Joe’s Journal: Responsible Freedom

“The masses, then, have become prepared to abandon freedom if this promises to reestablish the rationality of the world. If freedom is incompatible with equality, they will give up freedom. If it is incompatible with security, they will decide for security. To be free or not has become a secondary question, since the freedom available does not help to banish the demons. Since the ‘free’ society is the one that is threatened by the demons, it seems more than plausible to blame freedom and to expect delivery from despair through the abandonment of freedom.” — Peter F. Drucker

I am going to comment on this passage by trying to explain what was behind Peter Drucker’s thinking in his first full-length book, The End of Economic Man. This is a very difficult book for modern readers to understand.

[EXPAND More]Drucker is trying to explain why people living under freedom are prepared to sacrifice it if the freedoms available lead to a system that produces the demons of inflation and unemployment thereby creating temporal insecurity. Yet, Totalitarianism is bankrupt as a solution to failed Marxist or Capitalistic policies. It substitutes heroic man who is willing to yield his or her individuality for the benefit of the preservation of the state—to yield economic consumption to the production of armaments for the good of the nation. The individual and his or her freedom disappear and only society matters. But heroic man not only substitutes for the failure of Marxism to produce equality of income but it also substitutes for the failure of Capitalism to produce happiness and the social ideal through economic freedom and consumption. It is a problem of misplaced faith and a problem of basing society on the notion of economic man—Marxism or Capitalism.

Individual fulfillment is possible in this life when the individual is given freedom to pursue a path that leads to the full development of his or her talents—both intellectual and moral. It is possible in a society of institutions that promotes the opportunity of finding fulfillment in this life and in the life to come when society, under either Marxism, Capitalism or Totalitarianism, is no longer relevant for the individual.

Drucker thus sought to achieve a society of institutions in which responsible freedom, as opposed to freedom as license, is possible. To do this we have to be continually on guard against “the man on the white horse” who promises security and fulfillment through totalitarianism.  It is a false promise of what is possible on this earth.

— Joe Maciariello