Liberty requires individual restraint. This happens one of two ways: personal virtue or external force. Only personal virtue, however, can sustain liberty.
If liberty must rely on external forces rather than personal virtue to thrive, it will not flourish for long. We have seen this with excessive consumerism. Abandoning personal virtues, such as temperance and humility, individuals have pursued the freedoms of our consumer society to the point where those freedoms are in jeopardy and external forces are beginning to intervene. Household and government debt. Individual and social discontent. Personal clutter and environmental harm.
But these external forces cannot sustain liberty. Why not? Why cannot debt and discontent and clutter chasten individuals into a virtuous life? The answer is that individual restraint is a moral choice that only works properly when it is not demanded to work at all.
Liberty is diminished when external forces must uphold it. The real world, of course, is not perfect. We intuit its imperfection and all too often experience the sadness of its imperfection. Thus, knowing the real world is not ideal, we establish external forces that can intervene when liberty is threatened. We rightly have police forces, judiciaries, armies, and more. Yet if the balance ever tips, so that more external force rather than personal virtue is required to upload liberty, then ironically we no longer live in a free society.
And how would we respond then?
For those who have compromised their personal virtue to get into the circumstance where external forces restrain their liberties, invariably the response is submission. This is the inevitable outcome of a consumerist worldview: restrict liberty in order to be less free.
The only way to keep the balance from tipping more (it already is tipping) toward restraint by external force is to upload restraint by personal virtue.
We all desperately need to pursue the personal virtue of simplicity. Simplicity does not solve problems. It gives us space––the freedom––to solve problems. And we all know there are problems to solve.
Simplicity is action.