29. Oktober 2023  •  2 Minuten

Is the enshrinement of free will the massive blunder of liberalism?

The liberal story cherishes human liberty as its number one value. It argues that all authority ultimately stems from the free will of individual humans, as it is expressed in their feelings, desires and choices.


However, for better or worse, elections and referendums are not about what we think. They are about what we feel. And when it comes to feelings, Einstein and Dawkins are no better than anyone else. Democracy assumes that human feelings reflect a mysterious and profound ‘free will’, that this ‘free will’ is the ultimate source of authority, and that while some people are more intelligent than others, all humans are equally free. Like Einstein and Dawkins, an illiterate maid also has free will, hence on election day her feelings – represented by her vote – count just as much as anybody else’s.


This reliance on the heart might prove to be the Achilles heel of liberal democracy. For once somebody (whether in Beijing or in San Francisco) gains the technological ability to hack and manipulate the human heart, democratic politics will mutate into an emotional puppet show.


As the Spanish Inquisition and the KGB give way to Google and Baidu, ‘free will’ will likely be exposed as a myth, and liberalism might lose its practical advantages.

— Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

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