Brian’s Column: The Freedom Philosophy

Reemerging in America at an opportune time
by Brian Wright

Freedom Philosophy and Ron PaulToward the end of February 2012, preceding the Ron Paul primary in Michigan—I say Ron Paul Primary because no one else in the field of Republican (or Democratic) presidential candidates seems to actually be there, you know, like they’re just empty suits signifying nothing—on February 28, I was fortunate to attend a Ron Paul rally at Michigan State University, in the MSU Auditorium, East Lansing. It was quite windy and chilly, but hundreds of students arrived as much as an hour early, fighting the campus’s horrendous parking situation, just to be sure to get a good seat for the free event.

The 4,000-person-capacity building filled to the rafters with latecomers being escorted into the wide aisles on the main floor. You can get an idea from the video link above on the excitement level… also the exuberance of youth in the Hinterland focused on a 76-year-old icon of the freedom movement. What’s the connection? IMHO[1]: the gentleman stepping to the podium always likes to tell the truth and the youth of world (who give a rat’s anatomy about society) always like to hear the truth. [It doesn’t change with Ron Paul: you can dig up footage of a speech from 25 years ago, plaster today’s date on it, and the only difference is today his head has less hair.]

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What is the Freedom Philosophy?

As I’m sitting there, a sixty-something freedom enthusiast among 90+% twenty-something enthusiasts, listening to the Good Doctor put two and two together for the umpty-umpth time,[2] it dawns on me: the speech is a point-by-point distillation of the Freedom Philosophy honed to the finest edge over decades, even centuries, by masters of the Noble Discipline—from Aristotle and Cato, to John Locke and Montesquieu, to Jefferson and Paine and Adam Smith and John Adams and Franklin and Madison (and roughly 20-40 other significant lights in the American Independence era), to the 19th-century classical liberals particularly in England, to the early 20th-century Austrian Economics school, to mid-20th-century libertarian scholars such as Murray Rothbard and rational-individualist philosopher-writers such as Ayn Rand. The Freedom Philosophy contributor-leader list grows even longer between the end of the 20th century into our own.

So what is this philosophy then?

What is the common denominator in the thinking of all these men and women? (Such an incomplete list, too.)

Well, freedom. Duh.

If it’s freedom, then we can take a page from my own book, the Sacred Nonaggression Principle, to define more exactly and scientifically what freedom-slash-liberty is:

The simple nonaggression principle (NaP) holds that no human being or organization of human beings shall initiate the use of force against others. [By the way:] The simple NaP becomes ‘sacred’ when regarded as the highest moral principle in society.

At a later point in the book, I make the connection between the NaP and the terms freedom and liberty: A society is free or full of liberty to the extent that the NaP is honored and observed therein.

However, the common understanding of the Freedom Philosophy among the now-millions who embrace it is more specific and contextual than simply the identity with nonaggression principle. Possibly the earliest use of the phrase comes from Leonard E. Read of F.E.E. (Foundation for Economic Education) as he sets down some key ideas in his monograph on the subject. His summary: “The freedom philosophy has been outlined as the free market, private property, limited government way of life.” Then he goes on to say the concept needs more discussion, and he provides it in the words of several leading thinkers (mainly consistent with the Austrian school) of the day.

So the source of the phrase lies in the realm of human action, econ. If you read Hayek (e.g. The Road to Serfdom), von Mises (e.g. Human Action), or Murray Rothbard (e.g. Man, Economy, and the State)—all of these men were distinguished professors of economics, Hayek won the Nobel Prize—you will gain the crucial insight of the value of the nonaggression principle as applied to classical economic science. These men, with the exception of Rothbard, wrote in the context of standard political systems of modern nation-states. So the Freedom Philosophy originally meant the desirability of economic freedom (essentially classical liberalism) for Western Civilization.

Freedom Philosophy II

And here at MSU, listening to Dr. Paul, the power and logical supremacy of these liberating ideas—no to fascism, no to socialism, no to mixtures of statism and freedom—come cascading thru the amplifiers, giving me goosebumps in appreciation of the essentials of what I’ve understood for decades. And Paul’s delivery is stellar: he not only understands the essentials, he grasps the details: the importance of sound money, the evils of central banking and the Fed, the disasters of government regulation and planning, and how state interference in general with the free choices of men in the market leads to awful things.

It’s a supreme real-life economics lesson.

Ron Paul has been an active participant/leader in the libertarian movement as it unfolded during the late 20th century. He embraced two key enhancements to the Freedom Philosophy that came along with the realization (in the late 70s and early 80s with the Rothbard influence on the movement) of the classical liberal injunctions against a) interventionism and war and b) violations of civil freedom. The motto of the Libertarian Party with the advent of the Ed Clark campaign in 1980 became: economic freedom (or free market capitalism), civil liberties (no draft, no drug prohibition), and a noninterventionist foreign policy.

These phrases condense the Freedom Philosophy II (FP2), and let’s all understand that they are and it is the Idea More Powerful than All the Armies of the World.[3] [Which is going to come in handy now as the police-imperial megastate is going completely, unmitigatedly apeshit in the good ol’ US of Amerika.] Further, insofar as the federal government is concerned, the US Constitution is the most important ally and buttress of FP2. Ron Paul is a grandmaster of Constitutional knowledge and an absolute fanatic in its adherence.

FP2 and the Constitution: the idea whose time has come.

Ron Paul as President: icing on the cake.

[1] in my humble opinion

[2] You owe it to yourself, especially if you have no idea what I’m talking about on the Freedom Philosophy, to listen to the entire Ron Paul speech delivered to the students at MSU. Even those of us who have been living the libertarian message for decades still gain knowledge from the ideas and principles Dr. Paul so fluently lays down… ideas and principles that are essential to save our country and our planet.

[3] Friends occasionally pitch one non-Paul Republican candidate or another—and one or two ‘liberal’ friends naively hang on to belief in ‘the Kenyan’ (PRESBO)—citing government-enabled programs for energy independence, scientific research, anti-terrorist legislation, foreign invasion, what-have-you… all activities that violate the nonaggression principle and build up the state. They act as if Ron Paul just got off the banana boat and that the Freedom Philosophy is some parlor-game fantasy or trick. The emperor is naked, friends, time to rise above addictions to power and nationalism and acknowledge the simple truths.

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4 thoughts on “Brian’s Column: The Freedom Philosophy

  1. The nonaggression principle is not a bad phrase either, but for the reasons suggested, I believe the phrase “Freedom Philosophy” is best choice as a unifying reference for self-identification to the general public.

    I think someone will someday make a SNaP documentary (I assume you mean video or film of some kind) just as the fictional Atlas Shrugged of Ayn Rand ultimately resulted in a movie.

  2. Thanks, I’m definitely hoping this column resurrects a usage of the phrase Freedom Philosophy, because our embracing of that philosophy is truly a distinguishing quality. None of the candidates save Ron Paul and Gary Johnson can truly state that they embrace and wish to nurture that way of thinking in society in all parts.

  3. You bet! Your Sacred NonAggression Principle (SNaP) is the bedrock of Ron Paul’s entire political ideology. And the explosive growth of the movement he has spawned is the fresh new face of future politics.
    I EVOL it!

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