Originally written on May 10, 2018
The illusion of comfortable independence & independence as a result of wilful dependence, a prosocial stance.
When no one needs anyone, no one is needed. When no one feels needed, no one has a sense of belonging. The promise of independence is often misunderstood. Some think that depending on others is dependency. The ideal of self-sufficiency, especially pervasive in the west, has been enabled partly by a rise in personal wealth. It sure has made people proud. But I am afraid this pride is hollow.
When a 10th grader works for minimum wages, he gets paid well not because his skills are valuable to the employer, but because the government has enforced a minimum wage. A free market would avail the employer a bored 8th grader ready to do the same job for free food and ice-cream every day. Thus, the independence that the 10th grader feels is an illusion. It camouflages his dependence on the government. His independence will collapse the moment the government rescinds minimum wage laws. He can attain true economic independence only when an employer depends on his skills so much that they pay him, whether the government mandates it or not. Only in this situation is he really valuable, not artificially.
In colleges, poor kids receive aid. Some get perverted enough to think they are entitled to a college experience. Thus, they fail to appreciate the parents of rich kids who pay full tuition. The poor kids fail to see that they are dependent on others, their independence artificial. Those parents probably paid more taxes, too. When I ride a Smart bus to Kroger, I may think I am independent but I am not. It is paid for by others. Even though I pay no income tax, I am one of the few users. I understand that the market could have been much more competitive had there been no Smart Bus. But I can still be grateful for it.
I see dependency everywhere. The roads I ride my bike on, feeling independent, were all funded by others. The police are paid out of public funds. I pay nothing but they'd presumably never turn me down. No one can deny me service because of my race or gender. There are public services, such as consumer rights and property rights. All are upheld and maintained by funds I hardly contribute towards. How in this world am I independent? How in this world is anyone independent?
Perhaps, true independence stems out of dependence. If I was homeless, I would rather request someone who has a place to let me stay and offer to do things in return, like cook all his meals, iron all his clothes and clean his house twice a week. That sounds like dependence but both parties benefit, depend on each other, and become valuable to each other. I wouldn't want the government to forcibly take his money and pay my rent. That hurts both parties. I become entitled to an artificial sense of independence, and he gets robbed of his sweat money. Thus, choice is maximized when people willfully depend on one another.
I would rather hand my grocery list (paid online) to a friend riding to Kroger and pay for his gas than to take the bus. In the prior situation, both parties benefit, become more valuable to each other, and become more independent. In the latter, unwilling taxpayers pay for an inefficient service to make me feel artificially independent. No one is absolutely independent, besides an outcast or a cave dweller, who gathers his own wood to cook his own produce and builds his own house. Very few would want that independence.
Thus, independence is not a phenomenon by itself. It is an emergent phenomenon. Values of trust, peace, and truth allow socioeconomic transactions, upon which is liberty founded. A morally developed community enables many more freedoms and choices than those granted by a constitution. Depending on others in fine. Asking for help and delivering it is fine. In fact, ask more, depend more, and give more. That is when people feel like they belong, which they do. Only in such willful interdependence lies true independence, as people help one another out, availing to each more choices. Absolute independence is a hoax. Or, you are welcome to live in a cave.