Let's Rethink Freedom

by Mario Kaiser
updated April 07, 2020
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In western democracies, especially in the US or countries under its cultural spell, we begin in school to perpetuate the pride in our system and its values. As children we learn of our accomplishments, of enlightenment and democracy and freedom. We are told to cherish our core values and to fight for their survival. And as someone who's aware of the fact that millions of people on this earth don't have the same freedom, I do cherish them. But I don't think they are set in stone and have to stay the way they are. They can be reevaluated, improved.

In my opinion it's particularly our understanding of freedom that warrants a little update; not from a philosophical point of view, but for simple, practical reasons. I will quickly illustrate my interpretation of freedom and will give two examples where it would solve real-world problems.

In my book, freedom is not a positive definition of what we can do, but a negative definition of what we can't do in order to keep freedom working for everyone. Our freedom ends where another one's freedom begins. Thus what I do without impeding anyone else's freedom is absolutely and entirely my business – and I should be allowed to do whatever the fuck I want as long as no other living being is negatively affected by it.

In real world applications, drugs are an excellent example of something that should be utterly and entirely my business. And not only are drugs illegal, our governments also spend insane amounts of money uselessly fighting against drugs, missing out on equally insane amounts of tax money while decreasing the quality of products we all end up using anyways. But at least we got tobacco, alcohol and bigotry, right?

Another splendid example of our twisted culture of freedom is how we handle death: At least here in Germany, I don't feel like I own my death. I am allowed to live freely, but I cannot decide to die in a way that's not messy and a terrible experience for anyone around me. You have to take matters into your own hands, if you're lucky enough to be able to. There's no clean way out. But I think there should be, not only for my sake, but for everyone's: why spend tons of ressources on people who would gladly go if they could? Why not spend those on people who might actually need them? Personally, if I get to live that long, I'd maybe like to step into a suicide booth on my 80th birthday.

Of course the world's a whole lot more complicated than what I could fathom in those few sentences – but as a software developer I can't but see that as details of the implementation, not an architectural problem. At least to me, a more radical and consistent approach to freedom makes a whole lot of sense.