Giving Thanks and Looking Forward
Expressing gratitude, according to self-help gurus and neuroscientists
alike, is a sure route to being a happier person. Thanksgiving, then,
should be the happiest of all holidays—and not just because of the
turkey dinner with all the fixings and the football-watching marathon.
In addition to the good things this holiday brings, it also contributes
to well-being by encouraging us to give thanks for the good things in
our lives. And when I do stop and think about it, I am grateful for a
great many things.
On a personal level, I’ve got loving and beloved friends and family, a
happy and sane home life, relatively good health, and work that I find
meaningful and stimulating. I grew up in an overwhelmingly
French-speaking town, but went to English schools all my life, allowing
me to become almost perfectly bilingual, and now I live in one of the
safest big cities in the world. I had the pleasure of spending years
formally studying music, philosophy, and economics, all of which I now
have the privilege of continuing to study informally these many years
On a political level, I’m grateful to be living here and now, in this
country and century. Canada is one of the most economically free
countries in the world, and not coincidentally,
one of the wealthiest.
Thanks to a newfound liberty and dignity for inventors and
businesspeople starting just a couple of hundred years ago in northern
Europe, an explosion of innovation and rapid economic growth has made
almost everyone much better off today than anyone could have conceived
of back then.
Furthermore, in much of the world, the lot of women and minorities has
improved dramatically. And despite the impression left by a media
formula that still favours bad news over good, violence of all kinds
continues to decline.
If I sometimes complain—and I do, about things both big and small—I like
to think it’s because I can see an even better world just around the
corner, and I know we could get there a lot faster if we would only
tweak a few things. Of course, as often as not, I complain because I
haven’t been managing my sleep schedule properly and I’m just cranky.
Assuming that my motives are always noble is an example of a
by the way,
one of many
that can get in the way of objectivity and clear-headedness, and thereby
keep us from that better tomorrow.
“I look forward to a time when
the legitimacy of peacefully pursuing your own interests is
more widely recognized.”
I do see a better world, though, and I look forward to moving toward it,
in fits and starts, as we humans are wont to do. I look forward to the
continuing spread of Enlightenment values and sensibilities: reason,
science, peace, and trade. I look forward to the further democratization
of human life through that most democratic of institutions: the market.
Instead of imposing majority (or plurality) preferences on each other in
as the pendulum
swings from left to right, the market allows multiple options to
coexist peacefully. The more we can allow each other the freedom to live
our lives as we see fit, without trying to force our values down each
other’s throats, the more experiments in living we can carry out, with
all the benefits that we know experimentation brings.
It is important to note that this better world does not rely, as Marxist
and other utopias do, on a violation of human nature. We are flawed and
fallible creatures, which is a good reason not to invest in some of us
the power to rule over others. We tend to act for ourselves in the first
instance, and for others only in widening and weakening circles of
empathy, but how could it be otherwise? As long as we do not initiate
force against each other, this egoism can spur us to serve each other
through positive-sum trade, and can even be a fountainhead of
I look forward to a time when the legitimacy of peacefully pursuing your
own interests is more widely recognized. On a related note, I look
forward to a time when actions are not judged primarily by their “good”
intentions, but by their actual effects. Many altruistic or seemingly
altruistic acts do more harm than good, and many egoistic ones are
immensely beneficial. To judge according to intentions alone is to care
more about appearing virtuous than about actually working toward a
We have already come so far, and I am truly grateful to the giants of
the past who gave so much of themselves—altruistically perhaps, but with
a deep and healthy egoism as well,
I am convinced. And I look forward with optimism, in this age of
information, that we will do what it takes to continue to evolve our
institutions and bring them more in line with the accumulated knowledge
and wisdom of humankind.
From the same author
Overpopulation: Pictures vs. Numbers
333 – June 15, 2015)
La liberté économique améliore le bien-être humain
(avec Yanick Labrie)
330 – 15 mars 2015)
Economic Freedom Improves Human Well-Being (with
330 – March 15, 2015)
Fifty Shades of Statism
329 – February 15, 2015)
Freedom Encourages Goodwill to All
327 – December 15, 2014)
First written appearance of the
word 'liberty,' circa 2300 B.C.
Le Québécois Libre
Promoting individual liberty, free markets and voluntary
cooperation since 1998.