“The happiest slaves are freedoms worst enemies.”1
“They, who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”2
“We have to choose between slavery and freedom. We chose freedom!”3
“Freedom means responsibility. That’s the reason most people fear it.”4
Already in my previous Text “Basic approaches on Freedom”, I dealt with the topic of freedom (what a surprise). Thereby, first of all the basics of a modern-time understanding of freedom, were recognised, without claim to completeness. To cover this topic completely, more than one Paper and even more than one Book would be needed. This Text is to be seen as a supplement, whereby a focus on economic freedom is set. Beside this, the responsibility as outcome of the use of freedom rights is mentioned. Incidentally some more or less useful (it is up to the reader to decide on that) normative comments are given, which deal with the consequences of economic freedom.
Capitalism and free, unlimited markets caused African-American Slave trade, because it was just the profit to be mentioned. The European investors did not think about the African slaves which were fighting for their lives at American farms. Free, unbridled capitalism has caused the death of millions of people.
Okay, I plead guilty of being a bit to polemic and this essay is also no critique of capitalism. I just want to show, what can happen, if freedom rights are used in a wrong way. Of course the example of slave trade was not yesterday’s top headline, but it is indeed hot of the press. Obviously not in Western Europe (isn’t it?), or another “first-word country”, but in some so called “third-world countries” slavery is on the daily agenda. There are the child slaves in Congo, which are mining “cobalt”, one of the rare metals which are needed for modern technic like smartphones, tablets or other kinds of electronic devices.5 Or should I instead say that they are dismantling cobalt from the rocks, because most of the mines are so deep that it is not rentable to bring up the slaves in the evening. If at, all they are just sending down food, during the cobalt is of course brought up regularly.
Even in pretending-to-be-free western societies there is no protection against exploitation and repression. There are a lot of workers, which report that they need to exercise unpaid hours, not even receive the agreed (minimum) wage, receive random ban on leave, are getting mobbed or otherwise discriminated and suppressed.
Economic freedom therefore facilitates to escape from these conditions of suppression. Economic freedom liberates humans from their not self-indebted dependency by enabling them to free their self from slavery, suppression and dependence. Who earns his own money is no slave (at least not according to common definition). Who earns enough money and is able to do some savings, is independent, e.g. from his parents or a special employer. Who has furthermore assets, is hard to suppress.
By a more detailed look it should get clear to every reader, that the reasons for all this negative and to some extent dramatically circumstances are not only due to the fact, that there are free, unregulated markets. Moreover, it is the elaboration of the respective economy and society, and of course the people, who are responsible if such a social system is bad or good. Thereby we are at the next big topic, responsibility, which accompanies the use of freedom rights.
Every use of freedom rights is linked to responsibility. As we have seen, disregarding this freedom-law can cause extreme bad negative consequences. It does not need to be the death of millions of slaves, but nevertheless the consequences of free actions need to be reconsidered. That is not just a claim of me, but indeed the case. “Every imaginable notion of economic rationality has normativity always within.”6 Everybody is capable to decide within the limits of his personal freedom rights, to buy Fair Trade items, focus on regional and/or biologic sustainable products and live further more green and sustainable. Therefore it is up to everybody to reconsider if alternative forms of economy like Sharing-Economy, Degrowth movement or similar are no socially acceptable choice to profit-oriented hard-core-capitalism.
Anyway it would be a good idea to think about utilizing economic freedom for the welfare of all. “In market economy the one is rewarded, which enhances the well-being of his fellow humans.”7 Furthermore it is a common doctrine in economic teaching, that the one who maximizes his own personal utility thereby also increases the utility of the whole society, because he is innovative, or invests in specific projects. The resulting innovations can mean improvements for all society members, like for example Newcomen’s steam machine.
In the end it has to do with the questions: “In which possible future do we want to live?”; “What is progress?” and “What is typical to a civilized culture?”. The fourth, unspoken question which is implied to this is: “What is my responsibility against others and me?” All this questions are linked indivisible interdependently with the use of freedom-rights and the thereof resulting responsibility. These questions should be answered by everybody, before he makes any use of his freedom rights. Otherwise the consequences may not be a new slave trade, but nevertheless they could be socially adverse.
Economic freedom also means to assume responsibility for the own welfare and, as far it is necessary, be proactive. I will come back to this link between performance and freedom in another article explicitly, but due to the fact that this topic is very important for economic freedom, it cannot be unmentioned. As already written in chapter 2, money enables economic freedom. This is of course the problem due to economic freedom, because it only lasts as long, as there is enough money available. If you do not want to live as hermit at an abandoned place, liquid assets are nearly always necessary. Otherwise it would be hard not to get into dependencies.
Just to make clear: economic freedom does not mean, that there is a swap from dependency and suppression by other humans towards a dependency on filthy lucre. As always, this situation is due to social constructed circumstances a bit more complicated. It is indeed the fact that during human history mankind established money as a general accepted medium of transaction. If a human now want to reach economic freedom, it is the easiest way to reach this by money. Money is of course not the only possibility to get there. Economic freedom can be reached by the conscious complete or partly exit out of money based economic system, e.g. by getting part of a sharing-economy, which is based on direct exchange of products and services. There are other models, but they are not considered due to the limited space here.
Economic freedom is therefore the sum of all possibilities to buy or rather consume what you want to consume, where you want, as well as with and by whom you want. To use this opportunity, it is necessary within a free society to render performance. Therefore initiative and effort are necessary. “Nothing can be created out of nothing”, as is said. To have completely access to individual rights of freedom, it is completely necessary to perform. How this performance can be designed that way, that there is no pressure, will be shown in another article.
Economic freedom does what every freedom does. It liberates of forces, repression and oppression. Economic freedom leads to free markets and can only be realised in preferably open systems. In feudal systems economic freedom is as little as possible as in the “real existing socialism”. Free market did not cause the slave trade, but it were the people who did. Free markets are neutral, but have indeed the potential to become something positive, because they enable humans to live out their natural belonging freedom. Furthermore every individual has, as a consequence of that freedom and its use, a responsibility. It is part of this responsibility and at the same time a thing of discretion, which actions should be a consequence of this responsibility, if a more sustainable way of life is to choose, that there should be a higher return to society, or if the delusion of hard-core capitalism should be followed, which may define modern slavery in a new manner.
(c) photo by the author
Adenauer, Konrad (1952): 240. Sitzung des Deutschen Bundestags, Plenarprotokoll vom 03.12.1952, Bonn.
Ebner-Eschenbach, Marie (1893): Aphorismen, Schriften, Band 1, Paetel, Berlin, requested at: 13.09.2018, https://gutezitate.com/zitat/113663
Franklin, Benjamin (1818): Dr. Benjamin Franklin's nachgelassene Schriften und Correspondenz, nebst seinem Leben. Band 3. Franklin's Leben ersten Theil enthaltend, Weimar.
Homann, Karl; Blome-Drees, Franz (1992): Wirtschafts- und Unternehmensethik. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen.
Lengsfeld, Vera (2017): Kindersklaven: Das schmutzige Gepäck grüner Elektroautos, Augsburg, requested at: 20.09.2018, https://www.achgut.com/artikel/kindersklaven_aus_dem_
Shaw, George Bernard (1903): Man and Superman. A Comedy and Philosophy, The University Press, Cambridge.
Ulrich, Peter (2001): Wirtschaftsbürgerkunde als Orientierung im politisch-ökonomischen Denken. In: SoWi-Onlinejournal, Nr. 2/2001, Bielefeld, requested at: 13.09.2018, http://www.sowi-onlinejournal.de/2001-2/wirtschaftsbuergerkunde_ulrich.htm