Rachel and I are on the road to see America, to find Haven, and to live in the moment for every mile along the way.
I’m confident the road will show us an America I haven’t seen: new mountains, seashores, deserts, forests, and historic places; new faces, new friends, and life-changing experiences; new adventures and new discoveries between the sunrises and sunsets.
But there’s another America I want to see as well.
I want to see the one promised in the Declaration, the America of Jefferson and of everyone being created equal. An America of creators and freethinkers, of rebellion and propriety, of 350 million strivers making the best they can of what they have.
Of people being free.
Because that freedom is the exact dead-center of what I believe.
In today’s polarized environment there is so much dogma: unprincipled, lazy, gut-response groupthink.
Dogma is the opposite of principled, independent thinking. Dogma is layers of rationalizations, systematized by tribal norms or a cult of personality.
“Republicans are heartless” is dogma. “Democrats hate America” is dogma. “It’s all part of a master plan” is dogma. “One of these two presidential candidates is suited to lead the country” is dogma.
One combats dogma with principles. I start with exactly one.
My premise is that every human has equal, intrinsic value.
If you also share this premise, then maybe you want to see the same America that I do.
Freedom to, not from
The America I want to see is one of the freedom “to.”
Freedom to wander, to explore, to interact peaceably, to express ourselves, to defend ourselves, to go about our business while other people go about theirs.
In sum, the freedom to pursue happiness. The Declaration got this right.
To pursue happiness, even if not to attain it.
Notably, there is no corresponding freedom “from.”
In a free society there is no freedom from being offended. There is no freedom from allowing others to associate as they so choose. And there is especially no freedom from seeing others make choices we would not make ourselves.
If we’re all equal (and we are), then nobody else gets to tell us how to use our bodies or our time. Some natural conclusions follow when we acknowledge that our “intrinsic value” means value to ourselves, for us to recognize in our own ways:
- We own our bodies.
- We own the fruits of our labor.
- We are responsible for our actions.
- We are free to produce or not produce as we see fit.
And all together these principles identify freedom as a philosophical bedrock, an intrinsic good, a natural corollary of the self-possession that comes from everyone being equal to express, create, trade, and thrive – as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else or infringe on anyone else’s own equal, natural rights to do the same.
As a by-product, that individual freedom, exercised in voluntary, free-market commerce on a grand scale, is what has created the unprecedented prosperity we collectively enjoy today. Freedom generates wealth. Adam Smith’s invisible hand, over time, is a sweeping backhand that sends the non-performers flying, leaving the rising tide of value-producers behind.
The follow-on principle is cooperate, don’t coerce.
If I possess the authority to coerce you, to impose force on you, then it means we aren’t equal in the first place.
And since any group behavior based on equality has to be universal, I can’t be free to initiate force against you without allowing the same in return. Such a who-hits-first lawlessness is the dead opposite of the cooperation in the America I want to see.
To live together, we humans have discovered that effective society comes only when we prohibit individuals from initiating force and instead delegate that awesome power to a select few (police, courts, military), whose only purpose is to enforce the rights that come from the first premise. This also means we need excruciatingly close scrutiny and bounds on that delegation – much, much more so than we have today.
An Idea Made Ideal
That America I want to see is out there.
Equality is its fundamental idea. Freedom, prosperity, and cooperation are the by-products.
Buying today’s peaches at a farmer’s market embodies these principles exactly. So does this bit of writing. So does pulling up stakes and driving westward, with no exact destination for the night.
So do the billions of other voluntary exchanges that improve everyone’s lives every day.
The America that I want to see in an ideal, but it’s not fictional. It spans the continent and shows up looking exactly like most of us pursuing our own happiness, improving our own lives in our own ways every day.
And Rachel and I are free to join in or walk away at any time.
Too Simple to Not Say
It’s so simple it seems not worth saying: Do what you want as long as you don’t hurt anyone else.
But it turns out to be the most important thing, and needs to be said more often, especially in reverse: don’t make me do what I don’t want. That is, my life is not yours to command, and certainly not by dogmatic societal norms.
But saying a thing, while essential, is not enough. Words show only intent. Actions show conviction.
So we’re testing our convictions with action. Living our values. Ignoring the rule that we’re supposed to max out our 401Ks and wait for someday. Ignoring the dogma that we have to live for anyone else’s sake. Ignoring expectations that are anyone’s but our own.
Our plans make their own statement: we give ourselves permission to pursue what’s right for us.
And in the America I want to see, that is all the permission anyone needs.
I hope to see you out there giving yourself that same permission, as we all search together, in our own ways, for the America we all want to see.