It seems to me that liberty comes with responsibility. To be truly free one must be responsible for him or her self. To be “free” while in a state of dependence is an oxymoron.
Liberty, independence and responsibility are codependent concepts. Whenever practiced these tree maxims always result in the improving of the lot of Man. Put it this way, we can say that liberty cannot exist without independence, and a person cannot be independent without having responsibility.
Today people seem to want liberty or “freedom” in the same way a teenager want’s “freedom.” In the sense that they should have total freedom of action, with no responsibilities, practicing no restraint, being fed clothed and house for free, and having the negative consequences of their action smoothed over of for them, without having to expend any effort at productive labor.
A rational maximizer wants his or her needs met but is rational about it. If I am hungry I buy food. It is not in my best interest to steal food especially if I have money to buy it. But what if I want a snow machine? Then, can I morally steal, even food? No, of course not. To do so is against my long term best interests. In more than the obvious way.
If there were no society and no community and people lived in a state of nature or absolute individualism we would have to expend productive effort to stay alive. If we are too lazy we are quickly goaded into productive effort by our hunger. It is society and community that allow us to fill our stomachs without productive effort. If we undermine that society and or community by withholding our productive effort, then we put the filling of not only our stomachs at risk, but risk not filling those of people who are putting in productive effort.
If there were no society and no community we would have to be responsible for ourselves. If we step off a cliff then we are dashed on the rocks below there would be no rescue chopper. We would be forced by nature to expire from our lack of vigilance. It is society and community that allow us the luxury of lack forethought and vigilance.
If there were no society and no community we would live in a state of total liberty. There would be nothing, that we could do, that we could not do. No law restraining our actions and no morality to restrain our appetites. It is society and community that force us to have law and morality.
It is only in a society that allows it’s citizens to be freely responsible people and holding them responsible for their actions with a great measure of liberty that have increasing standards of living. As societies move to greater and greater levels of the Big Brother government then the standard of living will inevitably decline.
It will decline because Liberty is decoupled from responsibility and independence. In this circumstance people have no incentive to expend productive effort. It is wasted in the most vulgar way. Your productive labor harms your interest.
The market system however allows us to live in a society where our needs can be easily met. By providing productive labor into the system we get independence like we would if we lived in a state of nature. Under the market system we have the feed back that allows us to work to get the standard of living we want, if we are willing to work for it.
Veblen claimed people don’t resent the robber barons of his day because they felt they could someday be a robber baron if they worked hard enough and were smart enough… No one denying their own intelligence. With this as the societal myth look at how the standard of living went up and scientific progress exploded.
Under the one set of motives people can be expected to act in ways that are counter productive to their long term interests, it follows, (like a breaching a dam results in a flood down stream). Under the other (Liberty, Independence and responcibility) people act in ways that are in both their short and long term best interests as they see fit. The one results in the steady decline of humanity the other… elevation.