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Δευτέρα, 8 Αυγούστου 2011

Liberalism - Lecture for EMAG in Paris at UNESCO




From the beginning of this lecture I would like to point out that I will not speak in favor or against Liberalism. I will describe it as it is, as a tool, as a state, as a point of view. I do not want to provoke or guide your reasoning. Everything that I state will not be subjective personal opinions rather objective facts. Liberalism and Interventionism or the mixture of them defines social behaviors, politics; sets a way of living and philosophy rightly made a great deal out of them since they influence directly the individual status of life, the purpose of existence and the Idea of Great Happiness.

By referring to “Liberty” we actually refer to Freedom of choice. We should make a distinction here since it is common failure to confuse Freedom of choice with Free Will. Freedom of choice applies so that different people can be free to express their diversity; so that different people in the same situation or the same person under different circumstances are permitted to make different choices; and by choosing deliberately restraining their freedom.

Free Will on the other hand refers to the existence of a cause behind each causal. It refers to whether we live in a deterministic environment or not. Whether science and any scientific research are looking for causes or whether it is just statistics. The deterministic character of the environment, according to which under the influence of the same circumstances there will be always the same outcome, leads to prescribed future and negates Free Will. Following a systemic approach, in a closed system, a system that is not interacting with anything outside itself, if we know all the parameters, all the forces that are applied, and we make the appropriate calculations we can predict the forthcoming situation; and using that as a feedback we can predict all the future situations infinitely or until the destruction of the system. So if we regard humans and all the factors that shape their decisions as a closed system, that leads with mathematical precision to the fact that when these factors are given, the outcome will be given too. So if there was a Unit which had all the knowledge, the data and the computing capacity to handle them, it would yield as information all the future states of the system, proving that it is predetermined. Therefore, actually humans have the Freedom of choice, but their choices are predetermined, based on the factors that are shaping them, they are just incapable of realizing that.

Sometimes we have the illusion that we cheat on nature laws, that we bend them, but on the contrary we accomplish everything just by taking advantage of them. The laws of nature are above us. They were here from the beginning of Time and will be here to the end of It. Everything is made out of them and according to them. They form a field in which we are free to do everything possible but they have predetermined the outcome of it. They shape the Greater Plan, which apparently includes us for now, but it is not necessarily built around us. They don’t have neither cruel nor kind intentions. They just exist. They don’t change according to our prayers or will and they don’t subject to teleology. Science is the vehicle of Humans to reach the truth, but as Gödel proved with the incompleteness theorem; since we don't know the beginning or the end, in a strong system there will be things that we won't be able to prove. So there is where belief is born. As far as I’m concerned Laws of Nature are the projection of the Cause that created this world and Free Will is just like a unicorn; we like to think about it, while we know that it does not exist.

Liberalism is a term that is used wisely instead of Liberty, since Liberty can only exist self-constrained and defined by a frame. Pure and unconstrained Freedom can only exist as an Utopia, it’s beyond imagination. So Liberalism imprints the effort which leads to states of less constraint. In order to talk about this tendency we must first of all explore all the factors that constrain Liberty as well as the frames in which it can be applied.

We are living creatures. As living creatures, as humans, which are the factors that set our limits? Which are the factors that force us constrains? We are bounded by the laws of nature which results in our capabilities and our needs. We need to feed because we consume energy, we need to sleep because we have to rest, and we need to regulate our temperature because our structure can survive under certain circumstances. We don’t have wings in order to fly autonomously and we are incapable of breathing autonomously under water. We are bounded in our existence, in our body with its limited abilities and its given needs. We don’t examine where these limits are or how far they can extend but the fact that they exist and we cannot surpass them. This is the reason why unconstrained Liberty does not exist. We are manufacturing tools to help us extend our limits. People use airplanes to fly, travel under water, walk on the moon but even in that way we are limited to where our tools can get us to. Furthermore even if I accept the assumption that in depth of time mankind is capable of making everything that we imagine come true, we would still be bounded by our imagination. It is just as when we stare at the horizon above the sea; and we feel that our view is obstacle-free but at the same time it is the horizon itself that limits our view.

The frame with the most degrees of freedom is our imagination. We are free to think whatever we want but we must be blind enough to think that our imagination doesn't have limits. Our dreams and our imagination is a projection of our experiences, our hopes; they get feedback from what we see, what we feel and depend on our ability to extend our perception. It conveys the feeling of a bottomless well but that's only because we cannot possibly know what we could have imagined if the filters set by our religion, our beliefs, our surroundings, our experiences had been different. We can only state for sure that our imagination would be different.
As humans we form and live in societies. In this frame new strings are attached. New boundaries and new constrains arise; written and unwritten laws. In order to coexist we set a formula of obligations and rights to follow, legislature. In order to function coordinated and to similarly serve our interests governmental power is applied. We need to feel comfortable with what we don't apprehend, we need hope, so we build religions and subject to superstitions. We follow traditions and customs in order to serve our culture and feel integrated to the continuation of the past. We need to fit in and to be approved by the society so ethics arise, rules of conduct that set our behavior; we keep up with trends and artificial fashions promoted by idols that reflect the "status of success". In order to communicate with each other we match meanings with sounds and we structure languages, we manufacture gestures. Given that we want to be understood, are we free to make any sound that we want in order to express ourselves or are we bounded to where our tools can get us to? We build new means of expression or we add innovative elements to extend the already existed; but is the freedom of expression totally free? Or is it self-constrained by its means and the comprehension of the receivers? Can someone play music without structure, tempo, rhythm and melody? Can someone talk or write without grammar, vocabulary and syntax? It is obligatory to comply with certain dictates. All of these particles of society inevitably are governed by, and at the same time govern their subjects with rules. They set constrains which have to be dealt with.
Now naturally the question arises: Why are there rules? Do people need something to guide them? Or they could handle it themselves under certain circumstances? How could we act beyond rules and laws? We have of course to separate natural laws which stand above us and laws that people force to each other in order to serve a purpose. Artificial laws, created by humans are there to spare us from the cost of choice, since making the right choice poses a great deal of effort and demands a great deal of stress. But nature does not like to spare its resources. It's the principle of Minimum Energy, the second Law of Thermodynamics that imprints the tendency of every system to reach equilibrium, to reach the State of the Minimum possible Energy. It's the principle of Inertia that Galileo first stated and Newton confirmed with his First Law that showed that all systems tend to hold their current state and constant amounts of energy are required in order to hold a system instable. Equilibrium is the nature's call but we cannot overlook the fact that evolution comes through instability. Freedom demands a constant spend of resources; people that have spare resources choose to be free as far as their resources can get them and on the other hand people that have lack of them choose to have the illusion of Liberty which we all need no matter if we are up to it. Rules are implemented to cover the lack of understanding and are produced through the accumulation of knowledge through the ages. They are supposed to cover the cultural deficit and lack of values.
Imagine that you are standing in front of traffic lights. It's 4 o' clock in the morning, you are sober and you are near your neighborhood. You have a red light that prevents you from crossing the road but there is no one’s will nearby to conflict with yours. If you can understand the purpose of the specific traffic lights, if you own the spirit that lies behind the law, the purpose that the law serves and you are not in conflict with it, can you bypass it? It is really difficult to be confident that you have calculated the impact of your actions short and long term and it needs a great amount of energy to criticize reflect on everything so we are as free as we can; depending on how good our perception is and how do we distribute our resources. But it is common to overestimate our abilities or underestimate the calls that we are up against. If you are foxy enough and you find a way to evade taxes you gain short term an amount of money; but have you calculated adequately the impact of your actions? You undermine the state revenues and as a result the public health care, the public educational system and the social benefits. In long term this will crack the social cohesion and will cost you more than you benefit. This is just foxy not smart. Higher-level thinking is required to comprehend that most times your personal interest is served better through the common interest. Liberalism is neither good nor bad. It is a tool, a point of view and we should handle it depending on our capabilities. People following the rules are as useful as those who criticize them. What would a coach of a football team be without the football players? What would a theater director be without actors?
Now we come to a very crucial point at which we must decide: if we are not guided or based on rules, where should we be based on? How should we make our decisions? Laws are temporary; they define each society and are defined by them. They are linked with the Ethics and try to handle upcoming situations; they try to either prevent or punish and as a result legislation is an art.
Law is not science. Think; during the 14.000 years of mankind how many different ethics, how many different religions, and how many different societies did it come and go? What used to be unethical now has become a trend and the law of jungle that prevailed, now is claimed to be savage.  We lived on trees, we moved into caves, we formed societies, we experienced great wars and disasters, we came through periods of Enlightenment and Obscurantism, we made Crusades, we had slaves and at one point we decided to assign human rights, as if they didn't result, they didn't stem out from the united nature of humans, so that we could threaten to take them back. And at that point women were free to vote, it was their right. There are so many contradictions and all of them according to the Ethics of the time. Authority and Laws reflect the current "right thing to do" and should have as a purpose; to interpret, to realize, and to introduce certain Values to human societies. If we were able to stand on the constant Values that Laws mean to interpret, if we found the spirit that lies in the Values which underlie the Legislation and we set them as a guide; are we not above the Laws? Are we not free to surpass them? Are we not acting as the laws should dictate? This is what Liberalism is about.
Take for example the Greek tragedy of Sophocles “Antigone”; Antigone is a play written in the Golden Century of Pericles before 442 BC, and describes the choice that a tragic character, Antigone, has to make in order to be loyal to the Values in which she believes. Her rebel brother is killed in the battlefield and Creon, who is the Authority, condemns him not to be buried; the harshest punishment at the time. Antigone decides to bury her brother and follows the value of human dignity unlike her sister Ismene who complies with the Law under the fear of death. Creon condemns Antigone to be buried alive for her disobedience, since she does not deny that she has buried her brother, and she decides to kills herself. Gods, that embody the Values that stand above the Law, punish Creon to lose his son and his wife who both commit suicide. This story demonstrates the strength that is needed in order to be free, it teaches us that freedom has a cost and also shows how sometimes we have to make a stand if the Laws don't comply with the Values that we serve.
An example of recent history and probably more familiar to you would be the one of Philippe Petain and Jean Moulin. Marshal Petain had an outstanding military leadership during the First World War, which made him a national hero. During the Second World War, while France was facing the defeat in June 1940 he was appointed Premier of France and Chief of State of Vichy. So as the Authority he chose to comply with Nazism which embodies the disregard of human life. As soon as Jean Moulin decided to stand up against the Germans, he set himself above the Laws. He was arrested in June 1940 and he tried to commit suicide, cutting his throat with a glass. This shows that the burden of his overwhelmed him at that point; but despite this fact he chose to make a stand. He was the one that united the French Resistance under the name of Charles de Gaul, he was betrayed, arrested and tortured to death by Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon, the head of Gestapo and despite this fact he never revealed anything to his captors. A World War hero, a Marshal embodies the Authority that betrays the Value of Freedom and Human Life and a frightened man that initially almost killed himself demonstrates courage remaining loyal to his Values. There is a great contradiction. The moment that Petain surrenders to the Nazi, and Charles de Gaul declares that: “the resistance continues we don't follow the government's orders”, Charles de Gaul is against the Law, he is a traitor, and he could face court martial; and if that had happened he would probably have come up against death penalty. After the War Charles de Gaul becomes the Authority and Marshal Petain is the traitor whose life is going to be spared by his former protégé. As you see Laws and Authorities change. You can be considered responsible for treason because of your actions and at the next moment you can be Authority because of them; but Charles de Gaul as much as Jean Moulin sticked to the Value of Liberty and Human Life no matter how they were regarded facing the Law. They were both free men, at the same time when many of the charges against Klaus Barbie were dropped, because of the legislation that had protected people accused of crimes under the Vichy regime.
At this point the big question arises. Could the Authorities ever be abolished? Could we ever live without Laws? We have already demonstrated the huge amounts of energy that are required in order to be free; the huge burden that we have to carry. We accepted the fact that there is a lack of culture and that Laws apply to cover the lack of understanding, while they accumulate knowledge. Every one of us is as free as he can be, as free as his resources can get him to. Taking that under consideration, rules will always be necessary, but this doesn't mean that we have to feel comfortable under their cover. We have to realize that legislation is an art, is altering according to the society which is temporary, while Values are constant and apply to Humanity. What we need to do is to make the Laws as identical as possible to our Values so that they serve them in the best way. This should be their purpose; to embody these Values to a constantly changing society. The best Government is the one that won't have to do anything. But this presupposes two things. Firstly that everything would work perfectly through self-management and auto-correction and secondly that there will be a Government; something that ensures that there won't be a gap which someone will try to cover. There are things of common interest that could subject to central management as public Works, infrastructure and common benefits. Last but not least we have to ensure safety which is one of the greater Goods.
But which are the Values on which we should be based on? Which should our compass be? One of the first Values recognized was Justice. Homer, the epic ancient Greek poet wrote Iliad around 850 BC and symbolized Justice with Ilios, which is the Greek word for Sun, and impersonated it through Achilles. Far too many years ago in ancient Athens, in ancient Greece the first Democracy was established so that the first State of Justice would be built. Earlier, Pythagoras, one of the greatest mathematicians, said: “It seems that Justice is a square; in all parts equal and identical”. Just is anything that applies in the same way to everyone, with no distinctions or exceptions. Justice means that you respect the others as if they were yourself. Justice means that you take full responsibility of your actions and you are willing to accept every consequence regardless if it is positive or negative. Even for those who don’t believe that there is an objective principle of Justice, mandatory accepted; there is definitely the intersubjective sense of Justice which applies to everyone. And out of Justice came Liberty itself, as a Value. There are innumerable examples of nations struggling for their Freedom. Enlightenment came to structure Liberalism and Immanuel Kant came to argue that the only objective higher principle of pure Reason that can be experienced is Freedom. Enlightenment resulted in the French Revolution in 1789 with the demand of Liberté Egalité Fraternité, and the French Revolution showed the way for the Revolution in Spain, Italy and Greece.
I would be unjust not to mention Equality as a principle Value but be ware; Equality results from our universal Human Nature and we are Equal in the level of our rights that stem out of this Nature. It is very easy though to confuse Equality with Identity and then a huge problem arises. Identity is a big bulldozer that smashes your diversity and out of the blue you become replaceable, disposable something that leads with mathematical precision to Stalin and Mao. So you might end up in the completely opposite of Liberty. As much as Liberalism is concerned Justice is over Equality precisely for the fact that we demonstrated before: everyone can be as free as his perception and his stamina can get him. The set of principles that could structure a liberal society on stable foundation is Humanism; and such group of principles is necessary because it sets an a priori purpose which forces the society to subject to teleology fulfilling it. A bunch of bricks is just a bunch of bricks; but if you add a purpose they might become a house. It is the purpose that gives the structure. A society with no constraints that is not based on Moral Values will not be Liberal; will just be flooded with Impunity. And an example of Impunity is demonstrated in several aspects of Christiania, where the experiment of Liberalism has turned in unconstrained drug dealing.
There are several philosophical schools from ancient to present times that recognize the fact that the more we let our needs take command on us the less free we are. It was in 465 BC when Antisthenes, a pupil of Socrates, established the School of Cynics. For the Cynics the ideal principle of moral life was the discharge of any human need, the simplicity and the naturalness of living, setting them as bliss. Cardinal virtues in the school of Cynics were temperance, fortitude and apathy, while on the other hand pleasure was the greatest evil. Cynics believed in absolute sobriety and more over in the total disregard for the established values of honor and glory. They had no respect for ideas and doctrines that turned man into a slave serving them.
In the early 3rd century BC Stoicism was founded. Following the Cynics, the establishment of Stoic ethics was that: good lies in wisdom and self-control. They strived to be free from passions by following reason and stressed the rule: "Follow where reason leads." The idea was to be free of suffering through being objective. For the Stoics, Reason meant not only Logic, but also understanding the processes of nature. The four cardinal virtues of the Stoic philosophy are Justice, Wisdom, Courage and Temperance; a classification derived from Plato’s teachings Following Socrates, the Stoics tried to discharge the influence of the society's role models and try to find their purpose in their internal nature. They also supported that unhappiness and evil were the results of human ignorance of the reason in nature and they derived from the misguided individual's purpose. A common saying of the Stoics that stems out of the universal nature of humans is: "Kindly remember that he whom you call your slave sprang from the same stock, is smiled upon by the same skies, and on equal terms with yourself breathes, lives, and dies."
In more recent times Existentialism came to defend the human nature. Jean-Paul Sartre summarized Søren Kierkegaard's teaching in the quote: Existence precedes Essence. The Existence has no inherent static properties, unlike Substance, but is perpetually shaped by personal action; so everyone is responsible for his becoming. Jean-Paul Sartre as much as Kierkegaard insists that there is no external benchmark according to which man should be oriented. His Guide is only himself and he has to create his rules. Consequently, opposite to the command of the society, self-determination of behavior as an act of Freedom is something inescapable for Humans, which are not allowed to find any other sources of self-determination. Jean-Paul Sartre and Alber Camus dealt with all aspects of human situations, including that of absolute Freedom. According to Sartre's words "Man is condemned to be Free. Condemned because he didn't create his own self and yet also free, because once he came to this world he was responsible for his actions. Act as you would like all the Humanity to do." On the other hand Camus influenced by Immanuel Kant tried to introduce an imperative that demands respect for Human Dignity, even in a universe bare from any meaning; even if there is no higher Reason to govern, even in Absurd. There are numerous philosophers and writers that defended Freedom besides Immanuel Kant, Sartre, Camus, and Kierkegaard. Nietzsche's Übermensch is representative exhibit of Liberty, in which he defined the nature of his own existence; also Simon de Beauvoir had a great contribution to integrating Existentialism and Freedom with feminism. Other important intellectuals that contributed with their thought to Liberty were Martin Heidegger,  Fyodor Dostoevsky and  Franz Kafka; while the inscription on the Greek scholar's, Nikos Kazantzakis,  grave can summarize Freedom in a few words: "I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am Free." Let me remind you that Nikos Kazantzakis lost the Nobel Prize for Literature from Alber Camus for one vote in 1957.
Considering Politics as a superset of Economy and wealth distribution, it can be understood that Liberalism applies there as well. This field is divided in two major sectors; capitalism and socialism, and Freedom applies in both. Starting from the socialistic field we recognize the ultimate Interventionism in Communism as it is described by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, and the absolute Liberty in Anarchy as it is presented by Joseph Proudhon and Pyotr Kropotkin.
Anarchy is a word derived from the Greek language, a loan, and in Greek  it is formed by the privative a, which expresses negation or absence and the word “Archy” which means Authority. So anarchy denotes the absence of Authorities. The major idea on which this concept is based is that everyone is entitled to have access to the recourses that he needs and by combining them with the expertise needed he is free to express himself as he wants through labor and benefit out of it in any way he wants. People would collaborate if this didn’t suppress them and all of them would have the right to equally participate in all levels of the production line from management to labor and from earning to spending. The cardinal virtue in such framework is self-management. However, as Kropotkin himself admitted, the fact that the resources are limited forces principle values in their distribution. So Anarchy is claimed to be an Utopia due to lack of resources, exactly as Freedom. Furthermore it is doubtful if this self-managed structure could handle the expertise specialization that is demanded within the framework of the constantly larger scale projects that result from evolution.
The first anarchic society is described in the 3rd century BC by Zeno in his survey called “Politya”, which means State in Greek. Zeno was the founder of the School of Stoic philosophers to which we referred earlier. In the world that he imagined there were no courts, security forces, military forces, churches, money or even schools and weddings. People lived together as a herd in an ecumenical community that worked with the same morals and the same natural laws. In such an anarchic society, which is governed by freedom and justice, there is no property or family. He explains simply that people can live under these circumstances peacefully due to the fact that besides the instinct of self-preservation, every man has within him and the social instinct that leads to the association and the cooperation with his fellows to a greater good. So if people follow their inner instincts and reason, which can determine the moral Values, they will live harmoniously and as a result laws and authorities are useless. Kropotkin regarded Zeno as the “best exponent of anarchist philosophy in ancient Greece.”

In recent times, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who was a member of the French Parliament; was the first person to call himself anarchist in 1840’s, so he is rightfully considered to be the “father of Anarchy”. His first major work, “What is Property?” drew the attention of Karl Marx, who started a correspondence with him. They influenced each other and they met here in Paris while Marx was exiled. Their friendship finally ended when Marx responded to Proudhon's “The Philosophy of Poverty” with the provocatively titled “The Poverty of Philosophy”. The dispute became one of the sources of the split between the Anarchist and Marxist wings of the International Working Men’s Association. Proudhon favoured workers associations, as well as individual worker possession, over private ownership or the nationalization of land and workplaces. He strenuously rejected the ownership of the products of labour by the state, arguing that while "property in product does not carry with it property in the means of production, the right to product is exclusive; the right to means is common". For Proudhon the only legitimate source of property is labour. What one produces is one's property and anything beyond that is not. He considered that Anarchy would be achieved in a peaceful manner since it is a political system that demands unanimous acceptance and provides no military forces. Proudhon asserted that, Anarchy is Order, the phrase which inspired the anarchist symbol – the circled-A. The A stands for Anarchy and the O, that circles it, stands for Order. Although overshadowed by Karl Marx he formed the General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century which is quite well known.

Pyotr Kropotkin on his behalf was also opposed to the thinking of Leon Trotsky, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin which supported centralised planning and control. He was known as "the Anarchist Prince" and he tried to explore the widespread use of cooperation as a survival mechanism in human societies. In his essay “Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution” in 1902 he comes to the conclusion that: In the animal world we have seen that the vast majority of species live in societies, and that they find in association the best arms for the struggle for life; understood, of course, in its wide Darwinian sense – not as a struggle for the sheer means of existence, but as a struggle against all natural conditions unfavourable to the species. The animal species, in which individual struggle has been reduced to its narrowest limits, and the practice of mutual aid has attained the greatest development, are invariably the most numerous, the most prosperous, and the most open to further progress. The mutual protection which is obtained in this case, the possibility of attaining old age and of accumulating experience, the higher intellectual development, and the further growth of sociable habits, secure the maintenance of the species, its extension, and its further progressive evolution. The unsociable species, on the contrary, are doomed to decay.
Interventionism promises to ensure better coordination and as a result greater performance in absolute numbers with trade off: suppression to its societies. In the name of Equality it abolishes a certain fact: our diversity. On the other hand Liberalism leads to constant mental alertness in opposition to the complacent attitude, the dullness and lack of judgment that Communistic societies promote. Our choice depends on our principles; whether we think that living worths more than surviving; whether we prefer Asterix and the Gauls to the Smurfs and Papasmurf. 
In the contrary in the capitalistic field not only is labor considered as property, but novelty and entrepreneuriat as well. That means that innovative ideas could be rewarded from the surplus value of labor. Classical Liberalism is a philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and free markets. It was developed in 19th century mainly by David Ricardo, although it was based on the economics of Adam Smith; which was a social understanding of individual Liberty, natural Law, utilitarianism and a belief in progress. Classical liberals agreed that government had been created by individuals to protect themselves from one another and that individuals should be free to pursue their self-interest without control or restraint by society. They should be free to obtain work from the highest-paying employers, while the profit motive would ensure that products that people desired were produced at prices they would pay. In a free market, both labor and capital would receive the greatest possible reward, while production would be organized efficiently to meet consumer demand. Government, as explained by Adam Smith, should have only three functions: protection against foreign invaders, protection of citizens from wrongs committed against them by other citizens, and building and maintaining public institutions and public facilities that the private sector could not profitably provide such as roads, canals, harbors, railways, and communications services.
The central virtue behind this theory is that you produce a good that covers some needs. The more essential it is the more people will pay for it, so the lower the surplus value needs to be in order to make a profit. So essential products tend to have values near their cost of production while luxury products are overpriced. If someone chooses to raise the prices of the essential products to force consumers to pay more in order to cover their needs he will lose since his competitor will provide the same product in lower prices and will attract all the customers. Thus in fact the market is self-regulated around the balance point set by the Law of Supply and Demand which maximizes the gain for both sides; consumers and traders. On the other hand Interventionism regulates the markets either by establishing monopolies which tend to raise the prices of the products; since the consumers will be obligated to pay if they want to cover their needs or by fixing low prices for products that makes them unprofitable and as a result, producers are unwilling to produce them.
The first to have talked about such liberate politics was Laozi in the 6th century BC. Laozi is the author of the classic Chinese text, the Tao Te Ching, and the founder of Taoist philosophy. A common theme that runs throughout the Tao Te Ching is that the ruler should not meddle in society; instead, the people should be left to their own devices. He simply thought that such meddling would be counter-productive. Whenever we intervene in the order of things, we create unintended side effects. We mess things up. Taoists often say, "Things do not get confused; we get confused." The Taoist concept of wei wu wei "do without doing" may bring to our mind the later Western concept of laissez-faire, let do.
But do we live in a universally Liberal capitalistic society? Liberal capitalism is not just about the absence of Laws to regulate the market. It is about freedom of individuality, freedom of speech, freedom in information access and freedom of self determination. When you drill violence with army forces and you establish dictatorships to control whole nations and continents in order to have cheap labor; when you force people in starvation so that you can minimize the cost of production, this doesn't make you Liberal. This is the exact opposite. This is Intervention and leads to manipulation, lower prices and overconsumption. So a nation must either willingly starve its citizens or exploit other nations in order to be competitive. Even in the European Union, nations with more wealth and stronger economies deliberately imposed loans on smaller countries in order to maintain debts, which can use later on to put pressure on them to force lower salaries so that they can build a comforting industrial area closer to them. Intervention doesn't stop there. When there is an effort of deliberate destabilization of the common currency by individual countries in order to promote their exports, this is called regulation. It is not wise though to play games with the markets because speculators will take the snowflake and turn it into snowstorm. But as I stated earlier higher-level reasoning is required to understand that most times your personal interest is served better through the common one and now we are in the middle of an economic crisis.
Before closing this lecture we have to point out that there is an unbreakable bond between Freedom and Great Happiness. We seek to conquer high peaks and when we've made it we discover that there are higher peaks from there; and once we've made it to the highest peak we find out that during this time we were under the stars. The difficulties we face and the effort that we make in order to achieve these objectives are the ingredients of Happiness. Recognizing the trouble and the resources we invested, we recognize and the true value of our goal; it is the cost that we paid in order to fulfill our unsatisfied feeling that comes as a reward.
 From this point of view everyone has the right to pursuit his Happiness, since every individual is free to define his own subjective goals that are meaningful for him and try to achieve them. The experience of Happiness though is rare in nowadays; what makes it hard to find it though it is not the difficult nature of Happiness as much as the incorrect choice of goals. We are part of a society which willingly and unwillingly pushes us to embrace its own goals using role models setting the trend and the appropriate status of living; we comply with the desires that we inherit from our social environment and we are chasing the American Dream at a point that as an objective is fictional and doesn't represent our needs. So even if we manage to achieve the goals set by the society the wholeness that comes as a consequence is not of the same magnitude as the effort we made; simply because the target didn't express our will. Therefore the most essential part in the pursuit of Happiness is the beginning. The definition of the objectives, keeping in mind that they might have to be rearranged in the process. A false initial choice puts us on a path that brings no clearance so it is profound that being Free from the society's demand is essential in order to achieve Great Happiness. So the thing that most of the people think that is given, the goals of their life, is what will eventually bring or bereave Happiness depending on whether these goals stem from  their unique identity and reflect their own needs or they stem from their need to identify with the rest and comply with the social demands . The society is a ritual, a method to serve our internal tendency that puts us in a procedure to explore, to learn, to evolve and this tense of humans is actually an effort to expand the island of our freedom. There is nothing wrong about being part of the society but it is all wrong to let it own us.
There is a distinction between the thing that we must do and the proper thing to do. Here, today, I didn't give you anything more than a different point of view, I practically gave you nothing; but sometimes Nothing is Everything. The future, like everything else, is open and at the same time closed. Prescribed, but is yet to be played. Where you stand is up to you.

--- 
A lecture for EMAG in Paris at UNESCO
about Human Rights at 5.8.2011

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