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A Short History of Liberty


Below is a copy of "A Short History of Liberty" by Dean Russell first
published in the Freeman in Jan 1955. Copied from "Essays in Liberty"
Volume III, published by the FEE (The Foundation for Economic Education,
Inc,) 1958.

"From Biblical times onward, the history of liberty and progress among
various peoples seems to have followed a remarkably similar pattern. there
are exceptions, of course-and the time element varies widely-but the
pattern may be generally described by ten key ideas in sequence:"

1. BONDAGE. At some point in their histories, all peoples seem to have
existed in some form of bondage or slavery-frequently even to their own
domestic rulers by their own votes or acquiescence. But when thoughtful
persons finally become aware that they are no longer free men, they want
to know why. When they ask themselves that question, they automatically
turn to contemplation and soul searching. Out of this grows ...

2. FAITH. If people in bondage have no faith-either in a personal Creator
or impersonal ideal-they will remain slaves and eventually die out or be
absorbed by another culture. But an intelligent faith will almost always
develop into ...

3. UNDERSTANDING. A person's faith needs to be buttressed by an
understanding of why it is evil to force any peaceful person to conform to
the will and ideas of another person. Otherwise, he is apt to remain a
faithful slave or attempt to become a slave-owner. But the combination of
faith and understanding results in the necessary ...

4. COURAGE. You may depend upon it, courageous men with faith and
understanding will neither remain in bondage nor keep others in bondage.
Even against great odds, this combination leads to ...

5. LIBERTY. Liberty is a relationship among persons wherein no person
molests any other peaceful person in his ideas, possessions, or actions.
Liberty may also be viewed as the responsibility one assumes for himself
and recognizes in all others, for there can be no liberty where there is
no responsibility. Liberty has never existed completely among any people
at any time; but where it has existed to a high degree, the resulting
freedom to work, trade, choose, win, lose, and bargain has always meant

6. ABUNDANCE. But if an abundance of material things is the primary aim of
a person, his life is devoid of any real meaning. For if the goal is
abundance, its achievement logically results in ...

7. COMPLACENCY. Complacency and self-satisfaction (the "full barns" of the
Biblical lesson) inevitably lead to ...

8. APATHY. With apathy comes a dullness and loss of interest-a "let George
do it" philosophy. And there will always be many political "Georges"
around to accept this invitation to seize both the reins and the whip.
This always degenerates into ...

9. DEPENDENCY. For a time, it is possible for dependents to be unaware
that they are dependents. As they continue to shed the personal
responsibilities which *are* freedom, they also continue to delude
themselves that they are still free people-"We never had it so good." Or
they may be deluded into believing that they are still free so long they
themselves are able to participate in the mechanical processes of
selecting their rulers-"We can still vote, can't we?" But dependents are
at the mercy of the persons or groups or parties upon whom they depend for
their housing, or security in old age, or subsidies, or education, or
medical care, or any of the other "aides" from political authority which
cause persons to depend on others instead of themselves. Sooner or later,
this dependency becomes know by its true nature ...

10. BONDAGE. Fortunately, the record shows that people can regain their
faith, understanding, and courage. They can again become persons and
citizens who are responsible for their own welfare, rather than units and
subjects identified by numbers for the purposes of regimentation and
subsidization. The record shows that people can, by their own intelligent
actions, regain their liberty any time they want it.

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William H. Geiger III  http://www.amaranth.com/~whgiii
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