Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

The Most Free Era

Rate this topic


daniel
 Share

Recommended Posts

I was told that the freest time the world has ever had was in the early 19th century and especially the late 18th century in the US. Is this true? He argued this was because there was an absence of monopolies and government control. I thought the mid and late 19th century US was the freest era. However this was dismissed with the idea that monopolies and trusts etc in oil, shipping etc made it less free. Furthermore it was said that competition was destroyed, prices increased and entrepreneurship in 'old industries' e.g. oil was very difficult. What are your views on this?

Edited by daniel
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was told that the freest time the world has ever had was in the early 19th century and especially the late 18th century in the US. Is this true?

I opened up my The Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein, and on p.39 he writes:

"A system that consistently protects individual rights, that legally prohibits any initiaion of governmental force, has never existed. The northern states of the United States in the 19th century were the closest to a laissez-faire form of governmet that mankind has come."

So that doesn't support your "especially the late 18th century".

Ayn Rand wrote in The Roots of War(which can be found in TO or in CUI):

"But the element of statism kept growing throughout the 19th century, and by the time it blasted the world in 1914, the governments involved were dominated by statist policies."

And this quote doesn't support mid-late 19th century as being the freest.

I just wanted to add some information that may help.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was told that the freest time the world has ever had was in the early 19th century and especially the late 18th century in the US. Is this true?
No, of course not - slavery existed back then. The absence of government control is fairly insignificant compared to the fact black people were considered the property of whites.

The romanticised views people have of pre 20th century America are baffling, and bordering on racist ("yeah it must have sucked back then if you were black, but who cares about minor details?"). The most free era is almost certainly some point of the 20th century, although I wouldnt like to pick a specific decade. Its hard to say, because the political equality of non-white-males has sadly coincided with the rise of socialism - the earlier back you go, the less government intervention you have, but the worse life would have been if you didnt happen to be both white and male. If I had to pick, I'd go for the 70's or 80's - after the civil rights movement, but before the ridiculous levels of socialism that sprung up in the 90's.

Thats not to say that the 70's or 80's were a paradigm of liberty, just that they seem the best of a very very bad bunch.

Edited by Hal
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hal, you can't negate the almost complete absence of government in the normal lifes' of most men of that time period simply because slavery still existed. One evil that was in the process of being overturned doesn't negate the existence of the overwhelming good that happened in 19th century America. And there's nothing racist about it. Slaves were held in ALL cultures involving All races for thousands of years. All that historical context takes time and action-- action that was implemented in the era that you seek to disparage.

I actually take your statement as illustration of your anti-American and anti-Objectivist views that you have a tendency to show at times on this forum.

Note for Hal, the moderators, and other readers this is absolutely a direct assult on Hal's character; a character that a find quite suspect at times. So I fully accept any reprimand from the mods for attacking another members character.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am not that familiar with Hal's posts, so I won't argue with you about whether or not he is anti-Objectivist. What I will argue is that nothing in the preceding post is anti-Objectivist. You and he clearly disagree on whether or not slavery made the 19th century less free than the socialist 20th. I see how either side can be argued but, so long as you both maintain that both slavery and socialism are evil, I don't see how either position can be taken as anti-American or anti-Objectivist.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The romanticised views people have of pre 20th century America are baffling, and bordering on racist ("yeah it must have sucked back then if you were black, but who cares about minor details?").

I agree with this; slavery certainly must be taken into consideration, and I think people tend to gloss over it when they talk about the glory of the 19th century. I wouldn't say that the most free era was sometime the 20th century, though, but the latter part of the 19th century.

I'm not married to that judgment, though. It's an extremely complex historical issue, and I think it would be incredibly foolish for anyone (possibly excluding very knowledgeable historians) to consider this anything but open to debate.

...I don't see how either position can be taken as anti-American or anti-Objectivist.

They can't be, and EC's smear is almost laughable, especially considering Hal's fairly consistent rationality, and his open, honest recognition of the areas of Objectivism with which he disagrees.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The fact of the matter is that with the inception of the U.S. slavery was on the way out (it took some time, I know this) it was an unfortunate remnant of the colonial past. There were people who wanted to keep it, but it was eventually abolished, where before, in the entire history of modern civilzation, slavery was not only ok, but sometimes thought as mandatory.

Oh, yeah, and EC's smear was hilariously ridiculous. But I've come to expect that sort of thing from him.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I should have to agree that this time period was the most free, regardless of slavery. After that, certain presidents came into office who, to my distaste, found it necessary to expand and centralize our government. Their efforts were essentially finished by our favortie socialist pig: FDR. But anyways, this period in time saw a fairly limited government that did not like to embroil itself too much in foreign wars. However, Washington's words would soon leave their ears and the War of 1812 fixed that. As to the comment about monopolies and trusts, there is nothing wrong with those. They did not drive up prices on oil, etc. The government did by trying to stop them. Protective tariffs were passed by the government which, though helping U.S. industry grow some, did more to hinder its foreign trade. Later in the 19th Century, unions formed and socialist minded presidents came to office. There the capitalists got slammed by the Sherman Anti-Trust Act as well as the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Now with the goverment FORCING competition, it had established a monopoly itself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I should have to agree that this time period was the most free, regardless of slavery.

Today, we've got tariffs and regulations on businesses.

Back then, we had slavery.

Honestly, I'd much prefer tariffs and regulations to slavery. The "socialism" implemented in the US only restricts the freedom of individual people to buy and sell. Slavery restricts a rational person's freedom in every possible way. Not only could the slaves not start businesses or trade, slaves couldn't even walk a hundred meters in the sun without permission. I don't see how any pseudo-socialism from FDR could compete with the complete removal of the fundamental rights of tens of thousands of people.

Late 19th century might have been pretty free, I'm not sure. There were probably heavy railroad monopolies, though, and the near-slavery of Chinese workers. We also have to keep in mind the restriction of freedoms of women. Although they weren't as severe as those imposed on slaves (usually), the disenfranchisement of 50% of the population certainly doesn't point to a very free society.

Later in the 19th Century, unions formed and socialist minded presidents came to office.

I'm not sure why you stick the unions in there. How are unions a force opposed to freedom? They're just inverse corporations, and should be treated as such.

Edit: Closed-shop unions where membership is mandatory are a different story, of course. I'm not sure if they existed in the 19th century though.

Edited by RationallySelfless
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Closed shop unions, for one thing, had begun to appear a decade or two before the turn of the century. Due to their absence in the early 1800s, I would still have to proclaim this society more free than many other eras. And furthermore, I should have been more clear on unions. Their appearance was not the problem, but more that fact that the government would intervene in strikes. The most popular example was the Pullman Strike of 1894, where the government felt it necessary to send federal troops to rectify the matter as well as force negotiations between the executives and their workers. Slaves are an entirely different matter. At the time, it was not sanctioned by the governement. You did not have to own slaves, though many did. As for women, I agree that the disenfranchisement of at least half the population was not a very free ideal, but I would much prefer it over today's standards of business regulation, eminent domain, and foreign policy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Closed shop unions, for one thing, had begun to appear a decade or two before the turn of the century. Due to their absence in the early 1800s, I would still have to proclaim this society more free than many other eras. And furthermore, I should have been more clear on unions. Their appearance was not the problem, but more that fact that the government would intervene in strikes. The most popular example was the Pullman Strike of 1894, where the government felt it necessary to send federal troops to rectify the matter as well as force negotiations between the executives and their workers.

Ah, thanks for clarifying that.

Slaves are an entirely different matter. At the time, it was not sanctioned by the governement. You did not have to own slaves, though many did.
The government tacitly sanctioned slavery by virtue of not arresting slave owners.

As for women, I agree that the disenfranchisement of at least half the population was not a very free ideal, but I would much prefer it over today's standards of business regulation, eminent domain, and foreign policy.

Women might disagree with you on that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As for women, I agree that the disenfranchisement of at least half the population was not a very free ideal, but I would much prefer it over today's standards ...

That's because you are undoubtedly not a woman. And apallingly, I find that your view is not that uncommon amongst men.

Edited by Liriodendron Tulipifera
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I might have missed this, though I did read through the thread a couple of times. What is the standard of comparison? Freest for whom? With respect to what? I'm trying to see how the question could be meaningful. From my own POV, it would have to be since the latter half of the 20th century, because before then I had no freedom to do anything. I may need to think about the details a bit, but I think that 2000 would be the freest era for me. Taxation rates were either comparable or lower than earlier periods in my life; there have not been any freer times in terms of restrictions on my actions, until 9/11, and then the only restrictions are travel-related. So perhaps 2000 is how we should define The Golden Era.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

At which point do we take into account women for freedom? Women's sufferage started in the early 20th century so if you count slavery (which you should) you must count women's rights as well. As a result it is arguable that post-WWI is the freest era and we have been regressing since FDR.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do not consider the 19th century free for any 1st world nation. The Industrial Revolution hit the little man very hard. I have an interesting book on the subject of the late nineteenth century entitled, "The Good 'Ol Days- They Were Terrible!" It is a good read and shows a more truthful depiction of how great our lives are today. Also, throughout the first half slavery was still legal, and throughout the entire century, as pointed out by Owen, women didn't have any real rights or freedoms in comparison to men. We just like to look at a different time and view it from the good points to make it seem like a better time than our world today. To put it lightly: it was far worse.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Industrial Revolution hit the little man very hard. I have an interesting book on the subject of the late nineteenth century entitled, "The Good 'Ol Days- They Were Terrible!" It is a good read and shows a more truthful depiction of how great our lives are today.
Standards of living are generally better today that they were during the Industrial revolution. However, they were generally better during the Industrial Revolution than in times before that.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do not consider the 19th century free for any 1st world nation. The Industrial Revolution hit the little man very hard. I have an interesting book on the subject of the late nineteenth century entitled, "The Good 'Ol Days- They Were Terrible!" It is a good read and shows a more truthful depiction of how great our lives are today. Also, throughout the first half slavery was still legal, and throughout the entire century, as pointed out by Owen, women didn't have any real rights or freedoms in comparison to men. We just like to look at a different time and view it from the good points to make it seem like a better time than our world today. To put it lightly: it was far worse.
I've never seen any credible evidence that dwarves were particularly persecuted during the Industrial Revolution. As for the rest of society, they unanimously benefited from the expanded employment opportunities and general increase in wealth which gave people more choices as to how to survive. As a simple example, men could hardly engage in digging coal out of holes in the ground before the revolution. The Industrial Revolution hugely multiplied man's specific means of survival and for the first time created the quandry of actual choice. Of course it is evil that slavery was allowed, but hell, slavery is still practices in backwoods African countries today and is required by law in North Korea, Red China and many dictatorships.

When it comes to comparing elimination of one form of rights violation vs. addition of another, the elimination of slavery is counterbalanced by the imposition of economic regulation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is more to do with Victorian philosphy. I don't have the book with me (I'm typing on a laptop in DC while my home is in OR) but you should really try to find it- both of you. It helps explain to you a less romantic picture of the era. And, the author owns (I'm not sure if he's still alive) one of the largest picture libraries in the US, so it is well accompanied.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have an interesting book on the subject of the late nineteenth century entitled, "The Good 'Ol Days- They Were Terrible!" It is a good read and shows a more truthful depiction of how great our lives are today.

I read it. The anecdotes are interesting, though many things are grossly exaggerated. The book was obviously written by a Marxist who thinks that the plethora of federal agencies we are burdened with today are responsible for all the improvement since then. He devotes a page to how hard the rural lifestyle is, and the rest of the book to the evils of the city. But if the city life was so horrible, why did millions rush from all over the world to live there? And if they were so unhealthy, how did the life expectancy and population begin increasing so dramatically? (Life expectancy in MA was 39 in 1850 to 49 in 1900)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And I do enjoy your McCarthy-like stereotype that anyone who is against your view must be a communist.

I realize that this is a bit off topic, but I felt the need to respond to it. I think we should drop the old McCarthy canard. McCarthy did not stereotype or defame anyone, and has been unustly smeared in history.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And I do enjoy your McCarthy-like stereotype that anyone who is against your view must be a communist.

Not to speak for GreedyCapitalist but how exactly do you infer that he thinks everyone who doesn't agree with him is a communist?

Given your other posts here, I would like to ask you your purpose of coming to this forum.

This forum is for students of Objectivism wanting to learn more about her philosophy -- not a place for propagating philosophies other than Objectivism or for making posts void of intellectual content.

* This site supports discussion of, first, the principles of Objectivism, as defined by the works of Ayn Rand and supported by the Ayn Rand Institute; and, second, their application to various fields. Therefore participants must not use the website to spread ideas contrary to or unrelated to Objectivism. Examples include religion, communism, "moral tolerationism," and libertarianism. Honest questions about such subjects are permitted. However, since the focus of this forum is the philosophy of Objectivism, such questions are not encouraged.

* This forum will not tolerate posts which contain personal insults or are otherwise devoid of intellectual content. Examples of personal insults include: (a) sarcastic comments directed at a particular person's character, and (:worry: accusations of irrationality or immorality.

If you want to present a case for your philosophy, you may do so in the Debate Forum here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

19th century Chicago Mercantilism was the first thing that comes to my mind as the Free-est Era. As well as immigration to NYC, and the nature of contractual labor in the greater New York metropolitan area in the 19th century.

At the moment I'd like to just go on a tangent.

The Republic of Chile's reversion from Socialism to its embracing of many more aspects of Free Market Economics in contrast to how far other countries go in terms of trade liberalization.

Offshore Tax Havens.

Cayman Islands

Monaco

Bermuda

Vanuatu ( it's illegal in Vanuatu to give foreign law enforcement account details, hehe :) )

and

Permanent Tourism.

The term perpetual traveler (PT, permanent tourist or prior taxpayer) refers to both a lifestyle and a philosophy.

...

It is possible to live for several months, and in some cases even own property, in many countries without paying income tax. For example, one can spend up to 122 days each year in the United States without being considered a resident or being required to file a US tax return.

PT's can be wealthy individuals whose primary motivation is tax avoidance (see the Freedom Ship, for example). By exploiting the rules in place for tourists and travelers, some individuals may be able to legally reduce or eliminate their tax burden. However other PT's, such as itinerants, adopt this lifestyle for purely self-ownership reasons, just to be free from government authority, interference and "The System".

-- wikipedia

Some may argue we're in the freest era, in that individuals are able to, through permanent tourism, obtain more freedom than ever before in human history. It depends how you look at I guess, certainly you have to 'earn' such freedom (ie: have alot of money) but it still holds that in contrast to other ages, the freedom of the permanent tourist outruns that of any one in any era. Only in the last fifty years have people really been able to become a PT.

Just thought I'd introduce some stuff I find interesting that agrees with the topic, its going on a tangent abit but, I always find discussions about freedom interesting, especially when you look at different nations, their laws, and at different points of time in history.

#edit: using abit of introspect I brought up PT and Chile incorrectly, as when discussing "The Most Free Era" its usually implied that we're already speaking a country, where by default due to its nature, you have more freedom.

Edited by raptix
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...