Who wants to be “Free”? by James M. Martin (UoE ArticleCast)

1946-Today, James J. Martin, Minus One, Sidney E. Parker / Sunday, May 14th, 2023
The following essay by historian James J. Martin was printed in Sidney E. Parker’s egoist journal Minus One in February, 1971. It was reprinted from an unspecified 1948 issue of The Interpreter. It was recorded in May 2023. Grazie MAM.


by James J. Martin

I am indicting a society which has no more concept of freedom and responsibility than it has of a twelve-legged dog. Is it ‘free enterprise’ which is to occupy the trial seat before socialism and communism?

Is there anyone engaged in making profits by the present system who is willing to face the consequences of complete free enterprise– the reduction of all price through the most rigorous competition? Why no, he merely wishes the free-enterprise system to operate in his favor, and is as willing as the collectivist to employ the fantastic superstructure of law and police in prohibiting any freedom of action which endangers his privileged position.

Who wants ‘free enterprise’ in the steel and other heavy industries? Who wants ‘free competition’ with the producers of the rest of the world? What banker is willing to tolerate any concept but that of the ‘national’ system? Would he willingly face the competition of free banking?

The free enterprise of which special interest groups bray is that of the right to open a banana stand or shoe shine parlor, and function within the rigid rules of the atrophied system about them… Witness the struggle of a Tucker in penetrating the automobile manufacturing priesthood. Where can one turn to escape the hurdles of merely obtaining credit in order to enter the economy on a level higher than thread-peddling? Advocates of free enterprise are hypocrites until a breach is made in the above mentioned closed circles.

The farmer is always cited as an example of unregenerate free enterprise, but where is there any campaign against the state crutch of subsidies, shouldering of the mortgage structure, protection with law and police of land monopoly for the perpetuation of tenantry, and other serious deviations from the principle of freedom!

The great majority of people accept the current game and its rules without query, though there is a strong case to show the legal origin of the inequity in the system. With most people the complaint is the way the score is being compiled. This they want their politicians to bring into balance. Thus the politician has rapidly been acquiring a non-propertied power-holding stock in the ‘system’.

The great dodge of our time is “society”, a sociological dream-concept, in whose name we dump our responsibility as individuals. “Society”, we say, is to blame. for any evils which beset people, yet an investigation would reveal a number of real humans with much guilt attached. Our spirit-sickness also calls on the government as the Hebrews called upon Jehovah in the desert, and denies the fact of individual life, liberty of action and its consequence, responsibility.

Perhaps a few will embrace decentralism, but the vast majority will, when the time comes, quietly crawl under a warm blanket of collectivism in their delusion that this is the way to security. Yet ‘salvation’ is even an individual matter, and those to whom freedom and responsibility still mean something can even now construct for themselves a passably satisfying existence in this indifferent environment.

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