Issues & Insights

Freedom To Control Our Own Energies   

Do you ever think about just how far those who wish to dictate to everyone else go in their efforts to control the energy market? Always claiming that there is a crisis which justifies further extending government power in that area, they want to ban some forms of energy or regulate them out of existence. They limit the ability to discover, develop, produce and transport forms they don’t like. They want to mandate other forms of energy or heavily subsidize them both directly and indirectly, through the tax code. They want to force the phase-outs of some forms of energy and the phase-ins of others well into the future whenever they can put together some majority, however fleeting, to pass legislation or impose regulations so they can lock in their demands on future Americans who might find them nonsensical and onerous.

But as much as such politicians try to control what we traditionally think of as energy, their efforts are even more directed at something that every such form of energy is complementary to – human energy, which is the motive force behind all our actions. Unfortunately for their quest, however, displacing individuals’ efforts from what they would choose for themselves, to be replaced by government decision-making, reduces what we can accomplish.

Recognizing that brings to mind a book undeservedly resigned to “the dustheap of history” by many today — Henry Grady Weaver’s 1947 book“The Mainspring of Human Progress,” that the Ludwig von Mises Institute’s website called “the true story of progress for the human race with acute understanding of the fundamental cause: freedom itself,” and that “Several generations count this book as the very one that started an intellectual revolution.”

Weaver’s book had an unusual background. It drew heavily from Rose Wilder Lane’s 1943 “The Discovery of Freedom: Mans’s Struggle Against Authority.” “Discovery” had become a very influential book, ranking 67th in a 1999 Modern Library reader’s poll of the best nonfiction books. But Lane was not satisfied with it, so despite continuing interest, she refused to allow it to be reprinted, even though only 1,000 copies had been printed. That interest led Weaver to ask Lane’s consent to use her ideas, but retell it in his own way, adding material from his experiences and other sources, which she granted. Ironically, even though “Mainspring” was what John Hood called “an amateur’s paean to freedom and individual ingenuity,” it ranked 48th in the same poll.

Reader comments about “Mainspring” have included “Nothing I say will adequately describe how awesome this book is,” and “If I ever gave a list of books people needed to read before they die, this would be in the top three.” Its power convinced Leonard Read to distribute hundreds of thousands of copies of it over decades, through his Foundation for Economic Education. And at the center of its insights is the need for each individual to control their own human energy to make the most effective use of it, discovered only very slowly through history because of the stubborn attachment to the assumption that someone else must be in control of your energy.

Using Our Energy To Better Meet Our Needs

Every living thing must struggle for its existence, and human beings are no exception. The thin defenses of civilization tend to obscure the stark realities; but men and women survive on this earth only because their energies constantly convert other forms of energy to satisfy human needs, and constantly attack the nonhuman energies that are dangerous to human existence.

In the last analysis, there can be no progress except through the more effective use of our individual energies, personal initiatives, and imaginative abilities.

It all comes back to the effective use of human energy; and human energy, like any other energy, operates according to certain natural laws. For one thing, it works only under its own natural control.

Nothing but new and better ways of using human energy can raise a scale of living. And since human energy is generated and controlled by individual persons, any new way of using it must come from the efforts of an individual person to make something that does not now exist.

What is the human purpose in society? … benefitting yourself by getting something you desire from another person who, at the same time, benefits himself by getting something that he desires from you … the peaceful exchange of benefits, mutual aid, cooperation – for each person’s gain.

We are not endowed with any superior energy – mental or physical– but it is a fact that we, in the United States of America, have made more effective use of our human energies than have any other people on the face of the globe – anywhere or at any time.

In America, to a greater degree than in any other country, there has been the opportunity for self-expression, self-development, and advancement on the basis of merit.

Freedom, Control And Responsibility

To make the most effective use of human energy, it is necessary to reckon with the nature of man. And there’s no escaping the fact that human energy operates very differently from any other energy.

Human energies simply do not function in the manner of the bee swarm, and any attempt to govern the actions of multitudes of men always results in oppressive power being placed in the hands of the few.

A man is different because he is a human being; and as a human being, he has the power of reason, the power of imagination, the ability to capitalize on the experiences of the past and the present as bearing on the problems of the future. He has the ability to change himself as well as his environment … to progress and to keep on progressing.

Your natural freedom – your control over your own life-energy – was born in you along with life itself. It is a part of life itself. No one can give it to you, nor can you give it to someone else. Nor can you hold any other person responsible for your acts. Control simply can’t be separated from responsibility; control is responsibility.

Individual freedom is the natural heritage of each living person.

The kind of world in which men and women naturally want to live … is the kind of world they begin to create when they are free to use their individual energies and are free to cooperate among themselves – voluntarily.

Your freedom of action may be forbidden, restricted, or prevented by force … But the fact remains that no amount of force can make you act unless you agree – perhaps with hesitation and regret – to do so.

The decision to act and the action itself are always under your own control.

Free minds are inventive minds.

When creative workers find themselves entangled in artificial restrictions and bureaucratic red tape – in addition to the natural, normal, and unavoidable difficulties surrounding their work – much of the potential talent will die on the vine.

Human energy cannot operate effectively except when men are free to act and to be responsible for their actions. But liberty does not mean license; for no one has a right to infringe upon the rights of others.

Understanding Human Energy Means Understanding Human Freedom

Freedom … is the individual person’s inherent, inalienable self-control – a natural function of the human being. It is the same as life itself. Man is endowed with liberty by the Creator, just as he is endowed with life and with the power of reason.

Freedom … is the individual person’s inherent, inalienable self-control – a natural function of the human being. It is the same as life itself. Man is endowed with liberty by the Creator, just as he is endowed with life and with the power of reason.

There has never been but one real revolution … the revolution for human freedom.

It all comes back to the matter of individual freedom.

The real human world is made by persons, not by societies. The only human development is the self-development of the individual person.

Human energy doesn’t work according to any foreordained plan or pattern … You can’t order a person to have an inspiration. Creative ideas spring from within; they can’t be forced from without.

In America … Free men were to have an opportunity to live their lives, plan their own affairs, and work with one another – not under the lash of coercive authority but under the discipline of enlightened self-interest and moral responsibility.

Americans had no overall plan. They had something more important. They had personal freedom to plan their own affairs; and the avalanche of human energy resulting from that freedom swept from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Great Lakes to the Rio Grande.

The great fact in history is this: The American Revolution had no leader. This fact is the hope of the world because human freedom is a personal matter. Only the individual can protect human rights in the infinite complexity of men’s relationships with each other. Nothing on earth is more valuable than the person who knows that all men are free and who accepts the responsibilities that go with freedom.

Human Energy, Human Freedom And Government

This country has been covered by … a tumultuous multitude of free men … living under the weakest government in all the world. The people who had been left to shift for themselves – who had learned the lessons of realism … were creating a new world.

The individual’s life, liberty, and property rights are to be held secure against unjust acts, not only on the part of other individuals, but also on the part of the government itself.

From the viewpoint of the individual, it sometimes appears that the efforts of others are unnecessary obstacles to his own direct action in achieving his own personal desires. Thus, it occurs to him that maybe there should be some centralized control or overriding authority to govern all human energies as a unit. This concept has a strong appeal because lurking beneath it is the alluring assumption that the right kind of authority would direct the affairs of all mankind in harmony with the individual’s own personal views – thus relieving him of the trouble and responsibility of making his own ideas work … cling[ing] to the ancient superstition that they are not self-controlling and not responsible for their own acts.

It is highly presumptuous of any mortal man to assume that he is endowed with such fantastic ability that he can run the affairs of all his fellowmen better than they, as individuals, can run their own personal affairs.

Overlords develop their ambitious plans, enforced by the firing squad … but they are contradictory to the nature of human energy. They are always at the expense of individual initiative; they always result in oppression, leading to human degradation and war.

Unrestrained majority rule always destroys freedom, puts the minority at the mercy of the mob, and works at cross-purposes to the effective use of human energy and individual initiative.

Henry Grady Weaver’s “The Mainspring of Human Progress” drew out how poverty had been almost everyone’s fate throughout world history until the evolution of respect for individual rights put us in charge of our own choices and our own energy, making capitalism, and hence real civilization, possible. That is a lesson worth remembering, particularly in a period of massive backsliding from the principles that created America and made it great, because as Weaver put it:

One of the best ways to ensure future progress is to keep clearly in mind the things which have been responsible for our past progress, as well as the things which may have kept America from being as great as it might have been.

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University.

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1 comment

  • Its all about controlling our lives from Cradle to Grave its all about Agenda 21 and the real reason the UN was founded

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