Independence

Independence, or self reliance is the virtue by which you are self-supporting in the sense that you consume nothing that you haven't earned. In a market economy, everyone lives by trade. This does not make independence impracticable. The virtue of independence is to provide one's own means of subsistence. This means either producing it directly, or indirectly by creating something that someone else wants. Dependence, in this case, would mean relying on charity or favors from friends or family. Or worse, theft in the form of direct stealing from others, or indirect theft through benefits by government.

Independence is not only applicable to production, though. In fact, production isn't even the most important place where this virtue should be practiced. The most important is the independence of one's mind. Life requires man to act in order to achieve his values. This requires the proper use of judgment to not only pick the right values, but to understand the best way of achieving them. To substitute another's thoughts for yours makes it impossible to judge the accuracy of them. It makes it impossible to build off of them to achieve better understanding. This is the area where independence is most critical. To default on one's responsibilities is to default on one's life. The degree to which one abandons his intellectual independence is the degree to which he is helpless to act. The degree to which he cannot pursue his own life and values.

Another area where independence is useful is in social interaction. When dealing with friends or strangers, one needs to earn the benefit of the interaction. To default on this is to accept a reward without cause. Nothing is ever free, though. By accepting the unearned, a man loses his grasp of what it means to earn something. He loses his assurance of his own self-efficacy. Every independent act is a reaffirmation of one's ability to deal with reality. Every unearned gift is a blow to one's confidence.


Copyright 2001 by Jeff Landauer and Joseph Rowlands