Freedom is a Zero Sum Game - Scott Adams' Blog

Freedom is a Zero Sum Game

Lately I’ve been wondering if freedom is a zero sum game. In other words, for one person to get more freedom, someone else has to lose the same amount, but usually in a different way.

I predict that you just reflexively rejected that concept, but your stubborness won’t stop me from unfolding the idea a bit more. To that end, only examples can help.

Example one: In order for me to be free to walk down the sidewalk, other people must be prohibited from driving on them.

You could argue that I’m still free to take my chances and walk on the sidewalk. But that argument can be made for any restricted freedom. I’m also free to rob and kill as long as I accept the risks of doing so. But as a practical matter, my freedom to walk down the sidewalk depends heavily on restricting your freedom to use it in some other fashion.

Example two: Your freedom to marry the person of your choice depends on the person of your choice having only one option: you. That’s the opposite of freedom. The two of you cancelled out, freedom-wise. On the other hand, if the two of you agree that the other is an ideal mate, that’s an example of coincidence and not freedom. You just got lucky. Too bad the other people who wanted to mate with each of you are now restricted in their freedom to do so.

You can play this at home. Think of any freedom you enjoy, and consider how someone else’s freedom had to be curtailed for you to have it.

The universe isn’t making more freedom. If you want some, it comes at someone else’s expense.

But that’s okay because free will is an illusion anyway. I’ll say it before you do.