Gongol.com Archives: August 2023

Brian Gongol

August 20, 2023

Humor and Good News How free choice makes us more alike

There's no assimilating force quite as powerful as being free to peacefully choose what you like. Lots of political and economic systems depend upon coercion in one form or degree or another in order to achieve some kind of unity of purpose or outcomes among people. ■ There are countless different ways to try to make people the same, but when the matter is forced, people tend to be very good at making the uniformity itself a matter of dissent. Consider the mildest, most benign form of forced homogeneity: A school with an enforced uniform requirement. The mind of many an adolescent turns immediately to finding ways to break away from the standard to express some kind of individuality. ■ But when people are permitted to pursue their own happiness without being forced, the first thing that can be expected to happen is that people who started out unalike will find themselves bonding over the things on which they agree. Who isn't pleased to discover a "tribe" of sorts? ■ When that experience is repeated over and over, the ultimate outcome is for ordinary people to find themselves in broad consensus with others. Perhaps not on highly contentious matters -- religious diversity only tends to grow when differences are allowed to flourish -- but on the underlying infrastructure itself, certainly. What rational person, enjoying a liberty for himself or herself, doesn't appreciate the goodness of securing that liberty for everyone? (Irrational people are another case.) ■ Nor should we discount the power of voluntary choices to lead to assimilation via the little things, either. Is it not notable that even in a country of more than 330 million people, the United States still generates so many cultural manias? No one is forced to attend Taylor Swift concerts or purchase air fryers or see "Barbie" in theaters, and yet people do those things freely in phenomenal numbers because they are entirely at liberty to do so. And then, when they have a good experience, they can (and do) tell their friends and family, often with evangelical fervor. ■ Which rewards the creation of goods and services with massive appeal, even when it seems like those masses are too large to satisfy in big ways. And yet it happens. People find things that they like, and join freely in the enjoyment -- just as 100,000 people from all walks of life will show up for a day at the Iowa State Fair and with very few exceptions just peacefully enjoy themselves. ■ And in enjoying whatever particular things please us without becoming uptight about the choices of others, we become more alike with one another even as we choose differently. Good ideas bubble up faster and gain more traction, and people become inherently more interested in preserving the abstract understanding of freedom of choice rather than putting their energies into resisting enforced conformity. It's a delightful paradox.

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