Freedom and making free

When “freedom” means fluid standards and relationships, it puts everything up for grabs. When everything is up for grabs the grabby get everything. Tastes differ, but that doesn’t seem so great to me.

For some reason grabbiness is thought a specifically capitalistic vice. In fact, the point of private property is that it limits grabbiness by requiring consent to attempted grabs by existing property owners. If you don’t think that’s so, think about eminent domain abuse in this country and kleptocracy abroad.

In fact, there are lots of ways to be grabby. In addition to greed in the marketplace, there is greed among those with ties to the government, and manipulation, abuse and suspicion in other aspects of life. In financial matters it’s at least possible to apply clear numerical standards, which limit what people can get away with. Elsewhere, there’s more room for bullying and sheer assertion. Things are likely at their worst in intimate relationships and in bureaucracies concerned with lofty topics like knowledge and religion, because of the difficulty of outside scrutiny, the complexity of the considerations that might be relevant, and the increasing separation of both from the life of community and tradition. That should be no surprise: corruptio optimi pessima is an old story.

Hence the value of “traditional values.” Community and tradition are considered oppressive, especially by the grabby, because they limit new ventures and require conduct to be brought in line with the standards people have come to expect over the years. In fact, such standards and limitations are the most effective protection for ordinary people against abuse. People notice that freeing of religion from traditional strictures has led to religious sociopaths—that was certainly my experience during my unfortunate connection to the Episcopal Church—and that sexual freedom has turned out to mean that every woman is constantly in play and every man called to be a player. That’s no doubt freedom, especially for some people, but is it so wonderful?

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