Rules and Freedom

Here’s our great friend DC on the seemingly paradoxical issue of rules that facilitate freedom.

To say “I’m no longer going to let myself do X” can feel like we’re trading enjoyment and freedom for some drab moral aspiration like purity or perfection.

We’ve all experienced the pain of living under unfair or unsympathetic rules, especially the ones imposed on us as children by teachers and grownups. Having our freedom curtailed, often for reasons we don’t understand or didn’t agree to, is painful.

But setting rules for yourself is completely different. Freedom is the whole point. Who’s more free? The person determined to live on significantly less than their means, no matter what, or the person who shops like a “free spirit?”

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

2 Responses to “Rules and Freedom”

  1. ceratonia says:

    I spent some time thinking about that raptitude post last night.

    I already have some variation on the rules he mentions about health & fitness (do something active outside every day, eat vegetables in every meal including breakfast, no food after 7pm unless with friends) but none for work or money. Having rules puts certain decisions on auto-pilot. Not sure whether that is a good thing or not.

  2. I don’t know. David makes a strong case for personal rules. The tooth-brushing example is solid, as are yours. Maybe there’s a point where it’s beneficial to call off the rules, when rewards have peaked, but generally I think it’s better to have them than to not. Fencing off certain areas seems to result in fuller freedom elsewhere.

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