My following letter to the Daily Beacon, the U. of Tennessee’s student newspaper, appeared on October 27, 2009.
For an exemplary misunderstanding of economics, freedom, and human action, refer to Amien Essif’s October 19 column, “Resisting self-interest an act of freedom”.
In order to understand the human world, we must first recognize that each and every person is responsible for his/her own actions. External authorities can restrict individual actions, but cannot force individuals to act. You picked up a newspaper today and began reading. You are reading out of your own volition. No government, no religion, no community, no party, no corporation, no family, no philosophy department, nor any other authority outside of yourself can force you to read this letter.
Human freedom is a fact that can only be escaped in the imagination, and Essif’s column is an escapist’s trip down the rabbit-hole. He who will publicly complain about the restrictiveness of capitalism’s conveniences has strayed far from reality.
Essif admonishes “private institutions whose first interest is making money–and I’m not talking about people.” If he is not talking about people, he imagines the animate in the inanimate. His column, however intriguing, becomes fictional when he asserts that corporations–and not the people within them–have any interests at all. No corporation has ever had any interest that was not in fact a human interest. Pick any corporation, and remove all of its human interests; you will then find it has no interests whatsoever.
Essif says that “Nabisco, acting individually, can practically force me to buy a package of crackers.” Forgetting the absurdity of this statement, let us examine reality. What have the generally good, honest, hard-working people of the Nabisco corporation done? They have fed the hungry, and they have done so by acting in their own interests. Essif’s purchase of crackers, far from restricting his freedom, is evidence that his freedom is relatively unhindered by false authorities.
The false authority Essif worships is the community, an entity incapable of thought or action. So, predictably, all of his faulty logic culminates in the exaltation of communal living. Communal life is simpler in the sense that it is less complex, but it is harder in the sense that it requires much more work. To spend five minutes of labor on a pack of crackers would be impossible for a practicing communist, whose mere sustenance hangs often in the balance. Essif should be free to go forth and live as he pleases, on a commune, but neither he nor anyone else should ever have the authority to force the restrictions of communal living on those of us who understand freedom and cherish it.
Junior in political science