"We want to be operated like puppets and provided for like pets."

Radley Balko links a well-done Crispin Sartwell column on our fear of freedom:

But many events give me pause as I stand to mutter my Bushy cliches about the universal love of liberty. Here's one: Tens of thousands of people gather to mourn the death of their beloved dictator. One might think it difficult to regard the regime of Slobodan Milosevic -- featuring war, ethnic cleansing, rape camps and other hijinks -- with affectionate nostalgia. And yet, after his richly deserved croak, people were sobbing on the streets of Belgrade. [....]

We want the government to guarantee our health, deflect hurricanes, educate our children and license us to drive; we want to be told what to eat, what to smoke and whom to marry. We are justly proud of the fact that no enduring society has ever incarcerated more of its people. Noting that the policeman has a pistol, a club, a stun gun, a can of pepper spray and a database that includes us, we feel happy and secure.

Our submission is absolute: We want to be operated like puppets and provided for like pets.

The terrorists hate our freedom. But we should be comfortable with that. We hate our freedom, too.

Radley also kindly quotes something I wrote in the same vein last year.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    A-Freaking-men.

  • ||

    Freedom! Horrible, horrible freedom!

  • ||

    Just like in those gun-slingin' western movies, we want doobies shot from our tremblin' lips!

  • ||

    The author makes a fair point, and it's one that we as libertarians ought to take seriously. Balko and Julian Sanchez both ascribe the fear of freedom to a fear of responsibility. That strikes me as a facile argument. The tendency to form herds and worship rules (and rulers) is far too widespread for that to be the case. I'm afraid that the desire to be assimilated and regulated is in our DNA, just part of who we are as a species.
    Of course, I have no scientific evidence for that, but the anecdotal evidence I see is pretty convincing.

  • ||

    "Our submission is absolute: We want to be operated like puppets and provided for like pets."

    The class of subtle argument that really gets you thinking. Not.
    Hey Sartorail, your t-shirt sucks, so there. How's that for a refutation ?

  • Warren||

    Our submission is absolute: We want to be operated like puppets and provided for like pets.

    The terrorists hate our freedom. But we should be comfortable with that. We hate our freedom, too.

    Too true that. But it skirts the key issue. It isn't that I hate my freedom. After all a free market will provide numerous puppet/pet opportunities. No, the real problem is that I hate your freedom. How can I enjoy my cozy predictable existence serving the establishment, if your out there playing by your own rules.

  • ||

    An orgy of self pity and straw men is an ugly thing to watch.

    Yes, Radley, that's exactly what the furor around Katrina was about - the lack of a government-funded hurricaine blocker.

  • ||

    We hate our freedom, too.

    While I agree with the sentiment, I would submit one slight revison; It's not that people hate "freedom" per se. Most people are willing to do whatever it takes to perserve their rights and liberties so long as it's THEIR rights and liberties.

    Everyone else, particular those who don't agree with them or who aren't members of their particular political or cultural tribe, can go to Hell.

  • ||

    Everyone loves their freedom, it is other people's freedom that they hate. Those people weeping for Milosovich never suffered under his boot. I am sure they lived great lives just like a lot of people did under Hitler, Stalin, ect. Everyone thinks that they are responsible but everyone else is child that needs to monitored and restrained (or killed) for their own good and the good of the world.

  • ||

    Yep, Liberty for me but not for thee. It's an age-old accurate description of civilization.

  • ||

    And yet, what if the problem were more complex and people actually didn't want to be operated like puppets and provided for like pets?

    Could the time we spend patting ourselves on the back for being superior be better spent figuring out the incentives and disincentives that lead to the disagreeable changes we're seeing in society? What if such explanations required more than a handful of op-ed columns and a few hundred blog posts?

    Wow. By the time I actually previewed this post, I see that a lot of people are chafing at the rah-rah simplicity of Crispin's column. Yay.

  • ||

    Hell yes, I want freedom. I want the freedom to do what I desire and the freedom to force you to do what I desire. This is an all too common attribute of dictators, religious republics and nanny staters. The point that a majority (I think) miss is that a free society will invariably include others doing things you don't approve of. Hell, they might even offend your religious, cultural and/or political biases that you know are absolutely correct. In a free society somebody is always going to piss you off.

  • ||

    hmmmm... what's so great about this article? It's rhetorically cute, I guess, but what's really the point? That we should just sit around feeling miserable because lots of people don't want freedom? Is it that they don't want it, or don't understand it? Or, perhaps, they've never been presented with that option.

    Thousands of people mourned Milosevic's death ... so what ... many more thousands did not ... who writes about them? And the author's comments on Russia seem to miss everything relevant in Russian culture and political history.

    Sartwell writes: "Human history is incomprehensible on any hypothesis other than that people hate and fear their freedom." Incomprehensible, maybe, if the only thing you focus on is the evidence that people hate and fear their freedom.

    While I was writing this, Joe posted: "An orgy of self pity and straw men is an ugly thing to watch." Yes, it is.

  • ||

    The problem is anon is that people are less willing to put up with the social problems that go with freedom. Here in Texas the state has decided to start arresting drunks in bars because even if they are not hurting someone they could decide to drive a car or hurt someone. I don't like the social costs that are associated with drinking anymore than these nitwits do. The difference is that I understand that they are ineveitable in a free society and would rather live with the risk of being killed by a drunk driver or pay higher taxes to pay for the costs of drinking than loose my freedom to drink in peace. The nitwits behind this and other policies just can't accept the fact that life is not utopia and some problems can't be fixed without a cure that is worse than the problem.

  • ||

    Dale,
    Most people do hate and fear their freedom.
    Reasonoids may have a hard time groking that.

  • ||

    BTW - this reminds me of a Ron Bailey linked article which claimed that Amreican entrepreneurship was dying & educed as proof that Silicon Valley execs were shopping at Whole Foods (tofu not T-bone steaks, not even organic ones !!) and wearing elbow guards cycling in Marin county QED. Yeah, right. All it shows is people are willing to find evidence of loss of freedom & pusillanimity everywhere when OTHER people do things they don't agree with.

  • ||

    Ruthless wrote:

    "Most people do hate and fear their freedom."

    I was just wondering...

    (1) How do you know that?

    (2) Even if it's true, does it matter?

    (3) What if you're wrong?

  • ||

    Hmmmm...an orgy of self-pity, huh? Sure, if that's what you want to see. But Joe, you know damn well that the hurricane comment was hyperbole, much like your snarky comment.

    While the column could not possibly explore the issue in any depth, it does still raise an important point. Libertarianism is predicated in part on the idea that people what to be free. If that premise is wrong, then it's time to do some re-evaluating.

  • ||

    Dale,
    1. I'm not autistic as are most Reasonoids.
    2. You know how democracy works?
    3. Hey, I could be wrong.

  • ||

    1. I'm not autistic as are most Reasonoids.

    Nicely done. Why don't you use that crack around people who have family of friends with autism and find out how funny they think you are.

  • grylliade||

    I've got to agree with the gist of the comments here. People don't hate freedom, they hate that others are also free. As Heinlein said in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, "People never want to stop their own behavior by laws. They want to stop their neighbors' stupid behavior by laws" (very roughly paraphrased). Or as Will Durant commented at one point, "Freedom in most places in history has meant the freedom to exploit others." Certainly true in Ancient Greece and Rome, and in the American South, as well as innumerable other places.

    The attitude is, "I can handle freedom; you can't. Therefore, you shouldn't be free." I think that this idea's persistence over millenia of human existence indicates that it's pretty much built in to the human psyche. What should we do about it? I don't know. But we sure as hell need to take it into account when we try to promote liberty.

  • Gimme Back My Dog||

    joe,

    I can see why you would be upset by "we lose elections because people are too dumb to vote for us" thinking, since Democrats never, ever, ever say things like this.

  • ||

    John,

    "The nitwits behind this and other policies just can't accept the fact that life is not utopia and some problems can't be fixed without a cure that is worse than the problem." I'm not sure that's the issue here. I don't think the people behind that lovely initiative are unaware of the downside of the "cure" - ie, that people in bars are going to have less fun, and have to put up with the police. I think they consider that outcome to be a positive.

  • MP||

    Akira,

    Would you be offended if I wore a Dee, Dee, Dee t-shirt?

  • ||

    I'm not sure that's the issue here. I don't think the people behind that lovely initiative are unaware of the downside of the "cure" - ie, that people in bars are going to have less fun, and have to put up with the police. I think they consider that outcome to be a positive.

    But that's not the only downside. The downside is also that other people may decide to outlaw activities that THEY enjoy.

  • ||

    Nicely done. Why don't you use that crack around people who have family of friends with autism and find out how funny they think you are.

    Never, ever tell a joke of any kind, because somebody somewhere might be offended by it.

  • ||

    Any topic can be answered with a quote from a Jack Nicholson character.

    George Hanson: They're not scared of you. They're scared of what you represent to 'em.

    Billy: Hey, man. All we represent to them, man, is somebody who needs a haircut.

    George Hanson: Oh, no. What you represent to them is freedom.

    Billy: What the hell is wrong with freedom? That's what it's all about.

    George Hanson: Oh, yeah, that's right. That's what's it's all about, all right. But talkin' about it and bein' it, that's two different things. I mean, it's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. Of course, don't ever tell anybody that they're not free, 'cause then they're gonna get real busy killin' and maimin' to prove to you that they are. Oh, yeah, they're gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it's gonna scare 'em.

    Billy: Well, it don't make 'em runnin' scared.

    George Hanson: No, it makes 'em dangerous.

  • dhex||

    "I think they consider that outcome to be a positive."

    indeed.

    hence the whole "prisons from the bricks of laws, brothels from the bricks of religion" thing. poignant AND true.

  • uncle sam||

    I do get a little tired of monolithic characterizations.

    "People are afraid of freedom".

    Maybe it's just that enough people are afraid of freedom to effect policies to restrict it. That's why the founders attempted to establish a constitutional republic, to restrain that impulse.

  • ||

    MP:

    That's a pop culture reference that eludes me. However, if it were meant to be a knock on the autistic or mentally ill, then it would indeed offend me. That's one of my major pet peeves.

    That said, I defend to the death their right to say such things, just don't expect me to stay silent.

  • ||

    Never, ever tell a joke of any kind, because somebody somewhere might be offended by it.

    Jennifer.

    As I said, go right ahead and tell your joke. Just don't expect me to a) laugh, b) not to point out that I think it was cruel.

  • ||

    I disagree with Anon, John, Russ 2000, grylliade, et al. I think Crispin is right.

    People, at least deep down in their subconscious, all want consensus, community, imposed direction, authority, tradition, a collective identity, more than they want 'freedom'...which is really only defined by what it is *not*. Freedom is choice - and choosing requires considering consequences. Religion is as popular as it is partly because people find the idea of atomistic individualism too tiresome, and yearn for a larger pattern into which their random choices fit. I dont think this is so contentious really, but is really just a more careful understanding of what "freedom" (or autonomy) really means...

    I think people might overreact to this notion and get righteous with counter-examples about their own self-reliant attitudes... but thats not the point. The fact that people care to disagree with this guys view is from the basis that we (you) dont like to hear any arguments that contradict comfortable assumptions about our 'independence', which is in the end just another club you (we) cling to in effort to create consesus, community, appeal to authority... etc.

    I've always noted that 'counter cultural' elements - hippies, goths, punks, skins, etc - when you look closely at them, all rigidly conform to some collective idea of what you should look/talk/act like. 'Freedom' that people often yearn for isnt so much individual freedom, but freedom of their sub-clan from the larger community. But it's always communities within communities - not so much individuals free to choose to associate with whom and however they want. People tend to identify themselves by what they are 'part of'. Not what is distinctive about themselves.

    Or not. It doesnt matter.

    On a side note: if the moussaui trial comes back with a guilty verdict, will it be the first time the US will execute someone for *wanting* to have participated in a crime?

    from what I gathered, his testimony where he claimed to have been the 20th hijacker actually doent line up with facts. He seemed to decide to throw himself at the prosecution hoping to get martyred?

    JG

  • ||

    Depressing as it is, I think Gilmore is exactly right.

  • ||

    As I said, go right ahead and tell your joke. Just don't expect me to a) laugh, b) not to point out that I think it was cruel.

    Likewise, don't expect me to refrain from pointing out that you're being too picky or worrying about things that don't actually matter.

    Q. How many sensitive people does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    A. That's not funny, goddammit! You wouldn't laugh if you knew any sensitive people, like I do. Go ahead, say that to a sensitive person and see how many yuks you get, you heartless bastard.

  • ||

    Consider this: maybe it's not "fear of freedom" so much as generations of indoctrination: obligatory deference to anointed experts.

    The nanny state again- you poor little peasants are simply not qualified to make your own way in the world without guidance from the expert and credentialed elite.

    Texans in a bar are not qualified to know when to say when. They need expert assistance in making that call.

  • ||

    Jennifer:

    Heh... Good one.

  • ||

    "Here I sit, buns a'flexin' / Givin' birth to another Texan"

    This would probably be found scratched on a bathroom wall in:
    A) France
    B) Iran
    C) Colorado
    D) All of the above


    The correct answer, obviously, is "C" because France and Iran do not have indoor plumbing.

    And speaking of crude, mean-spirited jokes, what has the Hysteric-in-Chief been up to lately?

  • ||

    Gilmore,

    I'm afraid you don't know what the fuck you're talking about. I say this based on the fact that I agree with Crispin, too. All I said is it just ain't a new observation, it's been observed for thousands of years. I'm glad people continue to observe it. And I don't think most people are equating freedom with autonomy, I think they're equating freedom with not hassling people who are minding their own business.

  • ||

    Gilmore: "It doesnt matter."

    Apparently it does, or you wouldn't have written about how independence is conformity and freedom is slavery and individualism is community. That in-depth knowledge of what's in other peoples' heads gets a little burdensome at times, doesn't it?

    Number 6: "Depressing as it is...."

    Depressing, I guess, because we -- the self-annointed lovers of and advocates for freedom -- have such perfect knowledge of how others DO NOT WANT IT that it depresses us that they don't want what we clearly know is in their best interests.

    Grylliade, who made a great point with ....

    The attitude is, "I can handle freedom; you can't. Therefore, you shouldn't be free." I think that this idea's persistence over millenia of human existence indicates that it's pretty much built in to the human psyche. What should we do about it? I don't know. But we sure as hell need to take it into account when we try to promote liberty.

    ... may find this exchange relevant.

  • ||

    I dunno, the whole "freedom for me but not thee" argument seems conjectural more than anything. But while we're at it, I think why people prefer is not a lack of freedom for others, but a control of unpredictable results. I think everyone knows they can't predict when a hurricane will hit, but most of them reasonably expect the government will respond, somehow.

    I think that's the rub - people look at government as the backstop of human causality. People like a reference point, and they're willing to suffer curtailment on their freedoms to ensure there's SOME earthly power to which one might appeal for just about anything. Couple that with the government's (apparent) imperative to at least have an opinion on all matters (even when that opinion is "the state has no opinion).

    Its reflected in the way markets react to government announcements that they will/will not step into some dispute in an industrial sector, and how the overall economy prospers more in peacetime than war, and how everyone thinks their case can be appealed to the Supreme Court.

    Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

  • ||

    P Brooks,
    I just showed your joke to Waki Paki.
    He "seemed" to like it.
    I should have substituted Pakistan for Iran.

  • ||

    I think, as a few have said, it is a very important point for libertarians to understand - the true love for liberty garners only a very small market share even in this country, where people profess it as a cherished value. Elsewhere in the world, in other cultures, it gets even less market share.

    Most people don't want freedom, really. They want the world to be ordered according to their own values. So, despite what all the war-hawk, Hobbesian libertarians would like to believe, you can't force liberty and freedom on people. The state is NOT the source of liberty or freedom. At best, it is a price that some are willing to pay in order to gain security (or more accurately, a price some are willing to have others pay). But only a culture that values freedom/liberty can create it. And even then, it is a precarious, fragile thing. Once a culture starts accepting that it is okay to force others to pay for things that you want, even on limited issues, the seeds are set. As poli...er...con men all know, there is a huge market for people who believe that they can get something for nothing.

  • ||

    I don't fear freedom, but i do fear total freedom, aka lawlessness. I don't know where that puts me on the puppet scale. It was a satisfying rant to read, though.

  • ||

    Comment by: Russ 2000

    Gilmore,I'm afraid you don't know what the fuck you're talking about.

    Wouldnt be the first time. You're pissed i luimped you in with others? Ok, sorry. Chill. But you did say, "Yep, Liberty for me but not for thee. It's an age-old accurate description of civilization" Which i thought was in tune with what the rest were saying. I disagreed with this, because i dont think people really want "liberty" at all. Everyone wants to live in the warm embrace of 'someone-elses-ideas', mostly. I get most of my thinking on this topic from Eric Hoffer. True Believer is full of commentary relevant to this.

    Comment by: Dale
    "Gilmore: "It doesnt matter."
    "Apparently it does, or you wouldn't have written about how independence is conformity and freedom is slavery and individualism is community.That in-depth knowledge of what's in other peoples' heads gets a little burdensome at times, doesn't it? "


    Geez, y'all about a bunch of touchy muhfukkas up in this piece. Almost rude, even.

    Ok. You got me! I'm an idiot, and the nonsense above is an apt rephrasing of what i said!

    Or not.

    'independence is conformity' = uh, ever been to a Dead Show? Conformity within 'identity groups' that consider themselves 'anti-authoritarian and non-conformists' is obviously rampant. Ever try to propose to a hippy that Organic food really isnt healtier? People dont like to think independently, in any real sense. In fact, i'm not sure most people are necessarily capable of it, and if they were, will still choose not to.

    Your reductions dont really do justice to this plain observation.. Freedom is not slavery... but the idea of atomistic individualism is not a concept that has had much success in human society to date. When we stop having last names and all get to call ourselves symbols like the Artist Formerly Known As, I'll consider it.

    I think the point that "freedom" is a symbol for something other than 'disconnected atomistic

  • ||

    "Depressing, I guess, because we -- the self-annointed lovers of and advocates for freedom -- have such perfect knowledge of how others DO NOT WANT IT that it depresses us that they don't want what we clearly know is in their best interests."

    Well, yes, that sums it up nicely. Thank you.

  • ||

    Bronkowitz,
    Do I hear total freedom?
    Do I hear lawlessness?
    Do I hear ANARCHY?

    boo!

  • ||

    George W Peron loves freedom.

    And anyone who sez different will be imprisoned and enslaved, according to the intent of the framers of the Constitution.

  • Dan T.||

    The problem here is that freedom is a continuum, not an �either/or�.

    Nobody thinks that we should be free enough to literally do whatever we want, and also nobody thinks that the government should literally dictate our every movement and choice. Society has to find the balance that works best for itself, and people can reasonably disagree on what that balance is. Often times it depends on one�s perspective and experience, for example I�d guess that somebody who lost a loved one due to a drunk driver might feel like stronger laws in that regard are needed then someone who has never been affected by it.

  • ||

    Dan T,
    Governments are not the only restricters of freedom. Parents are another.
    What I keep advocating is to stop trying strike a balance with government.
    With anarchy, the right balance will emerge spontaneously.

  • Slobodan Milosevic||

    To quote another mid-cenutry pop tune, "Why is everybody always picking on me?"

    I just did what every other government does. The only difference was that I didn't try to hide the bodies.

  • ||

    Ruthless:

    While I agree with your premise that a spontaneous balance will emerge as a result of the complex interactions of individuals in an anarchic society... that balance will be the result of collective actions indistinguisable from a government (and it will probably be a government based on violent use of power at first, that will develop into something that looks like what we've got now over time).

    A fundamental flaw with taking the libertarian message to be wholly true (aka Holy Truth) is a belief that the current situation did not emerge naturally from a version of the situation that libertarians yearn for.

    No one's afraid of freedom.
    People are afraid of potential dangers/harm.
    If those dangers include the actions of other people (they do), then finding ways to protect yourself and your group make sense. Balancing your own freedom against your own security ends up with a compromise. The proper point of balance will differ greatly for different groups of people. If they don't talk to each other about that balance point, the group with the most members gets to decide. A smaller group can only prevail if they are more persuasive.

    There is no inherently correct balance.

  • ||

    MainStreamMan,
    I'm a little out of breath, having won--I think--a skirmish with the racoon infestation here in the 'hood of Sinincincinnati.
    I was just on the freshly rehabbed roof for the first time. I felt like Leonardo DeCaprio in the scene from Titanic, "flying" on the prow.
    Okay, back to business.

    We should form a "3 F" club:
    Flight
    Fight
    Freedom

  • ||

    Consider this: maybe it's not "fear of freedom" so much as generations of indoctrination: obligatory deference to anointed experts.

    So people aren't afraid of freedom, they're just stupid.

    I can accept that.

  • ||

    "Our submission is absolute: We want to be operated like puppets and provided for like pets."

    America: Land of the wimps, home of the kept. Times change.

  • ||

    This

    People dont like to think independently, in any real sense. In fact, i'm not sure most people are necessarily capable of it, and if they were, will still choose not to.

    leads to this.

    Consider this: maybe it's not "fear of freedom" so much as generations of indoctrination: obligatory deference to anointed experts.

    How deliberately and carefully you select your "anointed experts" depends to a large degree on a) intelligence and b) intellectual & psychological self-security [two independent quantities].

    But "anointed experts" provide individuals with a frame of reference to define themselves by, and this is the end result of the whole deliberation no matter where you fall on the capability scale.


    Still, as Dan T. rightly says,

    The problem here is that freedom is a continuum, not an �either/or�.....Society has to find the balance that works best for itself, and people can reasonably disagree on what that balance is.

    That pretty well sums it up. The question is, now what?

    We libertarians would like to leave the doors open to debate -- indefinitely. But I can imagine contexts where this open door policy not only wouldn't work well, it could be fatal.

    Imagine the US suddenly living next door to a strong and militarily aggressive neighbor. You want to fight back? Your neighbor will disagree.

    Decisive and immediate action could be the only thing to save our hides, but we're "wired" to debate the shit out of it before we make any decisions about anything.

  • Calvin||

    That aggressive neighbor shouldn't be an excuse to give the Govt more power, you nannies. The free markets beat the USSR, and once the old farts of the Chinese politbyro die off the same thing will happend in China. Currently it's a one-party capitalistic state, so it's not so far from the US two party system anyway.

  • ||

    That aggressive neighbor shouldn't be an excuse to give the Govt more power, you nannies. The free markets beat the USSR

    Yeah. And in the process of beating them, our system became so much more buearacratic that we've gone huge steps towards being much like they were.

    But that only slightly misses the whole point.

  • ||

    "So people aren't afraid of freedom, they're just stupid."

    I would never dispute that.


    But, on second thought, I don't think "obligatory" in my comment above was the correct term. "Habitual" is more appropriate. I suspect that much of what appears to be "fear of freedom" is actually inertia and/ or laziness.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement