Monday, January 19, 2015

The Price of Liberty

It is a bit difficult enough to understand the French, but it is harder to understand French liberty.

Liberty is not just about freedom of expression. Liberty is about freedom from the tyranny of dominate power, but it political, religious or others.

Monarchy and the dynastic power of a few families over societies is the first form of attack, by which we are all familiar with the term "anti-establishment". It is the mere disdain for authority that tells us to behave while they can misbehave. Or that they can tell us to do thing so that they can benefit.

Religion in the past, and sadly at present as well in some cases, had been the dominant power in societies that the call was, and still is, for the separation of religion from politics. To most extent, this separation of power between religion and politics has been accomplished in most modern and enlightened societies. Politicians go about doing their normal business of fighting either for businesses (good for jobs!) or workers (improve welfare!), while religious leaders go about preaching the good life in wealth (if possible) or if not, then in health.

But the pursuit of liberty had not been bloodless in the past. Heads had rolled, and blood had been spilled. One ideology takes over another ideology, both seemingly good for everybody (can't be, right?). Everybody tries to cling onto his or her power. Nobody wants to let go of their "strategic" position in the world.

The wisdom of Adam Smith (a member of the Scottish Enlightenment who ignited the French Revolution) is the liberty of everyone to pursuit his or her economic objective through competition, and doing away with monopoly and collusion and the concentration of economic power and wealth in the hands of a few. His book is called "The Wealth of Nation" and this wealth is to come from the economies of scale and market economies through competition.

In other words, economic wealth is to be created by the dissolution of the controlling power of politics and religion on societies so that ordinary people with no titles or social status but only the wherewithal and business-mindedness for material survival can have an opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.

It is necessary that economic prosperity for all can be derived by a government and the religious council to let the people live as they see fit, with the government ensuring fairness and security and opportunity for all, and the religious council administering to the faithful if they so wish to keep their faith.

It is not without reason that religious leader Thomas Carlyle called Adam Smith's economics as "the dismal science" as he saw Smith to promote material well-being rather than spiritual salvation. This sentiment probably still echoes today as people get tired of the "good" life and sought the "more meaningful" life.

We may be seeing the completion of a cycle, as religion now comes back to take over politics and economics.

As with all powers, there are splits internally as well, as each faction vies for power and the spoils.

The religious war today is therefore at two levels: one to take over the world, the other to fight one's own brother for the throne.

The pursuit of liberty may be priceless, but one should not imagine it to be painless.

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