Human progress and liberty

What is “human progress?” When does it happen? Where has there been the most progress? And again, when has there been the most progress?

Heinlein: “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. … This is known as ‘bad luck.’”

Compare to some of Ayn Rand’s writings:

Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.

Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps, down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision.

Of course, she does not identify the source of “their own vision” and we here at TPOL disagree with Rand’s (and Heinlein’s) worldview when it comes to the Creator. But their points are sound. Human progress requires a lot of gumption, ability to buck the public “common” sentiment, a vision of where we want to go, and liberty.

To the extent that any of these things are absent or constrained, progress slows – or is even reversed. And the most common source of such controls? Government. Not just “tyrannical” or “dictatorial” government, but also governments which are democratic in nature. People who drive progress – whether we may think that progress is good or bad – are virtually never in the majority, and often a very tiny minority. And too many people are prone to (and raised to) fear change, which progress always brings.

So government, made up of individuals with power who constantly seek more power, are generally opposed to progress. They can make the most of the status quo, in controlling others and gaining wealth by immoral means. Of course, if they are faced with major opposition – either people or another greedy government, then they will reluctantly push for progress to gain the tools they need to defeat their enemy. And of course, that sort of progress – generally dedicated to the art of killing people more easily and in larger numbers – is hardly the kind of progress which creates and improves prosperity and peace for most people. Whatever the purveyors of that twisted concept may say.

But with freedom, with liberty, to do, to think, to say? Yes, many will use that liberty foolishly to satisfy their own perverted desires or even to try and take away liberty from others. But some will use that liberty with great responsibility: to meet their own needs and ambitions in ways that benefit others. And therefore, society.

It is not a perfect situation, of course. But no human society is. Here morality comes in – not the detailed minutia (which may still be important). But the basic understanding that other humans do not exist for our purposes: that we are each free to decide and act. The idea that the only moral way to gain wealth is not by stealing it, or denying it to others, but by voluntary win-win trade of skills, of goods, of ideas to benefit all parties to a transaction. Where no one is seen as having any right to coerce someone else into doing or not doing something – unless what they are doing will bring physical harm to someone else directly.

People can and do live like that, and do societies – at least small ones. Even with neighbors and societies who are predators and parasites who must be held at bay. And it is possible for us to do so in the future. Not just in the States, but in every corner of this globe – and soon in space.

Think about it.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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1 Response to Human progress and liberty

  1. Eric says:

    Reblogged this on Calculus of Decay .


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