I’m in a mood this morning, getting sucked down by what I see as the casual abdication of our individual autonomy of mind, the exchange of True Freedoms for Hollow Freedoms. And not even a begrudging exchange, but an enthusiastic one. A seller’s market, as it were, for Hollow Freedoms. Then I remembered this piece from a year ago (“Pecking Order” November, 2017). It helped me get back on track in thinking about a positive program forward. Maybe it will help you, too.
In January 1941, eleven months before Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II, Franklin Roosevelt gave his Four Freedoms speech, memorialized over the next few years by Norman Rockwell in these famous paintings.
What is autonomy of mind? It’s freedom. What freedoms? These.
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of Worship
Freedom from Want
Freedom from Fear
If you get nothing else from Epsilon Theory, get this: these freedoms are not granted to us by the State or the Oligarchs. They are not theirs to give. They are not rewards for good behavior or allocations from a central pot. They are ours. They have always been ours. They cannot be taken away.
But we can give them away.
We can sell our birthright for a mess of pottage in the form of student debt and a tasty slice of office birthday cake. We can allow ourselves to be beguiled by the glamour of mattering for a Mighty Cause, giving away our allegiance to those who would use us as fodder or feed. We can embrace the pecking order lie and exchange our True Freedoms for the Hollow Freedoms:
Freedom of Socially Acceptable Speech
Freedom of Socially Acceptable Worship
Freedom from Socially Manufactured Wants
Freedom from Socially Manufactured Fears
We can’t escape from a world dominated by the Hollow Freedoms any more than we can escape from a market dominated by Hollow Liquidity and Hollow Volatility. But in markets and in politics we can call things by their proper names. We can maintain our autonomy of mind. We can find our pack and matter to them. We can recognize that a politics without shame is a politics without honor, just as a market without risk is a market without reward. We can take a loss in the short term, knowing that we’re playing the long game. We can do this handshake by handshake, investment by investment, candidate by candidate, good deed by good deed.
And watch how our world starts to change. Watch how we Make America Good Again. Which is a hell of a lot harder – and a hell of a lot more important – than making America great ever was.