Violence and coercion are signs of weakness, needed only by those who know that their arguments are not good enough to speak for themselves. Whether it applies to a government running the lives of its people, one nation interfering in the business of another or individuals trying to gain control over others, the use of force is never a good idea. However, it is also impossible to avoid using force when trying to run people’s lives. The answer is not, as we are conditioned to think, that we try to run people’s lives better, it is to not try to run people’s lives at all.
Mankind has been trying to legislate and regulate everything in hopes of achieving a harmonious society, but law and order only offer the semblance of safety and stability. Battling idiocy and malevolence with legislation will keep us busy forever, and it is unlikely that any problems will actually be solved along the way. Rules and regulations always have unforeseen, unwanted side effects because it is impossible to define and control the sheer infinite amount of daily actions and interactions of all people. Most people abide by the law because they know morally that it is the right thing to do (although by now there are so many laws that it is virtually impossible not to break any); those who want to do harm will not be swayed by the notion that their actions are illegal. Perhaps their morality is flawed, perhaps their situation is so desperate that they see no alternative but to break the law. Either way, more laws are not going to remove the root cause of the problem.
Regulating life is not the answer. What we should be doing is trying to find as much common ground between all people as we can. That is done not through an endless amount of laws, measures and exceptions, but through allowing everyone to do as they please as much as we can. Freedom is the lowest common denominator shared by all human beings. There is no justification for suppressing individual freedoms, because there is no absolute right or wrong. There is no hierarchy in freedom and no one has the right to block another person’s freedom more than anyone else does. And yet the vast majority of us willingly choose to allow others to determine their path for them. It is embedded in our culture to entrust institutions with our wellbeing, believing that we need a church or government to help us interact with the world. But all churches and governments are nothing more than people telling other people how to live; and no one knows better how to be happy and productive than the individual themselves.
Interference, like force, will lead to an equal and opposite reaction. Even when the interfering party has everyone’s best interests in mind, some will always be left dissatisfied. Trying to cure their dissatisfaction may lead to more interference, which will lead to more dissatisfaction until ultimately so many people become unhappy that society spirals out of control (in reality though, most institutions do not have our best interests in mind). Rules are meant to universally apply, but in order to be universally accepted and respected, they must be as broadly defined as possible. Every added detail will increase resistance among the people and will offer more room for interpretation and discussion. Force is necessary only when there is disagreement, but disagreement follows from every law and every rule, indeed from every action that affects a large number of people.
Every step to limit freedom is confirmation that freedom is better than oppression, if only because every ban you welcome and support is a step closer to a ban on the things that you hold dear. Peace and harmony will not come from authorities controlling our lives; they will come from the people being happy and free. The need for freedom is the one value we all share – it is absolute because it applies to all of us equally and no one has the right to more freedom than others. And it is entirely subjective because everyone can do within their own freedom whatever they want. The only limit to our personal freedom should be the freedom of all others.