Freedom is Not (Merely) a Communication Problem.

I am going to start with a sports analogy, but make no mistake, this is about freedom.

A few years ago, I was watching my buddy’s kid’s soccer game. The players were in junior high school. They had a hard time advancing the ball up the field. They wouldn’t pass, and the parents’ consensus was that the teammates needed to communicate better in order to facilitate better passing.

They were wrong.

What presented as a communication program was not a communication problem; the team’s problem is that they didn’t take creating passing lanes seriously. They would call for the ball from across the field or from directly behind a defender. The problem was not communication; the problem was the players were not trained to consider what the ball handler needed in order to complete the pass, or the teammates lacked the will to put themselves in the position to give the ball handler a path to pass. More talking on the field does not address that issue.

If anyone has ever played a Japanese or Korean team, I suspect they’ve seen the opposite. I remember the first time I played a team that was made up mostly of Korean nationals. Their short passing was spectacular and nearly wordless; it’s just that everyone was keyed in on what everyone else needed in order to get out of trouble. They knew how to create options for each other, and they took the business of creating options for each other very seriously. And what’s curious is that they did it WITHOUT yapping.

Here is how this relates to freedom. When we determine ourselves in the world, we do so through our interrelations with other people, e.g., it’s not just that I get to be married because I want to get married; rather, for me to get married my wife needs to think it’s a good idea. I get to have spinach for dinner because Kroger stocks spinach. If Kroger didn’t stock spinach or my wife said, “No,” neither of the determinations: “Irami ate a spinach salad with his wife” would be true. I determine myself as a married spinach-eater through my relationships with my wife and Kroger.

The contents of my options are generated by her and the store manager’s will. This is very important, so I’ll repeat it. In order for me to be a free and concrete person, it’s not merely a matter of choosing between the options before me. The content of the options before me have to be expressive of my freedom, and the contents of those options are going to be generated by someone else’s will. Who I am, e.g.,a married spinach eater, depends on both my wife’s and the store manager’s will. Just like, if I am a ball handler, I need my teammate to create a passing lane, so that I can choose to pass the ball. This doesn’t determine that I will definitely pass the ball. For the pass to be free, I need to choose it, but first the pass has to be a viable option, not an idle wish. It doesn’t matter if the teammate stands on the penalty hash and thinks, “I can score if I had the ball right here.” and even the ball handler can think, “She could score if she had the ball right there,” if both players are fundamentally unserious about creating a lane to get her the ball and develop the play.

To the point: I need that other person or persons to be free in order for me to have choices expressive of my own freedom. For example, if my wife were pathologically averse to going to the movies, I would never be able to go to the movies with my wife. I would no longer get to determine myself as someone who goes on dates to the movies. The same would be said if I moved to an area where no business developer had invested in a movie theater. In both cases, who I am depends on the will of other people, insofar as their will generates the options through which I externalize myself as a concrete person, e.g., married person or movie goer. Not a potential married person or potential movie goer, but an actual married person and movie-goer. The options other people furnish do not determine my choice; however, other people, or even nature as its given, does determine the options among which I choose. For example, if I were alone in nature, I cannot simply hunt any animal or vegetable. I have to hunt or pick among the options givenby nature.

I can have my options determined by nature; as if I were fishing, and it’s up to the natural determinations of the fish’s appetites. I can have my options determined by convention, e.g., we go to the movies because we’ve always gone to the movies, nothing more or nothing less. I can have my options determined by a pathology, e.g., if I ask an alcoholic if he wants to go the bar or go to the movies, I know how it ends.

However, for this choice to be expressive off freedom, I need not only to be able to choose, but also for the options among which I choose to reflective of my freedom. I need the person who is generating options for me to be free in order for me to have options reflective of my freedom, else my own freedom is one-sided, e.g., I get to choose between which bar to go to, because my companion is an alcoholic.

My choices will be free only if the other person is free and concerned with accommodating me in my freedom to generate options that are expressive of freedom. Now in friendships and intimate relationships, this accommodation is more immediate; but in market relationships, the path is secured by the operations of the market with political over-site.

What is important is that people come to see that concrete expressions of themselves as free depend on options generated by other people’s will. And if those other people are somehow enslaved to a pathology or convention, then their pathology metastasizes and infects other people’s freedom, e.g., I can’t pass if the other person refuses to get open or is otherwise averse to taking the business of creating a passing lane seriously. My self-determination as a passer depends on them creating a lane through which I can pass.

This is one reason we have a vested interest, insofar as we care about freedom, to secure the freedom of others, and make them aware of how that freedom entails the responsibility to make options for each other expressive of the other’s freedom.

What appears to be a communication problem, may very well be, “I don’t take my responsibility to make viable options for you, expressive of your freedom, seriously” problem.


  1. I make myself who I am by picking among determinate options.
  2. My options are generated by your will.
  3. If your will isn’t free, then my options for what I can do and be are determined by your fear, your laziness, or pathology.
  4. If your will is free, it is open to accommodate this relationship in our freedom, and we both get to enable each other in each other’s freedom. This is how self-determination is mediated by another person and externalized in the world, without being corrupted.
  5. So I need you to be free so that I’m not trapped into choosing between the crappy options generated by your fear, laziness, or pathology.
  6. Because if the content of my options are determined by your pathology, then anything I choose, from the options you’ve put before me, is going to be a function of your pathology, and choosing any of the options will alienate me from my self-determination. I will, instead, be determined by your pathology.