Are we truly free?

Capitalism is often espoused as an economic system that liberated people from Serfdom. Linear models of history tend to place it after Feudalism as the most free of social models. Fukuyama even went so far as to say it marked the end of history.

And yet when we compare 2011 with 1848, which looks more revolutionary? Neither resulted in the overthrowing of existing theories. Both spread ideas far and wide. And 2011 was a lot bigger! So if we assume that 2011 and Occupy was largely about Capitalism then it seems that many are far from happy with the amount of freedom that they have.

Your immediate thought may be that people are unhappy because of the Great Recession. At this moment there are more 16-25 year olds in the world who aren’t in education or work than there are citizens of the United States. These people clearly have reason to think that the system let them down. But what about those protestors with a job? What about those who wanted to protest but feared that they could be fired for doing so, or that they were working so much that they didn’t have time to protest? Movements as big as Occupy don’t result solely from recessions, no matter how big they are.

This now brings me to my main point. I saw a Dilbert cartoon some months ago, and it stuck in my head. Dilbert kept looking at various animals kept in captivity, each time deriding them for their stupidity in allowing themselves to be virtually enslaved. And then in the last strip he went to sit in an office booth and tapped away on a keyboard; a slave, or so we are to think, of a faceless corporation.

Capitalism says that it permits labour freedom of movement, so they can work where they want. But critics say that Feudalism at least protected one from being fired and/or unemployed. And of course you are only free to choose where you have a choice. Where’s your freedom to quit if you know that there aren’t any other jobs out there? After all how many people have you met who work in their dream career? How many people have you met who work for who they want to work for? In a Capitalist system you generally need capital in order to be your own boss.

So what is it that we have right now? Freedom of labour movement? Freedom to choose which company you enslave yourself to? Or worse still rigid slavery to an entire system that we cannot escape, and serves only the 1%? Are you truly free? Or will our grandchildren look back on these times with pity?

4 comments

  • I don’t know if we’re truly free, but for the right woman, i’ll be hers for a buck.

    Serfdom, Capitalism, Agrarianism were all systems, so the question is how free are we in our current system compared to the other systems.

    For example, Agrarian farmers had restrictions on their freedom due to necessity to plant and harvest crops at certain times of the season.

    The point with that system is that the restriction was imposed by nature. Outside of those events I presume they were free to do as they please, should they wish to do so.

    In this context, freedom outside of natural necesities, I would say that people in developed countries, Capitalism allows complete freedom.

    But you will need to make your choices.

    Debt is the biggest onery for people in developed soceities in my opinion, and debt can be easily avoided by simply not buying a house.

    For debt due to educational participation i do not think that this is too onerous and repayments can be made in short term time frames.

    So there’s my starter for 10.

    Avoid debt – Increase freedom.

    • The freedom of agency is limited by the structures within which they exist, and thus we will always find our freedom limited by nature. I agree. I also agree that we limit our own freedoms through the choices we take, but of course this is desirable in many ways e.g. your example about relationships -they restrict freedom in exchange for other sources of happiness.

      However Capitalism as a system also enslaves us. It creates an extreme poor, and fosters not only materialism but also the belief that capitalism is synonymous with meritocracy and thus that the poor deserve what they get. It gives freedom in doses, proportionate to the amount of capital you hold. If you hold capital you can create a business and be your own boss. If you do not then you have to choose which capital holder you would most like to enslave yourself to. The fact that developed societies don’t often look so severe is that capitalism and the market are regulated and guided by political bodies e.g. The EU working time
      directive and minimum wage laws. But these sorts of ideas come from outside of capitalism e.g. Anarchism and Marxism.

      The press loves to emphasize the differences between Capitalism on the one hand and Marxism and Anarchism on the other. But the truth is that all these ideas have evolved within a liberal framework, all contribute to society today, and so long as we irrationally favour Capitalism over all other ideas we will never realize the balance which best upholds freedom and stability.

  • Wow, this article is fastidious, my younger sister is analyzing these kinds of things, thus I am going to convey her. kdccebbeefek

  • Pingback: Does Everyone Deserve Freedom? | Battison's Blog

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