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How I found freedom in an unfree world

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Book notes for "How I found freedom in an unfree world" by Harry Browne


Every day of my life is mine to use as I see fit. My time isn't committed to the state, to society, to a treadmill, or to fruitless relationships with people with whom I have nothing in common. I have no fear that the phone will ring any moment to tell me of something new I "must" do with my time.

When you're in the Emotional Trap, you don't know - in any long-term way

  • what you're doing. And when you're in the Intellectual Trap, the why

is lost.

You're in the trap when you continue to do something long after you've stopped enjoying it, or if it's something you never enjoyed much to begin with, or if you're bored by most everything you do. If you find that you don't feel enthusiastic about anything, it may be because you've lost touch with your emotions - the source that can tell you what would bring excitement to your life. That's where you must look for the answer.

Mutually beneficial relationships are possible when desires are compatible. Sometimes the desires are the same - like going to a movie together. Sometimes the desires are different - like trading your money for someone's house. In either case, it's the compatibility of the desires that makes the exchange possible. No sacrifice is necessary when desires are compatible. So it makes sense to seek out people with whom you can have mutually beneficial relationships.

An efficiently selfish person is sensitive to the needs and desires of others. But he doesn't consider those desires to be demands upon him. Rather, he sees them as opportunities - potential exchanges that might be beneficial to him. He identifies desires in others so that he can decide if exchanges with them will help him get what he wants.

thoughts at 20%, keep encountering points where the author talks about how the government can never be better than no-government, because they force one-sided exchanges, but no mention is made of situations when having a party force people to do something can actually improve things for everyone (the poluted lake example in the libertarian FAQ is a good example), which is annoying, and betrays their politics somewhat.

There's a greater difference between being 99% honest and 100% honest than there is between 70% and 90%. The first exception to your honesty destroys one of its most important benefits - the absolute trust of others.

The individual who doesn't know himself can't speak with authority about himself. He can't make promises, because he doesn't know himself well enough to foresee his future emotions and actions. He can't express authoritative opinions, because he doesn't really know what he believes. He uses the word "I" dishonestly. He begins statements with "I think . . ." but he's only repeating what he's heard. He says, "I will. . ." but he doesn't really know what he's going to do.

Always act with a recognition and acceptance of what you are at that moment. Don't expect to accomplish feats that require talents you don't have; don't ignore your weaknesses; don't act as if you were someone other than who you are. Work to improve yourself in any way that seems right to you; but in the interim, act in ways that are consistent with what you are at that moment. You are what you are. That doesn't mean you'll always be the same - but what you do right now will succeed or fail in terms of what you are this minute.

Don't feel that you have to know all your long-term goals right now. In fact, you should never set a long-term goal until you're fairly sure that its attainment will truly make you happy. Even then, be prepared to alter it as you and your circumstances change. Don't ever be ashamed to change your programs as new information reveals better ways for you to be happy; just don't make important changes too suddenly or when your emotions are in control.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. - Henry David Thoreau

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. - Shakespeare

One person divides the property into what he considers to be two equal shares. Then the other person chooses which of the two parts he wants. The second person can't complain that the split was unequal, for he had the privilege of choosing the best share. And the first person can't complain, for he was able to decide how the property would be split. A variation of this method has been written into many business partnership contracts. The contract specifies that either partner can offer to buy out the other at any time - specifying the price he's willing to pay. The other partner must either accept the offer or buy out the first partner at the same price. In other words, one partner determines the price; the other then chooses whether he'll buy or sell at that price. Neither can complain that the price was unfair.

Initial thoughts at 100%, thought provoking even if I do not agree with the author on many points. Lots of insight on every page, a very dense book that made me uncomfortable on occasions by forcing me to confront some aspects of my life. The author seems to assume some sort of hedonist utilitarian morality system, which I do not agree with, but their conclusions on many other aspects of "living a free life" are very interesting.The libertarian view point is very seductive, since it allows one to basically ignore morality and do what one wants, while feeling smug about it at the same time.

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Last modified 2019-07-24 Wed 15:58. Contact