The Madness of Liberty and the Dynamics of Society
The pursuit of Liberty as an end of Society is nothing more than a reversion to the ancient Darwinian state of nature and is thus an act of madness.
A crucial idea which pervades western political and moral theory is the concept of a state of nature. Put simply the state of nature is a description of the existence of humanity prior to being part of a society. We now know with certainty, unlike those eminent political philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries (namely Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau), that the so-called ‘state of nature’ is a Darwinian one. A world in which survival is attained by any means necessary and there exists no compassion and no consideration. Funnily enough, this is not dissimilar to the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, who set out his state-of-nature theory in the influential Leviathan (1651).
The means by which humanity mobilised its first society is unclear. Indeed, it is not necessary to posit a theory of how the transition occurred; it might have been gradual, or abrupt. But what must be understood is the reason; to escape the unbearable pressures of the Darwinian world. Pressures which, ironically, led to the evolution of the human condition away from Darwinism. This movement from an entirely organic and chaotic state of nature to a structured ‘man-made’ civilisation represented the relinquishment of the purest form of freedom, and in its place the slow but steady establishment of order. Social contracts as defined in this way can never implicitly contain true freedom for its members, but only adherence to particular tenets which necessarily restrict people from specific actions. The basis of a society therefore appears to be the trading of liberties for securities. e.g. in society nobody has the liberty to take the life of another, however the individuals that make up society have more secure lives as a result.
To enforce order in the early societies, hierarchical systems must have been established, resulting in the first instances of social inequality. The ancient history of any known civilisation will show this; take the Celtic peoples of ancient Europe. Certain people in those communities, now popularly known as Druids, enjoyed exclusive religious powers. Their knowledge and supposed direct contact with the Gods caused ordinary people to revere them. Druids even had the ability to exile members of the community, not just geographically, but also spiritually — by refusing them access to take part in religious ceremonies (See Barry Cunliffe, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of Oxford). This is an easily understood example of hierarchy and repression of liberties in ancient societies. But in the ‘primitive’ Celtic society, it was this behaviour that actually kept the community bound together.
If a society takes hierarchical power to its extreme, then its people are subject to total control such that its members effectively cease to be people; their lives are entirely determined by the actions of others. Of course, this is an absurd existence but it is nevertheless illuded to by Descartes in his meditations; recall the sinister demon. Not too far from this extremity sits North Korea, which is probably the closest example to a real totalitarianism. The brainwashing and control of an entire population is happening right now.
The free marketeer’s folly
So at one end we have unrestricted freedom, leading to a mad rush for survival — the Darwinian state of nature. At the other end is the guarantee of survival through the provision of security, but also the removal of all individual freedom. Any civilised nation you can think of should fall somewhere between these two extremes. The supposedly more ‘free’ countries, such as America and the UK tend to lean towards the Darwinian state, and the less free states, e.g. North Korea, are by definition more illiberal.
Now, think about shrinking the role of ‘the state’ - the governing aspect of a society, whether fairly or otherwise. Its reduction would inevitably result in a movement towards Darwinia. Equally, the removal of all liberties by the state will result in the illiberal state, where we are entirely dependent on the state. Those people that are intent on moving societies ever closer to less state control and more freedom (in our Capitalist case, the freedom of markets) should be careful what they wish for, because it will result in individuals exhibiting Darwinistic tendencies — violence, disruption, isolation, fear. The willing desire of moving society towards this end must be an act of madness.