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The Importance of Free Will


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Whether we recognize it or not, the concept of individual free will is fundamental to most people’s understanding of ethics and morality. Our opinions vary greatly about such things as how we should organize ourselves in society, and what roles government should fulfill. But it is remarkable how broadly we do agree on several basic principles of right and wrong.

For example, nearly everyone agrees, murder is wrong. Likewise, almost all people recognize rape, theft and slavery as evil and abhorrent.

The common thread among each of these bad acts is, they deny other people their ability to choose and/or direct their own lives. In many cases, they even involve an activity a person might well choose voluntarily. But being forced into it defines the very difference between good and evil.

Nearly everyone has an inherent yearning to be free. We are happiest when we can make our own choices and to determine our own direction. But sadly, we are not always as diligent in protecting this same opportunity for others.

History has taught us that when we participate in the suppression or limitation of the freedoms of others, it is also our own rights and choices that end up being infringed. Surely this is why the history of mankind has all too often, been one of murder, rape, theft and slavery.

We live in a culture, fairly evenly divided along partisan lines. We fight each other over a wide range of policies and practices, all the while trying to win a majority to force the other side into submission. Is there no better way to organize ourselves so we can all enjoy a maximum degree of free will and also allow the same for our neighbors?

Gotchoices.org is dedicated to the idea that this is possible. We start by recognizing two simple principles:

  • Individuals should be free to make their own choices, to the greatest degree possible; but
  • We must also be accountable for our choices so we don’t cause others to suffer the consequences of our own actions.

The great thing about organizing around the basic principles of choice is, most of us can find common values to agree on! We don’t have to fight each other in a false, partisan divide where the only winners are those who want to exercise power over us. Instead, we can arrange things so all good people can live they way they choose, where there is a true tolerance for every way of thinking and believing.

Sound interesting? Pick an article and start reading! If you’re brave enough, dive into the book.

Not sure you have the time right now? Then, nibble on a few of the questions below, and then come back later when you are ready for more.

Frequently Asked Questions

How would you answer:
What is the purpose of government?
  • To make everyone else behave the way I think they should?
  • To make 49% of the people behave as 51% of the people think they should?
  • To own and control the commons, so individuals can’t monopolize it?
  • To harness the productivity of large numbers of working people so a relative few can live in wealth and comfort, without actually producing anything themselves?
  • To protect the rights and maximize the freedoms of everyone all at once?
  • To protect the weak from the strong?
  • To protect the strong from the weak, who would otherwise begin to become strong?
What is the purpose of money?
  • To facilitate the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich?
  • To facilitate the transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor?
  • To facilitate the transfer of wealth from Democrat voters to Republican voters?
  • To facilitate the transfer of wealth from Republican voters to Democrat voters?
  • To measure the value of things we need to buy?
  • To store and represent our wealth?
  • To facilitate efficient exchange between trading partners?
  • To score society’s winners against its losers?
  • To give government the ability to tax its people?
  • To allow government to change and control people’s behaviors?
  • So everyone can have enough of everything they need?
Why is money so scarce, or hard to come by?
  • Because the government is just not making enough of it?
  • Because rich people and companies hoard all the cash and won’t let it out to others?
  • Because money comes from other people, so there is only so much of it to go around?
  • Because central banks purposefully limit the availablility of money to keep people working harder?
  • Because the working class is just not working hard enough?
  • Because corporations are just not paying enough for the work we do?
  • Because the government won’t set wages high enough?
What is money?
  • Something that has value only because we all agree that it has?
  • A representation of all the gold in the economy?
  • A debt promised from one party to another?
  • Something government creates in order to buy things for people?
  • Something rich people use to control poor people?
What is a right?
  • A claim to all the things we want?
  • A claim to things everyone should have?
  • A claim to the things everyone badly needs?
  • A claim to certain things we all deserve as part of our existence?
  • A claim certain people have upon certain other people?
  • A claim granted by government to its citizens?
Can one person have a right to own another person?
Can one person have a right to own the time, or the work of another person?
Is money a zero-sum game? Or is there plenty to go around?
Is wealth a zero-sum game? Or is there plenty to go around?
Where does money come from?
Where does wealth come from?
Which political party are the “good guys” and which one are the “bad guys?”
What does it mean to be for individual choice?
Is the way we currently organize civil society the best, or only method? Or might there be a better way?
What are the main “leverage points” by which those with power control the rest of us?

WARNING: answers ahead!