“Personal freedom is conceptually simple yet commonly misrepresented and misunderstood.  It exists when no one does anything to anyone or their property without informed consent.  It makes no distinction between personal and economic freedom, or private and government coercion.  The consent axiom is pro-choice on everything including capitalist acts between consenting adults.

You are not free when health laws determine what you consume; when labour laws prescribe terms on which you sell your labour; when land laws decide what happens to your land; when unsporting laws regulate who plays in your team”.

Why do we allow power freaks to exploit us?: Leon Louw’s column in BDlive published today by Business Day.

Further excerpts

THE evidence that almost everything for almost everyone almost everywhere is better when governments are smaller and individuals freer is so overwhelming that there is no room for informed doubt.  Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek observed that governments can do more for people by doing less.  Yet, in this country, the government is bigger and more powerful than ever.

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Power junkies fantasise, according to economic philosopher David Friedman, that government power will not attract power freaks, people with power will not be biased in their own interests, clever people will not use power to serve their ends, and rivers will run uphill.

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The danger of government power is revealed by the fact that what it entails would be criminal or insane if done privately.  If you threaten innocent adults with violence unless they obey you, you are nuts or nefarious.  But if you are an “official”, private vice becomes public virtue.  It would be preposterous, for instance, for civilians to stop consumers getting lower prices by forgoing warranties and cooling-off periods.  Yet that sort of madness characterises countless laws.

Why objectively freer markets outperform less free markets by all objective criteria is easily explained.  In the absence of force or fraud, all deliberate action promotes what people value more above what they value less.  The right to maximise personally assessed reciprocal benefits motivates people.  Since controls reduce options they suppress ideal outcomes.