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What Are We Fighting For?
The Basics of Liberty: It Takes Courage

by   Richard   Rieben
pondering the future of liberty ... 26 November 2001. Published as a pamplet in 2003 by BPI.
Democracy. Capitalism. Freedom. Liberty.

What do these words actually mean? If we are defending or fighting for any of them, then what are we actually defending or fighting for?

Very few Americans know. According to the polls in the United States, a majority of the citizenry has no clear idea at all, and tends to support the opposite at every opportunity. They would prefer a police state, a dictatorship, or an autocracy. They support increased restrictions upon their freedom and their liberty. They indicate that this support reflects a commitment to their physical security (although all analysis shows this to be untrue, as none of the measures enacted will improve their physical security whatsoever).

The polls indicate support for rulers and leaders in activities that are emotionally charged matters of revenge and escalated hegemonic domination over other cultures. The polls also indicate support for increasing military regimentation (I.D. cards, roadblocks, censorship, eavesdropping, rationing, etc.) of the population (upon themselves) in order, they believe, to effect greater security. Yet, any analysis of this, too, shows that it will decrease their security, as individuals and as a nation ... only effecting slightly improved security for a political and corporate elite (protecting them from constitutional restraints, dissent, protest and rebellion).

The polls are a passive voice. The voice of subjects and subordinates. The voice of the media is similarly subordinate, and the bulk of it is run by a corporate level that would benefit from increased regimentation of the American population ... although, analysis shows, again, that this is an imagined benefit (maintaining and enlarging pure power rather than true financial gain).

So, if some of us still want to defend democracy, capitalism, freedom and liberty, we had better figure out what we are defending. A few vague notions of "the American Way" isn't going to cut it when we're up against a wall. Do you think it's just a matter of custom and tradition that we had liberty and individual rights in this country? ... just a little cultural quirk, as relatively equivalent to any other quaint cultural traditions, such as royalty or theocracy, for example?

If you think that the root of "American values" is a cultural phenomenon, then you have missed the whole point of what this country was about. Indeed, we do have our cultural idiosyncrasies that make us, as a country, culturally unique and interesting. Traditions and customs that create a distinctive American flavor. Some of these are neutral, as in baseball and apple pie. Some are positive, as in ingenuity and can-do optimism. And some are negative, as in bigotry, materialism and militant patriotism. As with any other country, it's a mixed bag – culturally.

The root American distinction is and always has been political. Not the political system itself (the constitutional design is optional in most of its specifics). But the purpose for which the political system was intended – to implement democracy, foster free trade, protect individual liberty, and effect freedom and justice throughout the land.

But what do any of these things mean? Separate out our quaint cultural values. Our cultural values are not what makes America strong, great, good or worthwhile. The mixed bag of our cultural values is as messy, optional and irrelevant as that of any other country. The core strength, greatness, nobility and value that the United States of America possessed was in its founding political purpose ... distinct from any other nation in the history of the world.

The values that made America great, however, are not "American" values. They are human values, universally valuable to the human species. Unfortunately, except as relics of a truly amazing historical phenomenon, the United States does not even possess them anymore. They, alone, are what made America great. But they have all been eroded and betrayed over two centuries. The United States has been empowered by these political ideals, but, thence, only to implement the age-old Roman-European dream of world domination, imperialism, cultural hegemony, and military supremacy. The fuel that powered it (liberty) is no more than a vapor now. The United States is running on fumes. As it reaches, now, for the glory of Rome, it will be swallowed by itself. It is in its last moments.

To a great many people, these will be glorious moments. They may well last for decades, but not beyond the present century.

It is time, already, to begin rebuilding America. It need not be done upon the soil of the United States of America. Indeed, the resistance to democracy, liberty and freedom is so massively well organized governmentally in the United States, that it is unlikely that America can be rebuilt there. Nearly impossible. And foolish to attempt.

With its constitution in shreds, its autocracy firmly entrenched, its military gearing up for internal operations, and its population thoroughly conditioned and stepping willingly into Orwell's nightmare, America is the worst possible place on this planet to build liberty. There may be a few million conscious liberty-lovers in the United States, but that's only a handful, a trace percentage, an invisible minority. The rest of the nation moves by rote, swayed by emotion, ignorant of their heritage, lost to their own legacy, and incapable of comprehending that political liberty has nothing to do with American culture and is not an American goal, but a human one. That's far too deep a thought for the American people.

I am forward-looking, not backward-dreaming. Let us go forward. Let us rebuild liberty. Let's not even bother with trying to save the United States from itself. That would be like trying to save Rome. A hopeless task. A wasted effort. No, let us put our efforts toward something positive.

Why did America fall? Not because of its political ideals, but because these concepts were only sketchily understood by European colonists/immigrants who had no experience with applied political liberty. They were agreed on the goal, but compromised it all over the place when it came to trying to implement it. The mechanical construct and content of government and law were flawed.

They did their best. It was a truly awesome achievement considering their personal history and the history of the planet. It bespoke more courage than any man or group of men has ever possessed, before or since – to implement a goal that had never in history been tried, and with no safety net. Awesome, yes. But far from perfect. And their goal was far from perfectly understood, even by themselves.

Having over 200 years experience with the legacy of the founders of the United States, it is conceivable that we of the present generation could improve upon their application. Perhaps, if we are not too culturally bamboozled, we might even be able to exceed their understanding of the human goals.

But to match their courage? This is doubtful. It's highly unlikely that any sheep-like, docile, programmed Americans would be willing to try anything new, different, or that doesn't come with a written guarantee (to offset their educationally engineered lack of responsibility for their own perceptions and choices). Extremely doubtful.

When it comes to liberty, Americans have a consistent track record of opposing it, at home and abroad. Which is why they crashed and burned. Because, individually, they lack courage.

So, the present venture is not put to Americans. Or, if so, then only to that trace minority, a few million at most, who rage for liberty rather than those who burn with nostalgic fervor for American cultural baubles. (Well, I am optimistic, perhaps not even a million Americans would be able to make that distinction.) Worldwide, there may not be many, either, who truly rage for and comprehend the power of political liberty.

To this small audience, the sole remaining hope of our increasingly endangered species, I put the basics:


  • Democracy means participation in government by the citizenry (all the citizenry).
  • Full democracy is a government of, by and for the people – monitored and directed by them regardless of any external or mitigating factors.
  • As a form or structure of government, democracy puts the operation of the government directly into the hands of the citizenry. The methods of doing this, such as voting for other citizens to represent them in various tasks, or hiring agents to perform certain tasks, will vary. The degree of democracy (number of avenues of participation) also varies in our fleeting experiments with it historically.
  • However, the principle of democracy is just this: political participation.
  • It is predicated upon the Greek concept of isonomia: equality before the law to all manner of person, and, therefore, equal participation by all manner of person in the operation of government.
  • Democracy is nonhierarchical. It defies and repudiates power structure at the outset.


  • Capital is a quantity of value with which to proceed with a venture.
  • Capitalization is a means of securing capital for a venture.
  • Capitalism refers to a financial system in which capital is secured by selling shares in a venture. A percentage of the venture is, thereby, owned jointly by a number of individuals. If the stock is public, it is traded openly on the market (stock exchange). If the stock is private, it carries restrictions on the trade or sale of it and, often, as in partnerships, carries practical responsibilities for the venture, as well.
  • Capitalism is neither a political nor an economic system, in itself, although it does imply a degree of protection of individual rights (the right to personal property, the enforceability of contracts, the rule of law).
  • Capitalism, as a financial system, can exist in a limited democracy, a dictatorship, or a police state. It neither defines nor necessitates political liberty.
  • The full flowering of a capitalist financial system would be one consequence of a fully realized political condition of liberty (and would have very little, if any, resemblance to the mercantile or corporate capitalism that exists in our history and present).


  • Freedom means lack of impediment.
  • Political freedom means lack of impediment in one's affairs by other individuals, groups and government.
  • Political freedom is defined for a social context in which individuals are free to do whatever they please that does not interfere with the freedom of others.
  • The limitation of freedom is defined by the freedom of action that is possessed by individuals who are equal in the exercise of their freedom of action. The boundaries of political freedom are defined by respect for the same freedom in others that one possesses oneself.
  • A political system of freedom is erected to mark and delineate the boundaries of freedom, so as to maintain the freedom of everyone, equally.
  • A government of freedom, is designed to ensure respect for the boundaries by enforcing penalties upon those who violate the boundaries.


  • Liberty is the condition of full sovereignty of an individual in a given arena.
  • In this condition, and in a given arena, an individual may do whatever he chooses without restriction, without limitation, and without considerations of the influence of or pressure by other persons or groups. He is on his own. And, in this condition, he bears full responsibility for the consequences of his choices and actions – as credits or liabilities.
  • Political liberty is a system designed to protect the sovereignty of individuals.
  • The foundation of political liberty ensures that individuals maintain full sovereignty in the arena of their personal affairs. There is no governmental monitoring or interference therewith.
  • However, in regard to social actions which affect others (and, hence, affect the freedom of action and the sovereignty of others in their own affairs), political liberty places the same limitations on individual sovereignty as it does on freedom:
    • The sovereignty of individuals in their own affairs is an equally possessed quantity by all individuals.
    • The exercise of sovereignty is limited by the sovereignty of other individuals.
    • An individual is at liberty to do anything he chooses that does not restrict or interfere with the sovereignty of any other individual.


  • A political system of liberty is not a social system. It is designed for individuals in a social context, but it contains/enforces no explicit social or personal values.
  • A political system of liberty is designed to define and enforce boundaries between individuals.
  • A political system of liberty may be applied in any cultural or geographic area.
  • In application, it will have an effect upon the historical culture of a region and will transform that culture, but it will not enforce any particular cultural results upon a group of people (as a country).
  • Culture, historically, is reflection of an enforced set of social values (often in the form of religion, morality, traditions, or customs).
  • Culture, under political liberty, is a reflection of freely made choices by individuals in their own affairs, such that the aggregate sense of culture will reflect the values of the majority, however this is not an enforceable or static condition.
  • Political liberty distinguishes between personal, social values and political boundaries. It focuses strictly on defining and maintaining those boundaries. It is constitutionally restricted from interfering in the arena of human values – personal or social.


  • A political system of liberty, by its structural design and defined content, holds the only restrictive power over people in a given geographical area.
  • This restrictive power is strictly limited to enforcing the boundaries of the individual, in order to effect sovereignty and freedom of action by individuals.
  • Those who violate the sovereignty of other individuals, upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt, will suffer a penalty for their actions.
  • The power to impose this penalty is delegated by the individuals to an agency.
  • The agency (government) is contracted by the individuals, as citizens, to perform this singular task.
  • No other group, organization, or association has any similar power to impose penalties upon individuals. This power is restricted to the agreement fashioned by the individuals, as a constitutional government by contract, to live according to these rules.
  • It is not a "social contract," but an explicitly political one. The people do not "agree" to any human values, aside from the recognition of and respect for the sovereign choices of all individuals in their own affairs and, thus, to the respect of boundaries between individuals.


  • The content of the agreement is chosen by the people. It is their agreement.
  • It contains a definition of the boundaries, the methods of enforcing the boundaries, and the apparatus for effecting the entire operation, to be run by the people to effect their own security.
  • The content of this agreement is subject to revision by the people themselves, through a revision process that must be included within the agreement.
  • As a constitutional contract, it is a living document answering the security requirements of the current citizenry. It is limited to that agenda and that arena – it is strictly a political document (in the fundamental meaning of the term).
  • The agreement and the resulting apparatus is limited to effecting political boundaries that are required for the security of full individual sovereignty and freedom of action.
  • Of necessity (to avoid violating individual sovereignty and freedom of action) it contains, imposes and restricts no social or personal values.


  • Political liberty is the natural condition of human beings.
  • We must construct an organization to protect this condition because human groups pull in the opposite direction, toward restriction, institutionalization and tyranny.
  • These are the two fundamental philosophical camps of the human universe: human groups vs. human beings.
  • The construction of a government must be composed as a "group" in regard to no other values and to no other purpose than defining and maintaining the boundaries between individuals and the protection of individual from groups of any composition.
  • The inherent danger of any government is that it is a group itself, and must be severely limited for just that reason. Not because human beings are inherently wicked, but because groups are.
  • The institution of government is designed to prevent the anarchic rule of groups (our present condition). But this concept only applies to government designed for liberty. Any other form of government, designed for any other purpose, is anarchic and illegitimate.

I do not think these concepts are difficult to understand. I do not think their implementation will be difficult to achieve. I do not think we lack ways, means or imagination.

But it will take courage.


copyright © 2006 by Richard G. Rieben