Thursday, 26 December 2013

All the king's men - a parable of liberty


Once upon a time many years ago everything belonged to the king. The waters, the land, the fish in the water, the crops on the land. Everything.

In those days nothing that took place did so without that action, in some way, being the king's. Every tiny deed even to sitting outside on a log with a cup of tea. Nothing.

Then something changed. A man sat there, cup of tea in his hand, and wondered why it was that everything was the king's? And how it came about that only things the king permitted were allowed?

In that act of innocent denial - it's my time, my thoughts, my cup of tea - was born the idea of freedom. That those things are not the king's by some mark of god but merely by an act of force, because of the threat of violence.

Each generation has to learn again what that man - and many others - learned while sitting on a log with a cup of tea. That kings - or pharaohs, emperors, priests, presidents - do not own us. They have no right, other than the threat of violence, to command our behaviour, to determine our choices or to require us to do something that we do not wish to do.

Each generation are told by those kings (and their courtiers) that giving up some of that freedom is in our interests. That the king will deliver great wonders that would not be possible if we cling stubbornly to that idea of freedom.

Each generation are told also that it is not fair that we have freedom since it means that some have things and some do not. Much better that things are owned by the king so he can ensure everyone has the same (except for the king and his courtiers for whom special needs require special benefits).

And each generation are fooled.

Today we're told that we only have the things we have because of the king. All those good things were only possible because those selfless courtiers acted in our interests. That the man on the log with his tea, talking of freedom, is myth maker, a threat to out safety and corrupter of youth.

We must listen to the voice of reason, take heed of our masters' advice and behave. And free acts are treasonous to this voice, to the king's advice. The consequence of such selfishness are the great sins - nonconformity, noncompliance and choice.

Our masters wish to rebuild the state as a slave household, as the oikos, wherein all acts by all men a directed to the betterment of the kingdom. Where all acts that those masters determine to be anti-social are to be punished and where ideas of self- reliance, independence and personal choice are the acme of sedition.

We trade liberty for comfort, sameness and a full belly. And we are the poorer for it, for a world where the value we earn from exchange is ripped from our hands by the king's men. With such action justified less by the need or desire of the king's government to provide things for all our benefit than by the intonation of the magic formulae of macroeconomics - 'fiscal contraction', 'economic growth', 'monetary policy', 'counter-inflationary strategy'.

The next generation faces the same choice. And the king will tell them that his aim is a better place, a better society and a better world. That we will all be richer, safer and happier if we reject independence, choice and the idea of liberty.

The king is wrong.


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