Mon, 24 Apr 2006

The Price of Freedom

The cost of freedom is, as the song says, buried in the ground. But what is the price of freedom? The price of something is what someone else is willing to pay for it. Thus, the price of freedom is what you're willing to give up your freedom for. Yet who would give up their freedom? What could be so valuable that it's worth your freedom?

Security, in the face of overwhelming banditry, is one thing that people will buy with their freedom. If the probability of your death at the hand of bandits is so high that your life itself is not worth much, neither will be your freedom. That is where the serfs of the Middle Ages, bound to the land, came from. They were so desperate not to die that they were willing to give up their freedom.

Travel to the New World is another thing that people would give up their freedom for. The cost of travel to the New World was so high, and yet so valuable, that the only arrangement people could make was to bond themselves into indentures servitude. They agreed to labor for a number of years upon reaching the new world. Call them temporary slaves if you wish. And yes, some blacks did own these (white) temporary slaves. It wasn't later until slavery became associated with race.

Daily employment is another thing that people give up their freedom for. In exchange for giving up your freedom to go lie in the daisies, you agree to do what your boss tells you in exchange for mere money. It doesn't seem like a good deal, does it? And yet what is freedom without the resources to enjoy it? If you are so poor that you cannot rub two sticks together, then your freedom is worth little to you. You will trade your freedom for those two sticks. Call work part-time slavery.

It is clear that freedom is not a good of infinite value. It has a cost and a price, which some people are and some are not willing to pay. What is important, however, is that people be free to decide what they'll pay for freedom, and what their freedom is worth. If you decide that for them, then it is you who is enslaving them.

(Yes, I'm being poetical and allegorical and ambiguous and not at all clear here. Deal with it. If you have trouble figuring out what I'm talking about, look at the category this is posted in, and think about who has the most to say about freedom in the open source community.)

Amol Hatwar thinks Freedom is Priceless. Unfortunately, in the process of doing so, he relies on incorrect facts. He doesn't realize that people travelled to the New World after agreeing to indentured servitude for some number of years.

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