9 Reasons People Fear Freedom (From “A Lodging of Wayfaring Men”)

Editor’s Note: I’ve currently been in a mood where I’m reading as much crypto-agorist/anarchist fiction as I possibly can. The current read is an absolutely terrific book by Paul Rosenberg titled, “A Lodging of Wayfaring Men.” (FREE DOWNLOAD | AMAZON AFFILIATE)

For context: when James Farber presents their private, anonymous, free, online marketplace to his new lover, Frances Marden, she is overcome with emotions. When she’s read about ideas such as these, she’s always loved them and been in favor of them–but, now that it’s a reality, she is emotionally torn up. One of James’ colleagues, Michael, provides her with 9 possible reasons for her current apprehension, or, in other words, why she fears freedom as a reality.


  1. Fear of responsibility. Freedom is threatening because it eliminates the possibility of shifting responsibility for your errors onto others. Freedom puts you right out in the open, with no cloak for your mistakes. It also gives you full credit for your successes, but that is seldom considered, as the fear-based impulses are generally stronger.
  2. Fear of separation. For a variety of reasons, most people have an instinctual fear of being separate. The feeling is that separation means death. This may be true in some rare situations, and certainly was true more commonly in the distant past, but it is an impulse only, not reason.
  3. Rulership as a force of nature. For the last several thousand years, nearly all humans have lived and died under some form of rulership. So many generations have come and gone under this arrangement, that it now seems to most people as a force of nature: That which was, is, and shall be. When you mention something different, it causes them mental stress.
  4. No mental image. Because none of us have ever lived in any situation except subjection to state power, we have no mental images of anything different. So, when we start talking about a truly free place with no rulers, the listeners have no images to draw upon. It seems like we are proposing a pointless journey into an unknown and dangerous place. Again, this is a feeling, not reasoned thought.
  5. Group conditioning. A central fact of modern social behavior is that almost the entire populace has gone through 11-17 years of social conditioning in the school systems. This conditioning shows up in a variety of ways, especially in dealing with authority figures. The conditioned responses are: Obey authority. Don’t cause a disruption. Accept the place given to you. Conform. The real effect here is the installing of comfort-reactions and discomfort-reactions. Our system flies in the face of almost all of this.
  6. Lack of critical thinking skills. For a variety of reasons (which I have not spent the time necessary to properly catalog), the 20th Century saw a mass movement away from respect for reason and toward a devotion to emotion. Have you ever tried to reason with someone who lives by emotion? It is essentially impossible. These people can be influenced by getting them to identify with characters from movies and television, or with celebrities, but seldom by reason. Now, most people aren’t fully that way, but modern critical thinking skills are disastrous, and a great many people distrust reason, with full faith in emotion. Many of them are beyond hope of recovery, and could be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands.
  7. Cognitive dissonance. This is what happens to people when they have accepted an idea, or series of complimentary ideas; then, an obviously different idea is presented, and it makes some sort of sense to them. It causes a conflict. This is properly called cognitive dissonance, and it is really just a mental conflict. People don’t do well with these conflicts; their general reaction is to eliminate them as quickly as possible. The easiest way to do this is to simply drown them out by reciting their original ideas, and trying to convince themselves that the previous ideas are right, and that they should not think about the new idea. Yes, this is dishonest, and yes, it requires denial, but most people prefer it to critical analysis of their existing ideas, and, potentially, changing their minds. Combine this with all the other items shown here, and the conflicts arising from taking on a difficult new idea are too much for many people to bear.
  8. Fear of reprisal. This is the simplest one. Think of an IRS audit, an FBI raid, or of Stalin. Obviously the rulers won’t like our free markets. It is not unreasonable to expect that they will take reprisals against people who displease them. A very reasonable concern.
  9. Fear of the world falling apart. The central myth of the nation-state is that it is necessary to hold civilization together; that without it, we would all degenerate quickly into killers and thieves. This has been repeated so frequently and so consistently, that most people accept it as fact, even though if asked to provide evidence, they have none. Actual analysis of this idea leads to a contrary conclusion, but that does not stop the impulse of fear. Very few people have ever questioned the nation-state myth at all.

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