He who is so unjust as to do his brother injury can scarce be so just as to condemn himself for it.
Locke’s brilliant observation brings a supporting thought to mind: “He sees enough who doth his darkness see.” It is obvious that any person who deals unfairly with others will never condemn himself for his own shortsightedness; so shrouded is he in darkness that his eyes do not see the light.
Never forget Aristotle’s truism: “One may go wrong in many different ways, but right only in one.” Why freedom works its wonders but fails to prevail is a problem with no single answer. The reasons are as numerous as are the intellectual, moral, and spiritual frailties of human beings. This is why there is not now and never will be a final answer to our problem. Also, this explains why, in our efforts to refine, we go over much the same ground again and again. If repetition be the mother of learning, then retracing old ground brightens our own lights.
It is only when we are aware of our own darkness and seeking light that we’ll catch a tiny glimmer now and then. For encouragement reflect on this Scottish epitaph: “There is not enough darkness in the whole world to put out the light of one wee candle.” It is self-evident that darkness has no resistance to light. So, let us push back the darkness by lighting one or a dozen or even thousands of wee candles. This symbolizes the mission of all freedom devotees.
Never underestimate the difficulty of bringing liberty and its blessings to mankind. Should we think of this problem as simple and easy, we’ll waste our time, spin our wheels and probably do more harm than good.
As a starter, reflect on John 3:19; “Men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” Based on my experience with people from various walks of life and over many years, I am convinced that the evildoer—“so unjust as to do his brother injury”—with few exceptions, is totally unaware of any evil. It’s no more than an unfortunate witlessness accounted for by the person’s abysmal blindness. No eyes to see their own wrongdoing in the darkness—let alone a candle of light and righteousness. They deserve not censure but sympathy.
This analysis should include a few reflections on those actions by you or me or whoever which are so unjust as to do our brothers harm. What are such behaviors? My answer: Lending support or giving encouragement to any action which restrains the creativity of our brothers is harmful. Using this as a yardstick, there isn’t one in thousands who in today’s U.S.A. is not unjust to his brothers—more or less. Can this yardstick be refuted? Not unless the would-be critic can name creative actions that ought to be outlawed. I have never heard of a single one that should be squelched!
Everything in the cosmos stems from Creation. We know that Creation is, but not what it is. Man’s highest purpose is to edge as best he can toward this Infinite Wisdom. Any steps in that direction are measured by growing creativity, possible only as men are free to so proceed. The first step is freeing one’s self from personal inhibitions, superstitions, imperfections, ignorance, darkness. And the second step is possible only as others leave him free to act creatively as he pleases—absolutely free, no exceptions!
To thwart the creativity of our brothers is to thwart the purpose of Creation; it is to put a damper on human evolution—Manifest Destiny. Those who so interfere are victims of the little-god syndrome, actually believing that they can direct the lives of their brothers better than can those individuals themselves. There is no greater evil, but such people are utterly blind to any wrongdoing.
In the realm of goods and services, one can act creatively only if he is free to produce whatever he wishes; trade for whatever he can peacefully receive in exchange; work for as few or as many hours as he wishes; enter any field that suits his fancy, be it managing a hamburger stand or manufacturing jet planes. It follows that anyone who supports or encourages any restrictions to free trade and open competition is not only unjust to his brothers but thwarts creation and Creation—both levels. And be the thwarting minor or major, note the absence of self-condemnation! Several examples:
While many get paid for not farming, others are not free to grow whatever they please on their own farms. Reflect on the enormous number of coercive planners who outlaw free planting. Equally unjust are those who approve or encourage the stifling of any other creative endeavor. Do any of these persons sense being unjust to their brothers? No, their blindness prevents such seeing!
Freedom to trade and compete? There are millions of businessmen who succeed in their advocacy of tariffs, quotas, embargoes and other restrictions against their brothers across the borders and the seas. Not only are these tactics unjust to those in other lands but also to more than 200 million American consumers. Try to import mutton from Australia or ever so many kinds of goods and services from other countries. “Buy my wares or go without!”
Perhaps freedom of choice to act creatively suffers no greater impairment than in the wage-and-hour domain. It would be wrong to refer to labor union behavior as “the labor market.” A market is featured by free exchange; unionism, on the other hand, is featured by coercion. Minimum wage and maximum hours are fixed and coercively enforced. Tens of millions are trapped in this uneconomic strait jacket, ranging from unaccomplished youngsters to airline captains.
The just alternative to this unjust procedure? As to wages, let anyone labor for nothing, if he so chooses, or for all he can obtain in peaceful exchange. As to hours, let anyone work not at all, or day and night, if he so chooses. Neither you nor I nor labor unions nor governments are ordained to cast our brothers in our images—all of us imperfect!
There would be no monopolies or cartels short of governmental enactments. Think of the countless thousands who exclude their brothers from ever so many ventures and opportunities by getting government to erect the barriers. Try, for instance, to start an airline or a TV broadcasting station or a power and light company, or try delivering first-class mail. These opponents of free entry are at least free from the embarrassment of condemning themselves. Poor souls!
Another illustration will suffice to make my point: the tens of millions who run to government for food stamps, social security, “free education,” golf courses, medicare, parks, and countless other handouts. This is the rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul attempt at something for nothing. It rarely if ever enters the heads of these people that they are robbing their brothers and, thus, they are free, by reason of their blindness, of self-censure.
There is no remedy for all of this blindness except a better understanding of liberty: the free market, private ownership, limited government way of life, along with its moral and spiritual antecedents.
How can we identify those individuals who are fortunate enough to have some understanding of why liberty works its wonders? By their deeds, for no one understands liberty who is not working on its behalf! How explain? Any individual who has the slightest idea of what liberty is all about—the wisdom in the free and unfettered market—cannot help but work in behalf of this miracle worker. Such is the power, the drive of even meager understanding.
Only the few who are conscious of their own darkness will strive to light their wee candles. The rise and fall of liberty is governed by the appearance and disappearance of candle lighters. So, let us join in the prayer of Cardinal Newman: “Lead Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom. Lead Thou me on!”