The Art of Living Free

François-René Rideau

This text is an essay I started to write in preparation for a speech I delivered at the Libertarian International convention that took place on Saturday June 28th 2008 in Warsaw. I had to substantially cut through this text to fit in my alloted time, and I fear my improvising the cuts only made the delivery less powerful. But the speech seems to have made received positively for its contents. See the video on Youtube or Vimeo.


Ever since Bastiat's The Law, the main message of libertarians to would-be reformers of society is that these reformers should start by reforming themselves. As would-be reformers of society, we libertarians should take this advice to heart and focus on how we can improve ourselves to embody the change that we want to see in society: to think, to act, to create, to organize, to earn a living and to raise children, as free individuals who understand the power of liberty. Exemplifying this change is not just the best thing we can do to promote our ideas, it is also the one way to accomplish our personal goals and to live free today in an unfree world.

About the Author

François-René Rideau is a cybernetician. He went to the best schools in France where he was brainwashed into becoming a brainwashing member of the intelligentsia, but was saved by his passion for liberty and truth. He thus followed a family tradition: turning from establishment intellectual to dissident. An economic refugee, he fled to the US where he could find a job (as a computer programmer) that better exploits his talents than would the boring, undaring, unproductive and bureaucratic european alternatives. On the Internet, he tries to reinvent computing, promote liberty and spread the works of Frédéric Bastiat. He has a blog: Cybernethics. He doesn't yet master the Art of Living Free, but he's working on it.

About the Author
1 Introduction
   1.1 Me
   1.2 NOT The Topic
   1.3 The Topic
   1.4 Plan of this Speech
2 Your Liberty: Why It Matters Most
   2.1 Your Liberty: Why It Matters
   2.2 Your Liberty: Why It Matters MOST
   2.3 Convincing Other People of Liberty
   2.4 Your Liberty: The Key to All Liberties
3 Freedom 101
   3.1 What is Freedom?
   3.2 My Definition
   3.3 Individual
   3.4 We Are All Individuals
   3.5 Obstacles to Freedom
   3.6 Many Kinds of Errors
   3.7 Freeing Yourself
4 Mental Traps
   4.1 Errors: Transient or Systematic
   4.2 Identity Traps
   4.3 The Crippled Personality Traps
   4.4 Intellectual and Emotional Traps
   4.5 The Morality Trap
   4.6 The Unselfishness Trap
   4.7 Control Traps
   4.8 Indirect Solutions
   4.9 The Despair Trap
   4.10 The Group Trap
   4.11 The Government Trap
   4.12 The Rights Trap
   4.13 The Utopia Trap
   4.14 The Burning-Issue Trap
   4.15 The Previous-Investment Trap
   4.16 The Box Trap
   4.17 The Certainty Trap
5 Strategies for Personal Liberation
   5.1 The Stuff That Life is Made of
   5.2 Seek Direct Solutions in Everything
   5.3 Know Thyself
   5.4 Be Happy Today
   5.5 Prioritize
   5.6 Find The Best Partners
   5.7 Where The Action Is
   5.8 Become an Entrepreneur
   5.9 Overcome Fear
   5.10 Make Experiments
   5.11 Moderation
   5.12 Abandon The Desire To Control or Be Controlled
   5.13 No Sacrifice
6 Appendices
   6.1 Personal Development
   6.2 Health
   6.3 Mental Health
   6.4 Physical Health
   6.5 First Rule of Health
   6.6 Life under Oppression
   6.7 Bla bla bla
7 Credits and other resources
8 Conclusion
1 Introduction
1.1 Me

I am

François-René Rideau


one-man think-tank on Liberty and Cybernetics

See notably my libertarian website

Liberty, as it is,

my site about Frédéric Bastiat

my blog


I am very honored and flattered to be speaking before this audience today.

1.2 NOT The Topic

Today, I will not discuss

what makes societies free or unfree.

Though this topic is important, and fun to discuss, it is not urgent, because

a- you cannot change anything about it in the short term,


b- if you're interested, you can already find out all about it.

1.3 The Topic

Today, I want to entertain you with a topic that concerns your daily life:

How, in a world where most people
create prisons for themselves and others
you can live free, today.

I myself have been unfree for a long time. But I'm learning to become free. I want to share my experiences with you, and in the process solidify my understanding.

1.4 Plan of this Speech

I will first discuss briefly

Why your liberty should matter most (to you)

even if you're convinced that it is important to free others.

Then I will explore the basics:

Freedom 101: What is liberty, What makes you unfree

Afterwards, I will identify common ways that people are unfree

Mental Traps: Prisons we build for ourselves

I will pursue

Strategies: How to make yourself more free

Finally, I will conclude

Conclusion, Credits, Questions...

2 Your Liberty: Why It Matters Most
2.1 Your Liberty: Why It Matters

You already know it. Next.

2.2 Your Liberty: Why It Matters MOST

So you claim that

You care other people's liberty?

You would like liberty to be supported by law, not destroyed by law?

Well, you still should think about your own liberty first, because

1- The only way to give other people liberty, is to have it yourself.

2- CATCH-22: Law ultimately resides on people's opinion.

To change law, you'll need to convince them. And that's where things get messy.

If they are not already convinced of your ideas, people won't change laws to free themselves. If they are already convinced, then they are already free and changing the law is an unnecessary formality.

2.3 Convincing Other People of Liberty

Jungian Psychology teaches us that people have four main temperaments when it comes to thinking, each sensitive to one kind of argument. I will list these temperaments according to the popular name given by Keirsey, and the code according to the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

Rationals (NT): logical argument

Some people are sensitive to rational arguments, which deal in terms of causes and effects, premises and consequences. People going to Libertarian conferences are usually most sensitive to these arguments. You can explain why Liberty works, and maybe convince a large proportion of Rationals. But Rationals are a tiny minority of the population, maybe a few percents; and they may be hard to convince, because their assumptions may be skewed by other considerations. In the end, even with the best arguments, you will only convince a small minority of the population.

Guardians (SJ): argument by authority

At the opposite end of the psychological spectrum, Guardians think mainly in terms of existing social order. These people will be the last people you will convince. And yet, they are the vast majority of the population. Before you may convince Guardians, you'll have to convince other people — all those authorities to whom the Guardians look for guidance.

Idealists (NF): appeal to emotion

Idealists are the majority of intellectuals. They think in terms of associations and oppositions: good and bad, harmony or disorder, friends and enemies. They are easily manipulated by false arguments draped in morality. They will often follow whoever is loudest or most eloquent at claiming righteousness. To sway them you must demonstrate over time your commitment to each of their definitions of good, and at the same time debunk the easy fallacies pushed by the many fraudsters who also court them. You can't convince Idealists easily or consistently, unless you already have the support of a large minority who can persistently, ubiquitously, peacefully and passionately present their case.

Artisans (SP): lead by example

These are the second most frequent group in real life, though most of them are not intellectuals or leaders of opinion. They are sensitive to being shown what works. By demonstrating to them how to live free, you can convince a lot of them. Because the Guardians and Idealists cannot be massively convinced first, Artisans should be your primary target. Only when a lot of Artisans follow the path of liberty can you start growing a political force that may someday overcome governmental tyranny for good. And to show Artisans the path, you'll have to walk that path yourself.

2.4 Your Liberty: The Key to All Liberties

And so, even if your goal is to see Liberty prevail and monopoly governments disappear,

Your liberty comes first.

It will liberate others, too.

In the famous words of Gandhi [1]:

``Be the change you want to see in the world´´

Another way to think about it is in terms of incremental change.

Don't you believe that your ideas are effect?

At which scale do your principles start and stop working?

Collectivists never have an answer to this question. They think the whole collective must be converted to follow their plan, or else — while at the time they have various arbitrary, unsubstantiated and wildly divergent axioms about where the collective starts or ends.

We individualists don't have this problem. We believe, can claim and must claim, that

Our principles are universal:

Liberty is beneficial at the individual level, and scales to arbitrarily large societies of individuals.

And thus, we can

implement at the micro-scale what we promote at the macro-scale.

If you think your principles are valid for society,
the proof of the pudding is in making them work for you.

3 Freedom 101
3.1 What is Freedom?

What is freedom?

So what is freedom? Any suggestions from the audience?

The question was maybe too abstract. Let's make it more personal.

What does it mean for you to be free?

What makes an individual free or unfree? What is a criterion?

3.2 My Definition

Each of you is of course free (hehe) to pursue his own idea of liberty. As for me I'll use the following definition:

An individual is free if he lives according to his own purposes.

I'll repeat more slowly: an individual is free if he lives according to his own purposes.

3.3 Individual

Note that freedom is the attribute of an individual. What is an individual?

Individuals each have purposes.

They each seek their own goal, try to do things that make them happy, to avoid things that make them unhappy.

They make and follow rules to achieve these purposes.

Individuals are not omniscient, they never decide based on perfect knowledge, but based on approximations — they behave according to a few general rules combined with a lot of specific details.

They adapt to circumstances.

Individuals change their behaviour when circumstances change, while still pursuing the same general goals.

They learn from mistakes.

That is, they take knowledge of their own errors into account, and that knowledge is a circumstance to which they adapt. Or at least, they make efforts regarding things that they really care for.

EconSpeak: Rational Agents.

The word Economists use in this case is that Individuals are "Rational Agents". I will invoke Economic Thought a lot in my speech, and I intend to show that it is directly relevant to how you may personally live free.

Note that rational here doesn't presume at all that people are rational according to the psychological criterion above. Even people who are "rational" according to the MBTI do not behave like the usual caricature of a cold calculatorp who perfectly computes expected values for everything and devises complex plans. Economic Rationality just means the four points above: purpose, behaviour, adaptation, and learning. Those who use caricatures to smear economic reasoning are just building a straw man argument.

3.4 We Are All Individuals

(Accomplice in the audience: I'm not!)

Something implicitly left out of the above discussion, but of primary importance regarding individuals, is that

Individuals are separate entities.

Each has his own purpose, behaviour, circumstances, knowledge.

I cannot insist enough on the above. What that means is that:

Individuals inherently control themselves.

Individuals inherently don't control each other.

And not only can they not, but

Individuals cannot generally predict what each other will think and do.

Individuals cannot even generally predict what they will think and do themselves!

3.5 Obstacles to Freedom

Let's go back to my definition of personal freedom.

An individual is free if he lives according to his own purposes.

According to this definition, what are the obstacles to your freedom?


Nature may constrain what you can do, and you will certainly have to learn to deal with it. But it doesn't prevent you from having and pursuing a purpose. It is the very world in which you can exist, have a purpose, and pursue it to begin with.

Other people?

Other people are an important part of that world where you live, who can crucially contribute to making you happy or miserable. You will certainly have to learn how to deal with them. But once again, none of them can prevent you from having and pursuing a purpose.

Your Own Errors!

The main obstacles to your being free are your own errors.

Only you own errors can prevent you from having sensible purposes and from pursuing them effectively.

Errors are beliefs that lead to failure, as opposed to correct beliefs that lead to success.

Note that failure and success are relative to your own purposes — you are the one to define the desired and abhorred outcomes. But nature constrains the possibilities and the means to get there at what cost; to ignore it is an error that leads to failure.

Some errors or correct beliefs are remote and without practical consequence. Some errors or correct beliefs have direct practical consequences.

But as soon as you apply abstract principles to build non-trivial plans, in the words of Aristotle: "The least deviation from truth will be multiplied later."

You can use correct principles to build your life, or you can be abused through false principles into ruining your life.

3.6 Many Kinds of Errors

We can identify many kinds of errors.

Errors about Nature.

You may be unfree because you ignore the laws of physics and desperately pursue the impossible goal of perpetual motion. You may be unfree because you ignore the laws of biology, of psychology, of economics, of politics, and pursue other similarly impossible goals.

Ultimately, all errors are about Nature, since nature is all that is, including you and everyone.

Errors about Other People.

Other People (OP) are the part of nature that can be the least controlled. But they are also the part of nature that can bring the greatest blessings.

If you deal incorrectly with other people, if you make plans based on false expectations, if you seek satisfactions from people whose interests are incompatible with yours and shun those whose interests are compatible, you will pursue impossible dreams, you will fail at achieving your goals, and you will create prisons for yourself. You will be unfree.

Errors about Yourself.

These are the most common error. Many people try to live a life that is not their own, and deny their true self, their purposes and their capabilities.

Errors about your own Purposes.

What is really important to you? If you don't have a clear idea of it, you won't be able to pursue your own purposes, and will live a life of dull oppression in a fog of absurdity, ever trying to please a blurry image you created of yourself, your parents, your bosses, society.

Error about the Means to achieve your Purposes.

If you don't recognize what means are available to you, which of them work, which of them don't, what price to pay for each choice you make, your pursuits will be failures, even your successes will be bitter, and you will forever yearn for the ghost of a better way that you haven't identified.

EconSpeak: Profit and Losses.

The notion of error is central in Economic Thought. A profit is when you make correct use of information, and earn more than you otherwise would. A loss is when you make incorrect decisions and earn less than you otherwise would.

Profits and losses are always relative to other alternatives available to you regarding the choices that you make. These alternatives often include letting yourself led by external events and other people — which is what happen when you fail to exercise your freedom.

3.7 Freeing Yourself

Freedom is an Attitude.

Certainly, other people and nature will constrain the way that you will live. But when you stop lamenting about the limitations of nature, when you stop blaming others, and take your life into your own hands, then you will become free.

The Main Obstacle to Your Freedom is Yourself.

Freedom isn't enough to make you successful or happy. Pursuing your own purposes is no guarantee of either success or happiness. No such guarantee can possibly exist. But if you're not pursuing your own purposes, the successes you achieve will be empty, your real goals will be met but by chance, your life will seem absurd, and you'll be forever living in regret of those alternatives you never dared to explore.

4 Mental Traps
4.1 Errors: Transient or Systematic

Transient mistakes

We all make mistakes here and there. Now in as much as these mistakes are transient, about things that cease to matter, they may cause setbacks, but do not keep us unfree; they are no obstacle to our freedom, and we can forget about them.

Systematic Errors

However, there are some systematic errors we may make, that entrap us in counter-productive behavior, and keep preventing us from seeing, pursuing, and efficiently achieving our goals.

These systematic errors are what make us unfree. Because or them, we pursue absurd goals, we forsake our goals for goals that are not ours, we use absurd means, we dare not to use the means that would achieve our goals.

In his book

"How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World" (1973), Harry Browne

calls them

Mental Traps

and goes on to study them and to categorize them into many kinds and variants. I will re-use this categorization.

4.2 Identity Traps

The most general Trap reported by Browne is the Identity Trap:

Belief that two different individuals are somehow the same.

Which usually amounts to

Failure to acknowledge distinctions between yourself and someone else.

Each individual has his own

Capabilities. Preferences. Purposes. Behavior. Circumstances. Past and future experiences. Knowledge. Personality. Life.

Rules and choices that will work for one will not work for others.

You need to accept that you have to find

What makes you happy, what works for you.

If you try to force upon yourself what works for other people, if you let other people force rules upon you, if you accept rules that do not correspond to your nature, if you make plans based on a false idea of what you are, then you will fail and create unhappiness for yourself.

The trap goes both ways.

If you try to force onto others choices that do not match their nature, if you make plans based on their behaving like you or like anything that they are not, then you bring failure and unhappiness upon yourself and those you interact with. [2]

In the words of Harry Browne:

You can't control the natures of other people, but you can control how you'll deal with them.

(or will avoid dealing with them)

(or will deal with yourself)


4.3 The Crippled Personality Traps

A category of Mental Traps frequently found is for someone to

focus onto some aspect of his own Personality

and to deny complementary aspects

For instance, Browne identified the

Intellectual Trap and Emotional Trap.

With the Intellectual Trap, some people[3] try to identify with their Intellect and deny their Emotions. the Emotional Trap, they tend to identify with their Emotions and deny their Intellect.

Likewise, the

Materialistic Trap and Anti-Materialistic Trap

In the Materialistic Trap they only care for material wealth, whereas in the Anti-Materialistic Trap they reject it as if it did not matter.

Sensualist Trap and Anti-Sensualist Trap

In the Sensualist Trap they only seek bodily pleasures, whereas in the Anti-Sensualist Trap they deny these pleasures as sinful or misleading.

In the Social Trap they pursue the approval of people around them, whereas in the Anti-Social Trap they revel in disapproval.

In the Certainty Trap they seek certainty through authoritative explanations, religion, superstition, ideology. In the Uncertainty Trap they can't fathom certainty, instead shun commitment and feel insecure without escape options.

Aware or not of the previously discussed jungian classification of psychological characters (NT, NF, SP, SJ), some people may come to misevaluate their dominant character as the only one that matters, from which flows The Truth, whereas people with different characters are inherently wrong, and that there is nothing to be gained from thinking their way. Actually, these characters are but aspects present in everyone's personality, and though everyone has a different balance of them, they each correspond to essential skills by which we relate to the world around us, and thanks to which we can achieve whatever purposes we have.

These traps come in pairs or in groups, whereby on takes sides in an erroneous all-or-nothing choice, when the correct attitude is to recognize that everything has its proper place. Only by understanding, accepting, interning, embracing the many aspects of our personality may we use the appropriate one when it is needed, avoid using it when it's detrimental, recognize our strengths and weaknesses, cultivate our strengths and profit from them, reinforce those weak aspects that make us too vulnerable and seek help where it's not profitable to invest on a weakness, etc.

4.4 Intellectual and Emotional Traps

As an example of how one lives with or without such traps, let's consider the Intellectual and Emotional traps. Both traps are obviously absurd once properly described.

Intellectual Trap: believing that reason can give you a goal.

Emotional Trap: believing that emotion can tell you the means to your goal.

No amount of reason can alone tell you what are your preferences, your interests, your calling, your purpose. Understanding the world in which you live and your place in it is as much as reason can do for you; where to go from there, you have to listen to your own emotions to find out.

Conversely, Emotions can tell you what you aim for, they cannot tell you how to get it. After having determined your goal, your emotions if let in control will but fixate on "the" "obvious" "solution": a direct, brutish, forceful attempt to achieve it, like the cry of an infant, except with body of a grown up, and sometimes the technology of an advanced nation. But this only works for the simplest goals, in the simplest of primate tribes, and even then with a hefty price disproportionate with what the goal warrants through other means.[4]

Reason is a tool to discover means and uncover contradictions. Emotions emotions are a tool to discover goals and assess progress on them to get feedback on means and intermediate goals.

Use them as they should be used.

4.5 The Morality Trap

Personal Morality: Rules that work for you.

Harry Browne: Universal Morality: Rules that work for everyone.

Harry Browne: Absolute Morality: Rules that do not work for anyone.

Live someone else's life. Prisoner of one's family, one's religion, etc. It won't work for you. It won't work if you try to have other people do it.

Even an absolute morality, YOU have to choose to follow.

EconSpeak, Darwinian Style: what works works, what doesn't work doesn't.

4.6 The Unselfishness Trap

I don't need to expand on Altruism in a company already familiar with Ayn Rand.

Not only is there no contradiction between egoism and altruism, but no altruism is possible without egoism — for what betterment to wish to an other person devoid of selfish desire, to whom any change is indifferent?

EconSpeak: value is subjective.

Subjective to someone's selfishness.

4.7 Control Traps

The aspect of one's identity most commonly subject to confusion is Control.

Who has direct control over whom?

The only correct answer is that

Every individual has direct control over himself


No one has direct control over anyone else.

If you think others can control you at will, or you can control others at will, think again. Only you will set the limits within which you accept to be controlled, and similarly for other people.

Failure to acknowledge this identity leads to two

Control Traps [5]

When you seek control over other people, you fall into the

-a- The doomed quest for Indirect Solutions

When you let yourself act as if controlled by other people, you fall into the

-b- The Despair Trap

4.8 Indirect Solutions

Indirect Solutions are any means to your ends that crucially depend on changing other people's nature, their interests, their preferences, their choices, their opinions.

Indirect Solutions: depend on choices to be made by other people
against their current opinions, preferences, etc.

Yet there is no reliable way for you to Control other people, and the more your plans rely on such change, the more you'll be frustrated as the change you need doesn't happen, and other changes happen instead.

And so you should instead seek everywhere:

Direct Solutions: only depend on choices that are yours to make,
taking other people as they are.

Once you take your eyes away from opportunities that are not available to you, and start looking for opportunities that are available indeed, you will find a great freedom that you didn't realize existed.

4.9 The Despair Trap

Despair Trap: believing that others can control you.

If you believe that you have to please your family, people around you, the majority, government, society, or whatever nebula of unidentified persons, you're in the Despair Trap.

You do Not have to please
the majority, or your family, or anyone else in particular
except yourself.

Most likely, you refuse to consider alternative solutions and their price.

Change your environment.

Unless you're literally in prison, you can always change the people you associate with. [6] You can leave your friends, your family, leave your job, leave your church, leave your country, or whoever is making you unfree, to find or start a new one. There is a price to pay for any such option indeed; but if you don't consider the options available, their costs and benefits, [7] and make a conscious choice of what you're going to do or not do, then you're the one keeping yourself in prison. Even if you're not going to do anything about a particular inconvenience, the mere act of choosing to commit to it after considering alternatives puts you in control, and is the stepping stone to further commitments to improve your life given what you've accepted.

Don't stay in a Box.

Cut your emotional ties to what isn't yours [8]

You only have to please the people you choose to deal with. And you can find people whose interests are compatible with yours to deal with. There's a market for you.

You can't convince everyone — but you don't need to. You only need to make it a better place for yourself and other people you like.

YOU are responsible for your yourself, no one else is.

Same for everyone — you are not responsible for them, nor them for you

4.10 The Group Trap

Belief that it is useful or even necessary to be part of a group so as to succeed.

Diluting Responsibility.

EconSpeak: Incentives Matter. You reduce feedback efficiency by diminishing marginal incentives.

Doesn't mean that you can't organize.

But organize in ways that preserve full feedback between action and consequence.

Doesn't mean that you can't try to make a group succeed. But do it because you enjoy the endeavour, not because you need the result.

4.11 The Government Trap

No need to expand on this here.

Government is a scam — a collection of many scams actually. Resist scams.

If you don't understand who are the suckers and how much they're paying, then you're probably one of them.

EconSpeak: Law of Bitur-Camember.

Government is not above society, but part of it —

The Government is not a good partner to play with: Law of Bitur-Camember. The equilibrium expectations of investing in destructive government interactions is not superior to investing in creative interactions. Ultimately, driven by Psychological Potential François Guillaumat calls "Fiscal and Para-Fiscal Illusion"

The Government is an even worse partner to play against: It possesses force, and any organization that leads a frontal assault against it will fail by definition, as long as it is a government. Tax Strike, Shooting Cops.

Government is also slow and inefficient. It is itself a Group Trap.

Unless you provide it a big target by organizing a frontal assault, you can be much faster and nimbler than it can be, and can evade it.

4.12 The Rights Trap

Belief that it helps for other people to formally recognize your rights.

Rights are not facts.

Efforts to achieve the Rights will be great, and will get you the Rights without the Facts.

Easier to get the Facts without the Rights.

As indirect a way as they go.

Never appeal to a man's "better nature". He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage. — Robert Heinlein, "Time Enough For Love"

EconSpeak: incentives work.

4.13 The Utopia Trap

Socialist: before anyone is free, everyone must be free Libertarian: each time one person is free, one person is free. Economic Rule: action matters at the margin

you don't have to be perfect today or tomorrow the world doesn't have to be perfect today or tomorrow But you can work today to make things better for yourself today and tomorrow.

4.14 The Burning-Issue Trap

Global Warming Feed Africa Cyclone or Earthquake Stop immigration

Not YOUR problem.

EconSpeak: Action at the Margin, not in the aggregate.

4.15 The Previous-Investment Trap

EconSpeak: the economic cost that matters is opportunity cost, not accounting cost. [9]

4.16 The Box Trap

I can't change, because I've accumulated obligations, debts, etc.

Pay the Price.

4.17 The Certainty Trap

Trap: need for a reassuring simple enough explanation for everything.

This leads to religion, superstition, ideology, ...

Yet often you will never have an explanation everyday "miracle". You don't have an explanation for everyday life.

"A common man marvels at uncommon things; a wise man marvels at the commonplace." — Confucius

You must take facts first, explanations second. Uncertainty is a part of life. Get over it. Take advantage of it.

5 Strategies for Personal Liberation
5.1 The Stuff That Life is Made of


Vladimir Bukovsky: even in Prison, you can be free.

and out of it, you can be unfree.

EconSpeak: Preferences.

EconSpeak: Opportunity Cost.

5.2 Seek Direct Solutions in Everything

Recognize the choices that are yours to make, those that are not.

Serenity prayer:
God, Grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

You cannot choose in the past. You cannot choose in the future. You cannot choose against nature. You cannot choose for others. You cannot make a choice between unavailable alternatives. But you can make a choice, now, between millions of alternatives open to you.

5.3 Know Thyself

Imagine what your life could be if you were free.

Identify your actual goals, your actual priorities.

Difference between good and bad outcomes,

productive and unproductive activities,

assets and liabilities.

If you can't enjoy it as you like, is it yours?

Sure, if your ultimate goal is antisocial, you're a psychopath, and I'd rather you stay in error and But the very existence of society proves everyday that most people are not psychopath, that they benefit from mutual cooperation and enjoy it, and would be better off knowing themselves better.

Alone: you make decisions alone, you bear your responsibilities alone. That doesn't mean that you will be isolated from other people, and even less that you should seek isolation. Quite on the contrary, Society exists and has been evolving from cavern-dwelling to the Internet Age and beyond precisely because men can productively interact with each other and benefit from mutual cooperation. Living free means learning to make a difference between which interactions are productive and which are not, and whom we may benefit from cooperating with.

5.4 Be Happy Today

Do what you love, love what you do.

if you don't live your life, 1- no one else will 2- you'll live someone else's life and be unhappy

occupy yourself with something you enjoy boredom will make you angsty no wallowing into boredom, powerlessness, uselessness, etc.

Do not be outcome-oriented, but process-oriented... You may or you may not reach the desired outcome; the outcome you desire and reach might not be as nice as you anticipated. But if the process of what you're doing is enjoyable in and of itself, you haven't wasted your time.

5.5 Prioritize

constrained by reality

incremental change


not free to apply ANY of your ideas? Then WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING THERE???

not free to apply ALL your ideas? of course. Prioritize. Are you where you can do most good?

5.6 Find The Best Partners

With whom can you play the most positive sum game?

Be yourself, and be honest about it: find people who like you for who you are.


EconSpeak: All rules of Business Ethics applies to Your Life.[10]

5.7 Where The Action Is


Is the country/town/company too small for you?

Is it too big?

Go where opportunity is, where partners are. Technology? Visit Silicon Valley, Move there. Health? Go to Boston. Finance? London, Tokyo... Manufacturing? China, etc. Management? Philippines, Malaysia, etc. Some places stay on top, others fall behind. Move with opportunity.

Even in political entrepreneurship, join the party that is ready to be led, create a party, lobby the party in power.

dealing with *frustration*: laugh about it; change the setting; move on; don't put yourself in a box where you are prisoner; pay the price to go out.

5.8 Become an Entrepreneur

Paid by task, not by hour.

Pay by task, not by hour.

5.9 Overcome Fear

Pay the Emotional Price now.

REBT. Rational Emotional Behavioral Therapy — the only kind of therapy that works.

Find your false beliefs — all those MUSTs. Pay the emotional price of rejecting them, by imagining what you fear most. You'll find that you can overcome your fears.

Be ruthless honest about your flaws. Neuroses are based on false beliefs.

People would survive without you.

There is a finite price (material and emotional) to anything.

At worst, you could restart from scratch in a remote country. People have done it and succeeded. So could you.

But there is probably an even better alternative — find it.

5.10 Make Experiments

Start with a small thing.

Use other people's wisdom. But try for yourself.

"If you're not making any mistakes, you're not trying hard enough."

"If you're making too many mistakes, you set the bar too high."

"If you're not making any progress, you're using the wrong means."

"If you can't tell progress from regress, you have failed to give yourself measurable objectives."

evaluate constantly

"Merely having an open mind is nothing; the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid." — G.K. Chesterton

5.11 Moderation

"Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice." — Thomas Paine

Think it through, do it. If it doesn't work, question the implementation, but also your principles.

5.12 Abandon The Desire To Control or Be Controlled


Abandon jealousy in your relationship. You don't control your husband or wife. Be nice to her — starting by letting her be free.

Be Controlled:

Start living your own life.

5.13 No Sacrifice

Take any "sacrifice" out of your life.

"If this country is worth saving, it's worth saving at a profit." — H. L. Hunt

6 Appendices
6.1 Personal Development

Can find plenty of general information on personal development in books and websites. A few hints.

6.2 Health

Health Matters.



6.3 Mental Health

Mental hygiene —

as example of lack of mental hygiene, bukovsky cites the case of how soviet leaders were eating their own bullshit propaganda — don't do it.

6.4 Physical Health

Your body matters. good nutrition, exercise, etc. You have only one body, it's necessary to enjoy life. Exercise.

Your mind matters. Exercise (read, learn a new skill, a new language?).


If you care about what happens in the future, you should either strive for immortality, or have children. This is valid both genetically and memetically (and the two are linked indeed). Cultivating your physical health is especially important so as to maintain your personal freedom; you aren't as free to do what you want when you're sick or physically disabled as when you're healthy and strong. However, that topic is already well-known, and you can already find out there much better advice than I can possibly give you. So I will limit myself to insisting that you take your health seriously.

6.5 First Rule of Health

Of course, the most basic thing about Health is: Staying Alive. Your health won't matter much if you're dead. And you probably won't be able to do much for your own liberty or that of anyone else.

Certainly, there are extreme cases where you may accept to give your life for something you cherish, or otherwise take the risk of losing it. But there are few cases where your life itself is a useful thing to give; even the soldier who fights a war fights it better by staying alive than by dying; if anything, friendly casualties are accounted as part of the costs of war, not as part of the benefits. They are to be avoided. You gain nothing by openly challenging a criminal gang if you don't have the backing to defend yourself from its thugs; certainly, it may happen that the gang isn't actually as strong as it looks, or that you can summon more force than it has, and at one point an open confrontation will be necessary to reveal the gang's weakness and topple it. But if you confront the gang and the gang turns out to still be the strongest and uses violence against the resistors, you haven't gained anything, and you've lost a lot. A failed revolution or a lost war is always a mistake. Facing uncertain odds, you may take a risk and try your challenge; but be sure to count negatively the possibility of crushed heroism. Noble sentiments are no excuse for the misery brought upon innocent people by such mistakes. Martyrs should be pitied, not praised. It is much better for all involved that you should hide or run away to more hospitable horizons than that you should be caught and killed or sent to camp. Stupidity and mistakes are nothing to be proud of. The men who survive, live free and create wealth and promote liberty in the West, are greater heroes than those who died in Siberia.

That said, mistakes are made, and after taking some risk, you might find yourself in a prison. This supposes that your enemy is not so afraid for its power that he kills rather than imprison. That doesn't seem to be the case in today's dictatorships — they don't have the ideological self-intoxication that communist countries used to have and still have to an extent. If anything, it is more a feature of western democracies that slowly grow totalitarian, and of remaining communist regimes. In any case, the next step for you is to understand how to do the most out of your situation: what will make your oppressor spare you? being submissive? or resisting? Being submissive works better if your oppressor is out to kill its enemies (as the fascists were). If you understand that you don't have superior violence, look like you are reformed, you can get out of jail first, and out of the country afterwards. Resisting will work better if your oppressor craves public approval (like the soviet used to), and you care more about denying him the approval than about your own personal welfare. In any case, you are still free to choose your attitude, and to decide of your behaviour so as to pursue your goals[11]. Getting caught was probably a mistake, unless exiting the country was not possible and you care for this fight. But you don't need to compound mistakes with more mistakes. You can still play the game of your life to your last breath.

6.6 Life under Oppression

You are still free. You will be poorer and more oppressed. If you can, get out. Don't be a dead hero. Be a survivor. Adapt.

He who flees and runs away
Lives to fight another day

6.7 Bla bla bla

Integrity. It's harder to live your ideas than to just preach them but it is also more rewarding.

In no times have people really understood liberty. In times when liberty was direr, and they had to fight for it, some might have understood it better. And still, their understanding was lacking. We are freer than ever before. We have comparatively less need for liberty, and less means to achieve it politically; and so unsurprisingly, people understand it less. Which explains why democracies invariably move towards less liberty and then are subject to crises and revolutions.

Understand how things work.


Avoid dead-ends. ...

What you can change... and what you cannot... More importantly, what change techniques work...

1- passion — you have it, or you wouldn't be there 2- reason — you've already found a source 3- example — FOCUS 4- authority — the last thing we'll have, when we've already won

Purposeful life — with a purpose that YOU choose. intermediate purposes (driving car, etc.) fake purposes (games) imposed purposes — if you don't follow YOUR purposes, then whose life are you living? if YOU don't follow your purposes, then who will? No one else will live your life for you — though such seems to be the absurd hope of the cowardly who ask the almighty State to live their life for us.

Maybe. Maybe not. *I* cannot tell. *You* can. Do you want to gain economic independence and live away from the world? Work on it! Learn to earn money! Do you want to promote liberty inside an administration? Do it! It will be hard. Stealth. What do you sacrifice for what objective? Keep your objective in mind. It's OK to make mistakes. It's not OK to not try.

gist of HIFFIAUW: * make YOURSELF happy * use DIRECT methods — i.e. those that do not depend on changing the mind of other people — focus on the decision YOU can make, do not rely on decisions that are for other people to make or fail to make. * the freedom for YOU to do what YOU want living your life according to your own purpose, not the purpose of others.

mahesh: schedule your life on a page. one or two tables per page, ten years per column, four quarters per line. aim for a number of years that match a total expected useful lifespan of 60 to 80 years. "all my life will fit on this page" finite resource "Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of." — Benjamin Franklin

you don't become free by controling other people you become free by controling yourself

you may predict other people's behaviour somewhat you can't predictable change their behaviour because THEY decide for themselves — whether they admit or not just like YOU decide for yourself — whether you admit it or not

economics: — economic reasoning — YOU *CHOOSE* between alternatives, it's the opportunity cost that matters non-alternatives don't. Staying in the past isn't an available opportunity — don't dissolve responsibility — voluntary trade as positive sum game maximize your interactions. Find the people with whom you are most compatible — finding people who is compatible with you — honesty is the best policy — design your life, yourself, and your possessions "your extended self". — learn to enjoy the moment, to put yourself into comfortable, enjoyable environments that make you happier and more productive — direct vs indirect solutions — instead of asking other people to give you things or rights, make the most out of what you have and can have — try, experiment, and see what works — the only way to know — make your OWN mistakes — you only regret things you don't do — so do it, try! — deal with failure, know your limits — perfection is not a valid standard — " can i do better" is the standard that counts — priorities, don't waste time on low-priority or low-importance things — know what you REALLY want MOST, and focus on it — accept the merits of things you don't understand — yet don't accept bullshit explanations that other people give for things that work — yoga works in practice, even though the official theory of yoga is obviously bullshit — same for acupuncture, tai chi. Healthier admit ignorance than believe bullshit. — it's ok to accept bullshit for things that don't matter, if it works for you. Ultimately, truth is what works. So don't be ashamed of joining a religion or something. But if it's bullshit and you actually to make decisions based on it, you'll make mistakes. Once again, it is better may as well admit ignorance. — but what works for you might what works for other — accept that.

— find what you like: music? which kind? opera? jazz? heavy metal? crafting? etc. — what is the best use of your time towards your own goals?

7 Credits and other resources

I am greatly indepted to

Harry Browne's "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World"

I wholeheartedly recommend this book, which became my prime resource while researching on the topic of personal freedom. It has most of the concepts and none of the bullshit.

Otherwise, if you are interested in personal freedom or personal development, there are many sites or books that you can read. I take them with a grain of salt, and I trust that so will you: see what works, for you, and keep it, drop the rest with whatever occasional or frequent bullshit there is. [12]

Getting Things Done

The 4 hour work week

Patrick Madrolle

8 Conclusion

I will now conclude.

Your first responsibility is to free yourself.

Economic Reasoning applies to YOUR life.

It's hard, but you can do it, and it's rewarding.

You have nothing to lose but your chains

— those you inflict upon yourself.

Thank you a lot for your attention. Live free and prosper!

The text that accompanies, reprises and completes this speech is available online at


[1]: Gandhi was not a libertarian, some of his ideas were crazy and oppressive and caused much suffering to the indian people. But that's not what matters here. He was himself rather free by my definition, and he understood how to change the world, if not where to drive the world towards.

[2]: And so if you force your child to study a musical instrument you like, or to practice a sport you fancy, or to learn a language you dream of, but your child doesn't share your taste, then you'll be making your child miserable and facing frustration yourself. If instead you let him find an activity that suits him, or let him be seduced by some activity he will seek, then you may make your child happy and you with him.

[3]: This definitely includes a young me, and to a point I believe it includes Ayn Rand.

[4]: "The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations." – David Friedman

[5]: I coined the expression ``Control Trap´´, but the concepts of Indirect Solution and Despair Trap I'm borrowing from Browne.

[6]: And even in a prison, there is usually a lot you can do to improve your lot (or make it even more miserable), whether by preparing an escape, by trading with inmates, by understanding what would put guardians on your side, by creating and maintaining your own personal space, etc.

[7]: It is easy to underestimate both the costs and benefits. When considering the costs, you need to take into account all the resources that you will have to sacrifice, including not just money, but time, emotional stress, social relationships, etc. Similarly when you consider benefits, do not forget to consider all these resources. In both cases, do not count as lost or gained resources that were only nominally yours but that you can't actually enjoy as you like. You should be most willing to part with "free time" that isn't, money that you can't spend as you wish, friends whose company you don't enjoy, a family that only brings misery rather than happiness.

[8]: Sometimes you realize that something isn't yours anymore. Sometimes you realize that it was never yours to begin with. Stop caring about it. Go seek better things to care about.

[9]: See my essay Economic Reasoning vs Accounting Fallacies, The Case of ``Public´´ Research for a detailed illustration of the notion of opportunity cost.

[10]: In the past twenty years, there has been a trend, from The Armchair Economist to Freakonomics and its successors, to apply the point of view of Economics to all matters of existence. The idea that Economics is a point of view that is so relevant is not new, and has been made explicit since Mises' Human Action if not earlier, and is certainly present if implicit in Bastiat or Molinari and their predecessors.

We here argue that this point of view doesn't apply only in the abstract and statistically to aggregate masses of other people. They apply to You in your daily life. You ignore it at your loss, and go against its conclusions at your peril.

[11]: In "Cette lancinante douleur de la liberté" ("To Choose Freedom"), Vladimir Bukovsky notably says that even in soviet prison, some prisoners can be freer than many free men of freer countries: because the former do make decisions that further their own purposes, whereas the latter don't.

[12]: This is a very rich site full of information. You could start by the winners of this essay contest in which I got a consolation prize for a slightly off-topic entry. The site has one-sided propaganda for multi-level marketing techniques, that probably do not apply to your case, but despite requiring a grain of salt here and there, I think it's a tremendously useful website.

Faré RideauLiberty, as it isSite by Faré RideauDonate: bitcoins 1fareF6wCNYYiLPGmyQjrd3AQdHBb1CJ6 or paypal