Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dangerous Words: I Believe in Freedom, But . . .

Richard Ebeling emails:

Dear Bob,

I have a new article on the news and commentary website, "EpicTimes," on "Dangerous Words: I Believe in Freedom, But . . ."

Many who say they believe in and support individual liberty and the free society in fact qualify their position with a single, simple word -- "but."

"I believe in freedom, but . . . we need a minimal welfare state to protect and support the poor." "I believe in freedom, but . . . we have to have some government regulation of business and the marketplace to secure us from unscrupulous companies." "I believe in freedom, but . . . an ethical conscience requires some redistribution of wealth."

The problem is that when all the "buts" are added up, not much freedom is left. We end up drowning in a sea of "buts."

I argue that this is not only inconsistent with a principled defense of individual rights and personal freedom, but . . . is also a misconception of how, historically, the profit-oriented activities of businessmen or the voluntary associations of a free society successfully handled the type of "social problems" that it is now taken for granted only "big government" can "solve."

We need to both regain the historical memory of how freedom "worked" to deal with various human and social problems before the modern interventionist-welfare state, and have the knowledge and courage to defend that principled case for human liberty.


Best Wishes,



  1. I agree. "But" doesn't belong in freedom (that is within the confines of the nonagression principle). You either believe in freedom or you don't.

    I'm an evangelical Christian who believes in freedom (I am a 100% libertarian anarchist). I may not agree with someone's choice of what they do with that freedom but giving someone the power to force others to do what I think is right also gives them the power to force me to do what I don't think is right.

    1. BUT is the bĂȘte noir of LIBERTY.

      Do you own your body, or does someone or something else own it.

      Yes, or no.

    2. It is interesting to note that many Christians believe that government was a creation of God and therefore anarcho-capitalism/market order is anti-Christian. In their minds this is the "but" part of their belief system.

  2. I've always preferred the word "liberty" to "freedom". To me it connotes more the relationship of government to individual better than "freedom".