What People Really Need – Freedom

This month I’m playing string bass in a play at the local civic center called “1976,” which is a musical about the drafting and signing of the US Declaration of Independence from England.  The play starts with John Adams talking about how the king has abused and “diddled” the colonies with his taxes, even going so far as to “spill their blood” at Lexington and Concorde.  Because New England is bearing the brunt of the king’s abuse, Adams has difficulty getting the other colonies such as Pennsylvania and the Carolinas to go along with him and start a rebellion.  The other colonies would rather keep things as they are since they, being the “gentlemen” who are granted special privileges by the king such as the ability to secure property, are doing just fine even though the colonies in general aren’t doing as well as they could due to the king’s interference.  Benjamin Franklin at one point talks about how the potential of the colonies is being wasted since the king is just taking their resources and not letting the people use their resourceful nature to build and create.
Really, the colonists in many cases were just barely surviving in the early colonies rather than thriving.  It wasn’t until they had what was initially lacking – freedom – that they were able to build the great empire that you see today.  Looking around the world, the universal resource that is missing in places where people are living in destitute poverty (not the US definition of poverty where you have sufficient food, clothing, clean water, and shelter, plus a car, a couple of TVs, and a smart phone) is the lack of freedom.  There is always some outside power keeping them from being able to build and prosper.   If you’re reading this post and you live in the United States, Great Britain, or some similar place are over 17-years old, and are feeling like you are disadvantaged and have been given the short straw in life, here’s three words for you:
Get over it.
If you didn’t get into a great college, there is someone who never went to college who made it big.  If you came from a poor family, there is someone who came from a poorer family who made it.  If you have one arm, there is someone who has no arms who made it.  Would you be better off with two working arms, coming from a rich, loving family, and starting with a Masters degree from Yale (all debt-free)?  Sure.  But there are also people with all of those things who end up under a bridge in Cambridge.  It is all a matter of the choices you make.
Now if you’re in a low caste in India, you have real issues.  If you’re living in a small village in Africa where rival tribes come through every year or two and kill half the people, you have serious issues.  If you’re living in Venezuela and not part of the ruling class, you have substantial issues.  (And if you’re one of the jealous squatters who help Hugo Chavez rise into power, you’re getting your due reward.)  If you want to say that it would be really difficult for you to become wealthy, or even find enough to eat each day, you have the right to complain.

What’s the difference?  Simple – freedom.  If you’re in a low caste in India or living under the Communists in Vietnam, you have little or no freedom of opportunity.  You can’t just decide to start a business or learn new skills and expect to get a better job.  If you tried, there are people who would prevent you or come and take what you have from you.  You might get arrested or beat for going outside of the place in society where someone else has decided you belong.  If you’re in a Communist society and not part of the party, those in the party may just decide to take what you have earned or give the job you want to a person who is clueless about the job but is loyal to the Party.  It is possible that you could improve your life substantially, but it might take a revolution to gain the freedom needed to do so.

Many people in America and other first-world countries think that what people need in remote villages in Africa is a well, or a latrine, or seeds to start a garden.    So they come in, build something, then leave feeling that they’ve just changed people’s lives.  Unless that well is maintained, or that latrine is used and cleaned, or that garden protected so that the next group of mercenaries doesn’t just burn it down or steal all of the crops, nothing will change.  With freedom and the drive to make their lives better, the people in those villages could dig the well, create a sewage system, or build great farms themselves.

What they are always missing is the freedom to do so.  What is always present is some dictator, socialist party, or warlord who keeps those people from being able to create and secure property.  Without the ability to do so, there is little desire to improve things.  Why build a great farm that produces lots of food if people just come and take it from you?  Who has time or the desire to dig a well when rival factions are coming through your village periodically and stealing your resources and perhaps your children?

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People living in that sort of situation, just like those living in the United Colonies of America back in 1774, have the choice to band together and fight for the freedom they need to prosper.  Without doing so there is little chance their lives will ever improve.  But that takes a great deal of courage and sacrifice by a large number of people.  One or two people can’t decide that they want freedom and expect to be successful in attaining it.  And for many peoples and cultures in the world, freedom is just not in their DNA.  Even in America, the large number of people who supported Bernie Sanders during the last election shows that people would be willing to give up their freedom in exchange for what they think is free goods and services.  Because they haven’t had the experience of the colonists in seeing what it is like living under the control of a tyrant, they think that they can just expect the government they install to take from others but not eventually take from them as well.

So if you were born into a place where you have freedom, and you are old enough to not have a parent or guardian who is keeping you from succeeding and not permitting you the freedom to improve your life, stop griping about the issues you face.  You have the ability to succeed – it is just a matter of the choices you make and the work you’re willing to put into making your life better.  And how do you make your life better?  You spend your time and efforts providing for others willing to do things for you in return.  The better the job you do of meeting other peoples’ needs and the more people whose needs you meet, the more wealthy you can become.


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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

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