One of these is a lie: this article will be as prescriptive as Peter’s; this article will be much better than Peter’s. It is troubling to hear: “You should be free to do whatever you want”, or “you should be allowed to do whatever you want”. This “permissible” type of freedom seems to be the infrastructure of a (naive) liberal’s utopia and it has deceptively snuck onto the coattails of societal progression. It originates from our legitimate yearning for freedom but it unfortunately limits our view thereof. Such a narrow view of freedom would restrict us from from full self-actualisation (man, that is one word I wished I never I had to use) and cut us loose in an animalistic world of pleasure-seeking.
How many of us would want to live in a society where everybody could do whatever they wanted, or it was at least permissible? Well I’d like to put all of those people in a giant time machine and send them back to the Dark Ages. The lack of sovereign authority meant that desires were unchecked and unregulated - the perfect place to have colour parades, avoid personal hygiene and sleep outside.
Conflict is, however, inevitable in human society. Given that each individual would have their own interests and unique views, differences would arise and even be celebrated at first. But as we have learned from group identity theory, those with similar interests would band together in unison and become aware of those with different ideas, interests and identities, like the bad-beer drinkers would form a group separate from those drinkers of bad cider, for example.
To protect the citizens and groups of this “free” (but smelly) world from conflict (possibly violent and deadly), a code would have to be subscribed to; oh no! RULES! Can you hear the collective sigh of disdain? But guys, we wouldn’t want the Trekkies being outnumbered and attacked by a rogue squadron of Star Wars fanatics, would we? It is then that people realise the importance of “harms”: does “do unto others as you’d have done to you” sound familiar? So we’re still cool with our Dark Ages setup - just nobody must hurt anybody else ok? But how do we ensure that everyone abides by these rules? There would have to be an authoritative (that is, legitimate) body to enforce the “no harm” rules/legal framework. So we got The State (called THE LEVIATHAN!)
Now The State can protect its citizens from each other and, what is more, due to the fact that it was created by the people now called “citizens”, it has the legal responsibility to do so. TA-DA! We have a basic form of the modern state that allows us to do whatever we want without being hurt (unless we want that too...creepy). But is this really what we want? Is this as far as humans can go?
Don’t mistake my point. This is an important point in human development that is not to be reversed since it collectivises human protection and thereby frees them to pursue whatsoever they think they need and want in exchange for a few unregulated liberties, such as killing one’s neighbour.
However, our simplistic post-Dark Age Leviathan would still be a society of (upright-not-inebriated) animals as most citizens, having checked the need for security off their hierarchy of needs, would be free to run around satiating the Id’s other impulses and desires with the maximum amount of pleasure. That is not to say there would be no Professor X-type of pioneering thinkers who rise to the daily challenge of advancing the freedom of our society; but rather that the narrow definition of freedom used to develop the state is open to the criticism that it only implements a “permissible” harm-free version of it that is focussed on removing the physical threats to our pursuits of pleasure.
Even if one were to expand the definition of harms to include other less tangible ones, we would still not be using the full extent of our rational intellect to develop and implement a more complete and humane version of freedom that actively and directly benefits society. This will have to be developed (in a mediocre way) in the next piece.