problems of material subsistence, of international conflict and security, once the world's people are properly fed and accommodated, once better systems have evolved for the dissemination of goods and services, once legal frameworks and political systems have been honed to efficiency, once all these things have been properly established and shown to work then societies will be justified in being coercive.
Some may say these kinds of problems can never be solved. I’m not so sure. With enough imagination and commitment I think the optimum state could be reached. And when it was, such a society would be justified in maintaining its systems with ruthless coercion if necessary.
But possible or not, freedom is not the issue. Freedom in any absolute way is illusory for a physical being. Coercion is the thing, but the good kind. The bad kind does more harm than good. The good kind is judged by its constructive results and by its benevolence.
the optimum society would be justified in maintaining
its systems with ruthless coercion if necessary
COERCION & THE OPTIMUM STATE
commentary • 14.05.06