Is there enough freedom for individual in contemporary western democracy? Many claim that we should strive for more freedom. And Vox populi likes so much similar FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) claims. No surprise. And this one goes so nice with the claim that there is a need for higher equality. How pleasant!
As I like to provoke, let me say that lower equality that we can for instance find in Indian cast system and lower level of democracy under the rajah governance before Gandhi, produced higher social output than present so called mcdonalds-eat-what-you-can democracy. Especially if such democracy is built on the notion on equality that rest on the notion that the State (someone else) has to take care of me. Cast system of inequality in fact enforced responsibility. Responsibility within a cast and not between casts, to be just. But still we can talk about some kind of responsibility in comparison to present situation where there is no responsibility: neither to society, neither to cast (this one vanishing), neither to family, neither to self (increased obesity of all strata of Indian society) and even less to environment. As we know: concepts like freedom, responsibility … are values that are not “there for us to grab them”, some kinds of absolutes. (Already Dante explained this so beautifully in his Divine Comedy) They are not reachable. They exist only through our enactment. They exist only in motion, like a cyclist.
The problem lies in the fact, that individual is not only a part of community that is a part of 7 billion people on Earth – but that individual is at the same time only a vehicle for genes, memes and other forces, that have their own “agenda”. This is well known from ancient myths and religions, including Indian. We are not masters of the earth, but even less slaves. We, as humans, are something in between. Drivers to certain degree, but mostly being driven not so much by individuals, families and larger social entities (big brother), but by forces that can not be grasped by scientific method. That is not only the message from Indian and all eastern traditions, but even more from latests developments in science itself. Prominent figures like Stephen Jay Gould (NOMA paradigm) and Stuart Kauffman with his quantum mechanical approach to reality clearly position us in between two equally real worlds.
We could easily claim that we have too much freedom. Indeed. India is premium example: troubles started with illusionary prospect of freedom and equality. Paradox lies in the fact, that only after we accept that we are not equal, we could get legal equality. If we were ontologically equal, there would be no need for concept of legal equality. The inequality (of wealth as well) is a simple natural (ontological) rule. It was western conception of democracy that developed illusion of equality – the illusion that is so much more transparent on the background of natural distribution of wealth among people and nations.
It is easier to deal with inequality, at least in principle, since it is obvious that ontological inequality only allows legal equality. We are in between all the time, in between freedom and constraint. In Between actual and possible, as explained by Kauffman (2016). But we should understand paradox of freedom in similar way. Not only that each of us limits its own future freedom with each decision about most adjacent future, but that apparent higher freedom is the lowest in fact. Entities in completely chaotic environment seem free from outside only. From the perspective of each entity they feel lowest possible freedom, since they can not predict the motion of their neighbours. For that reason it was already Aristotle then repeated by many and by Dante as well, that changes of law are most important restrictive factors for freedom.
If our freedom lies in between restrictions and completely free decision about adjacent future decision, then responsibility is the only immediate solution to apparent conundrum. Individual responsibility. Responsibility is the emergent property of any complex system, including humankind, that matters most for freedom and equality. Democracy might only be ephemeral short phase in 100.000 and more years of human evolution. Equality and freedom are enacted through human action via individual responsibility. Should responsibility fail to appear, both equality and freedom disappear.
How far from populist, mostly left wing progressivists praise of equality and freedom waiting for us behind the corner.