YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

December 19, 2015

Still Looking for Mr. Goodbar: the fear of individual liberty and self-direction

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:44 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Mr_GoodbarI was much influenced by Erich Fromm’s Escape From Freedom (1941). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escape_from_Freedom. Wiki leaves out Fromm’s theory of working class authoritarianism to account for Nazism and makes him a typical social democrat, critical of experts and advertising whose origin and targets are “the mobocracy.”) This blog is about the nostalgia for monarchism providing definite authority and the novelty of free market economics. It is not about Fromm’s notion of the authoritarian personality, a preoccupation understandable in the face of Nazism and related isms.

Like most of my readers and FB friends, I have been trying to situate myself somewhere in the current political campaign for president. I am particularly interested in the Frank Luntz focus groups, for a variety of ordinary people seem to be seeking a manly, stable “leader,” whatever the flaws or evasions in his social policy views.

This last week, I read Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom (1962), which is a systematic defense of free markets and untrammeled cultural freedom, an outcome that Friedman finds inseparable from capitalism in its most laissez-faire mode. (I agree with most of what he writes, but wonder if “choice” is invariably wise, given the fatal possibilities of succumbing to quacks and other “professional” frauds.)

At the same time, I have been studying very old fights among historians about the major turning points in the history of our sorry species. My most vivid recollection is that of Louis XIV and the prestige of his absolute despotism as the embodiment of the State. It occurred to me that we have, in spite of our Constitution, not progressed very far from Louis’s [vulgarity], using the magnificence of Versailles-like splendor, for instance, to wow the masses and the King’s underlings, rather like the glitterati, “traditional” mansions, and “special effects” in film celebrated especially during the holiday season to induce spending, notwithstanding the solemnity of religious observance.

individual

Back to Luntz’s focus group regarding Trump and his competition (broadcast on Fox 12-18-15, on The Kelly File). Numerous persons in the Luntz focus group referred to “the people” as the preferred source of authority. But through the centuries, “the people” have been acted upon by elites, and the efforts of individuals to assert liberty have been criminalized as demonic and sneaky. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/08/24/the-people-is-an-ass-or-a-herd/.) Moreover, there is no such animal as “the people”: that is a construction by “traditional” organic conservatives seeking a compact mass to dominate. Friedman, like Charles Sumner before him, favored small government, and saw “society” as a collection of individuals.

Is it not the case that we are, more often than not, scared to death of asserting our individual rights, in what Fromm correctly called an escape from freedom?

davidbogbig-picture-300dpi

David Bog Big Picture

 

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1 Comment »

  1. Regarding your question of the wisdom of “choice” in a world filled with frauds and deceits, freedom does not increase the number of grifters or their crimes. Rather, in a libertarian society, fraud is less likely because the motivations for cheating are dramatically reduced. Under a mixed economy, where regulations and influence are the pathways to gaining confidence or control of select markets, fraud is a short-cut to unearned wealth. When the government picks and chooses “winners” in the market, people like Bernie Maddof or companies like Enron or Solyndra will appear to take advantage of the market distortion. In a free market, the legal tort system will adjudicate fraud pretty much as they do now, except the severity of the crime does not have the scope and semi-legality of modern “corporatist” frauds.

    I have done some work with the Friedman Foundation for school choice. In hearings where our case has been presented before legislators, I have heard Democrats denounce “choice” as a mere buzz-word of the “right-wing.” Their view is that the public doesn’t want choices, but “fairness” and “equality”. Choice benefits only the rich and/or whites… And corporate fraudsters, intent on cheating taxpayers with a second-rate education. (In their eyes, making a profit in running a school is criminal, so “public money” paying for any private school or training is a de facto fraud.)

    Comment by stereorealist — December 31, 2015 @ 4:01 am | Reply


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