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Tuesday, 15 May 2018 20:29

The Social Credit Understanding of Freedom

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     Freedom is undoubtedly a very great good. It is indeed one of the key objectives and one of the main fruits of any successful social order. But the greatest problem in saying, within the context of association, that one is ‘in favour of personal freedom’ is that ‘freedom’ has come to mean so many different things to so many different people and the various definitions are by no means compatible. Anarchists tend to interpret ‘freedom’ in one way, Libertarians in another, Classical Liberals in a third manner and so forth. None of them interpret freedom as an absolute right to do whatever one wants, not even the anarchist (as he is opposed to people using their freedom to establish or otherwise support coercive institutions). In contradistinction to collectivists of all kinds: communists, fascists, socialists and so forth, Social Crediters also stand for the freedom of the individual over and against any despotism of the group. But what does ‘freedom’ mean from a Social Credit point of view?

     Perhaps the easiest way of beginning to provide an answer to that question would be to observe that the Social Credit conception of an individual’s rightful ‘freedom-in-association’ implies a freedom that is social rather than anti-social. A socially compatible freedom would encompass those choices which do not a) take away anyone else’s ability to function freely without due cause, or b) take away or undermine the ability of a society’s economic and political associations to function optimally in achieving their respective purposes.

     Beyond this, it is also important to recognize that the Social Credit notion of freedom is social in a third sense: it is one of the main purposes, if not the only purpose, of a rightly ordered social authority. In other words, the limitations on choice mentioned in the preceding paragraph are needed for the sake of maximizing each individual’s concrete freedom within the context of association.

     This leads to a paradoxical result: in order to achieve real freedom for everybody, Freedom with a capital F, it is sometimes necessary to impose functional limitations on certain lesser claims to ‘freedom’. To maximize true liberty, you must have limits. What the Social Crediter wants is not freedom in theory, or freedom as an abstract idol, or freedom for this or that special person or group, but rather the extension of a concrete freedom, a ‘Freedom’ that can be seen, heard, felt, and lived, to each individual and to the fullest extent that the natural law will allow.

     ‘Authority’ and ‘Freedom’ are not, therefore, two poles of an irreconcilable dichotomy for the Social Crediter. Rather, a legitimate authority and a legitimate freedom both have their proper places in the Social Credit vision of society. As Douglas put it in one of his earliest works:

“... we are confronted by the fundamental alternatives of freedom and authority. But it should be possible ... to see that these are not necessarily alternatives at all – – they are policies each fundamentally ‘right’ on its own plane of action.”[1]

     Provided that each is kept in its proper sphere and they are correctly related to each other, there need be no conflict between freedom and authority and in fact, in the place of antagonism, there should be a mutually supportive and harmonious relationship between the two.

     Claims to individual freedom are fully justifiable insofar as these claims do not conflict with the structural functional necessities of political, economic, or cultural associations (i.e., the rules/mechanisms, etc., which these association must incorporate in order to survive and flourish or function); this is freedom’s correct plane of action.

     Conversely, the claims of authority, i.e., of coercive institutions, are fully justifiable insofar as these coincide with the authentic structural functional necessities of political, economic, and cultural association; this particular sphere constitutes authority’s correct plane of action.

     The legitimacy of communal or indeed any sort of authority thus depends on its conformity with the objective laws that govern reality. Hence the aphorism: “Truth is authority; authority is not truth.” Any political imposition on individuals which transcends the relevant set of functional necessities is a species of governmental trespass, while any failure to enforce them is a species of governmental neglect. Both of these extremes should be scrupulously avoided.

     When it comes to the question of their due relation, freedom and authority are intimately connected. On the Social Credit view, authority exists and is to be employed precisely for the sake of securing the widest possible scope for the possession and exercise of freedom on the part of individuals within the context of association. For this reason, the proper use of legitimate authority is just as important as the scope for legitimate freedom or true liberty because the former is the necessary condition for the maximization of the latter; i.e., freedom is the very purpose and justification of authority: 

“... the democratic idea has real validity if it is separated from the idea of a collectivity. It is a legitimate corollary of the highest conception of the human individual that to the greatest extent possible, the will of all individuals shall prevail over their own affairs. Over his own affairs, the sanctions of society must be restored to the individual affected.”[2]

     Notice that Douglas stresses that the freedom he champions is the freedom of the individual over his own affairs, not over someone else’s affairs, or over society’s affairs, or an association’s affairs. Whenever the Social Crediter stridently defends ‘freedom’, he must never be interpreted, therefore, as advocating the right of the individual in association to do whatever he wants, but rather as supporting the right of the individual to choose his own path so long as his choices are compatible with the functional demands of a healthy and successful economic, political, and social order:

 “Amongst the less intelligent criticism of the group of ideas known as Social Credit is that it is disguised anarchy – a kind of go-as-you-please free for all. The argument is equivalent to saying that a claim to choose whether I play cricket or tennis is a claim to make the rules of cricket or tennis.”[3] 

     Having covered the necessary theoretical background, it now becomes easier to appreciate what is perhaps Douglas’ fullest answer to the question: what is freedom according to the Social Crediter?

“Freedom is a real thing. It is the most important thing which is at stake in the world today, and it is beyond all other things necessary that its nature should be understood. It is the power to choose or refuse one thing at a time. It is the power to choose whether you will play cricket or whether you will play golf, or whether you will play neither. Quite emphatically it is not the power on the part of the non-player to change the rules of cricket or golf; that is not freedom, it is oppression.”[4]

     To speak metaphorically for a moment, one is to be free to play the game or not to play the game, but one is not free to unilaterally change or reject the rules of the game in order to suit one’s self at the expense of the common good.

     The classical concrete example that has been used repeatedly in Social Credit Literature to illustrate this harmonious concept of “Lawful Authority for the sake of True Freedom” is that of the roadways, their rules, and their subsequent usage.

     So long as they obey the rules – which, if we are speaking within the context of a properly designed road system, are some of the functional necessities for safe, efficient, fair, and effective travel – the freedom of individuals to travel anywhere at any time on the roads will be maximized. This is what truly constitutes ‘peak freedom’ – to borrow an Americanism – as opposed to the empty shell of freedom that is the calling card of the Libertarian ideologue.

     As Eric Butler masterfully explained in his booklet, Social Dynamics:

“One of the major functions of government is to maintain a strict Rule of Law. It is often claimed, falsely, that all law is an infringement on the freedom of the individual. Real freedom is impossible except inside an agreed Rule of Law.

“The rule of law means that the individual, as well as government, is bound in all his actions by clearly defined rules announced beforehand. Road laws are a good example of the rule of law. Particularly since the advent of the motor car it has been most essential for road laws, which enable individuals to use a common service, to be designed to protect all individuals. So far from the rule of law concerning the roads being an infringement on the rights of the individual, so long as there is general respect for that rule of law, it increases the rights of the individual. Individuals who insist that they should have the ‘freedom’ to drive how they like on the roads would produce chaos. The rule of law as applied to the roads lays down that all shall travel on one side of the road, they shall stop at red lights and proceed on green lights. If the motorist violates the rule of the law and is detected by police, then he is penalised. To the extent that motorists obey the rule of law there is the maximum security and freedom for all individuals using the roads. The sole responsibility of government is to produce a rule of law which has the respect of all members of the community. It is certainly not the correct function of government to insist on how individuals shall operate within the rule of law. As one individual has so aptly put it, ‘within the known rules of the game the individual is free to pursue his personal ends and desires.’ “[5]

     Another interesting take away from the road systems analogy, is that it makes the division between the role of the expert and the role of the individual consumer, client, or citizen, quite clear. This is another important facet within the social and political philosophy of Social Credit which must be addressed when it comes to a discussion of the nature of and the proper place for ‘freedom-in-association’.

     According to Social Credit theory, it is the exclusive responsibility of the relevant experts to design the rules, the mechanisms, the systems etc., that are needed to achieve a functionally satisfactory result in terms of the individual’s policy …. the individual is only to judge the rules, mechanisms, systems, etc., the administrative means, by results.

     If a road system, for example, or a part of it, results in too many accidents (more than could be justified as inherent to the nature of the human or natural conditions) than the individual is justified in demanding that something be done to make the road system or a particular patch of road safer, so that it may become as safe as is humanly possible. What he is not justified in doing is deciding on how the experts should do their jobs. He can have an opinion, of course, but ultimately it is the experts who must decide what and how things should be done in order to achieve the policy democratically desired: that of the common good. It is they who will also be held responsible for unsatisfactory results.

     Now, what is generally true of traffic systems is just as true of society when it comes to economic, political, and cultural associations. There is a ‘rule of law’ governing association for the common good. The relevant experts must figure out what rules need to be put in place in order to maximize concrete freedom for the average individual citizen, must implement them correctly, and then they must be obeyed by all. If the systems, mechanisms, etc., selected by the experts do not deliver the desired results, then we should sanction them, remove them if necessary, and replace them with others. If there is a conflict between delivering Freedom with a capital ‘F’ and the alleged freedoms of freeloaders, pirates, parasites, or buccaneers, we must side with functionality and true liberty over and against any counterfeit of personal freedom.

     Certainly, people should have the right to opt out of any society based on such principles by emigrating, but what they don’t have is the right to unilaterally negate or alter those principles to suit themselves.

     For example, we ought not, in the name of an unbridled economic ‘freedom’, to allow individuals and corporations etc., to do whatever they want if their choices will interfere with the fulfillment of the economy’s true purpose and if, in consequence, economic Freedom with a capital ‘F’ for the average individual is thereby sacrificed.

     Douglas noted that one of the quite predictable consequences of false and often unworkable conceptions of ‘freedom-in-association’ has been to provoke some individuals and groups and even whole nations to abandon the ideal of freedom entirely in favour of some kind of collectivism. The Liberal wing of the false ‘Freedom vs. Authority’ dialectic thus directly feeds into the Totalitarian wing:

“There is probably more nonsense spoken and written around the words freedom and liberty, than in regard to any other two words in the English language. As a result of this, we have been treated to a dissertation by Signor Mussolini, suggesting that liberty is an outworn and discredited word. Signor Mussolini is mistaken. Liberty will come into its own, although it is quite possible that two groups which appear to be enemies of it and have much in common, including quite possibly, a similar origin, i.e., Bolshevism and Fascism, may be necessary to clear the minds of the public of much of the misconception which surrounds the idea, by demonstrating what it is not.”[6]




[1] C.H. Douglas, Credit Power and Democracy (Melbourne: The Social Credit Press, 1933), 144.

[2] C.H. Douglas, The Brief for the Prosecution (Liverpool: K.R.P. Publications Ltd., 1945), 72.

[3]  C.H. Douglas, Programme for the Third World War (Liverpool: K.R.P. Publications Ltd., 1943), 59-60

[4] C.H. Douglas, “These Latter Hours”, The Fig Tree, No. 2 (September 1936), 4.

[5] Eric Butler, Social Dynamics (Fitzroy, Australia: W. & J. Barr Pty. Ltd., date unknown), 24-25.

[6] C.H. Douglas, Social Credit, rev. ed. (New York: Gordon Press, 1973), 38.

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 May 2018 16:53

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  • Comment Link Arindam Sunday, 27 May 2018 04:04 posted by Arindam

    'It is known the group cannot exist without the individual; however does this mean, according to the writings of Douglas, that the group is of little importance or simply does not matter?'

    I think the Major's view regarding the group is best expressed in the following quotation from 'The Control and Distribution of Production':

    'I do not suggest for a moment that there is not a real group-consciousness - I think that there is such a consciousness. But the ills from which we are suffering do not take effect on that plane of consciousness, they take effect on individuals; and if, as I have tried to indicate, the key to the solution of those ills is to be found in a modified control of credit, then that modification must be in favour of individuals. We can, I think, safely leave the group-consciousness to look after itself.' (pages 25-26)

  • Comment Link Anon Friday, 18 May 2018 19:20 posted by Anon

    Is the philosophy of Social Credit a Christian philosophy (i.e. the Christian faith)?

    Also, this intellectual argument about the relationship between the individual and the group: It is known the group cannot exist without the individual; however does this mean, according to the writings of Douglas, that the group is of little importance or simply does not matter? If so, where does that leave "Social" Credit?

  • Comment Link Oliver Wednesday, 16 May 2018 17:40 posted by Oliver

    The whole point of insisting on the functionality of economic and political associations, etc., is to ensure that the "systems" actually do serve men and provide them with the fullest opportunity for self-development. There is, therefore, no inversion or contradiction at all.

    If we do not have fully or optimally function economic or political associations, the individual's freedom and capacity for self-development will suffer. Extreme dysfunction - both personal and social - will result, which is what we have now in the Western world. The interests of a fully functional system and the interests of men where self-development is concerned coincide exactly.

    According to Douglas, individuals, i.e., the people, are to judge various systems by results, while it is the responsibility of the relevant experts to design the systems and to be held responsible for them. Oddly enough, the quote from Douglas that came up on this site when I opened it up to respond to your comment was: "That you must have policy democratic and execution hierarchical is one of our fundamental conceptions in Social Credit." Experts, which - in our system - could be Cabinet Ministers, civil servants, the Lords (in the British upper chamber), etc., are responsible for making sure that associations function well in achieving their true or fundamental purposes ... if the people are not satisfied, then they must have the ability to sanction and even sack those experts and replace them with others.

    That is the Social Credit position: a clear demarcation between common and individual policy on the one hand, and administrative expertise on the other. In the same way that you ask: "Who determines if individual freedoms conflict with the structural functional necessities of economic, political or cultural associations? You? Some bureaucrats? Who?" .... we can ask: "Who determines whether a given use of freedom interferes with the ability of another person to use his own freedom?" That is not always self-evident either. Obviously, someone in authority has to make the decision. If they decide wrongly and the fruits are bad, then the people should have the ability to sanction the expert .... so long as that sanctioning ability is in place there is no danger of tyranny or of fascism.

    Indeed, as things stand now when anti-social policy is regularly imposed on the populations in the Western world and there is no effective sanction, no effective recourse to right the matter, we are living under a 'democratic' system which is far more tyrannical and fascist than what Douglas had in mind when he gave the nod to the expert as being effectively responsible, not for setting policy, but for carrying out the policy of the common interest.

  • Comment Link Jim Wednesday, 16 May 2018 11:01 posted by Jim

    You wrote:

    “Claims to individual freedom are fully justifiable insofar as these claims do not conflict with the structural functional necessities of political, economic, or cultural associations (i.e., the rules/mechanisms, etc., which these association must incorporate in order to survive and flourish or function); this is freedom’s correct plane of action.”

    This is not what Douglas had in mind in terms of the importance of associations. Douglas wrote in his first book, “Economic Democracy” , “Systems were made for men, and not men for systems, and the interest of man which is self-development, is above all systems, whether theological, political or economic.". In other words, you have inverted exactly what Douglas proposed. You have now placed the system above the interest of man. Who determines if individual freedoms conflict with the structural functional necessities of economic, political or cultural associations? You? Some bureaucrats? Who? I challenge you to give specifics here. You are operating at the level of abstraction, but as soon as you bring it to the level of reality, you’re advocating tyranny which is NOT Social Credit. If you would have left your definition of liberty as a) you would have been fine, but by including b) you are proposing that Social Credit is fascist, which it is not.

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