Marks and Remarks
Food for the Mind and Eye

No. 0088, August 11, 2015

DEPT. OF SOCIAL STUDIES


The Myth of a "Free" Society




Copyright 2015 by S. W. Paul Wyszkowski

     Technically, "free society" is an oxymoron. Technically, because "free" is unqualified and so presumed to mean "absolutely free" which, of course, it doesn't. A society implies agreement (or coercion) to conform to certain rules. All we can say is that some societies are freer than some others in some particular aspects.

     In actuality, the degree of freedom in any society is indefinite, a dynamic equilibrium between individual will and what the social structure will tolerate. It's a matter of what the rules are and how strictly they are observed and enforced vs. individual natures and desires of the members.

     Ideally, the objective of a society is to enhance the quality of life for its members. Often, however, the objective is to enhance the quality of life of the rule makers. In a democratic society the rule makers are the members of the society but this, typically, tends toward anarchy and social disintegration. Somewhere between majority rule and dictatorship lies the sweet spot where order and chaos are balanced so as to allow all members to prosper and enjoy life more than if they had to go it alone. Of course, not everybody will be equally happy and some will be very unhappy which is how societies evolve, for better or worse. Freer societies tend to evolve (or devolve) faster so they provide their members with a more exciting experience.

     "I take it," says Prickles, the hedgehog I live with, "we are living in one of the freer societies?" What leads you to that conclusion? "The chaos and irrationality," she says. What about our high standard of living? "Maybe in a freer society our angelic nature is prevailing?" she ventures a guess. Prickles is an optimist.

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