Does a man govern himself better under heavy external influences of control or by his own will? In general man will fare better when governing himself. This is the natural course, that man governs himself by the laws of nature and his own capacity. He is free to observe his situation, make a plan, carry out his plan and reap the reward or suffer the consequences, whatever the case may be. From his experience he learns how to approach the next situation. If is will is limited then this process doesn’t work as well. An externally governed person in the same situation may be influenced by legislation (man-made laws) imposing penalties for behavior that would otherwise be in accordance with natural laws. This effects his choices, which effects his plan, which effects his consequence, which then effects his learning. Essentially, those creating the legislation determine to some small degree what outcomes the individual is free to experience. This shapes all future experiences the person may have as well. This is the result of telling people what they can or cannot do.
Natural laws deal with shoulds and shouldn’ts not cans and cannots. There is a difference. Natural laws are a recommendation which, if followed, will lead to the best outcome. Legislated laws are a strict edict which deal a punishment if not followed. Individual will needs the opportunity to fail if it is to thrive and the individual is to gain the most experience and learning. Legislated laws attempt to remove failure by making failure punishable by law, rather than consequential by nature. Too much restriction on individual will leads to atrophy of will, which is also known as dependence. Independence is the ability to navigate the world by exercise of individual will. It is better to rely on self-governance than to rely on external control governance.
Self-governance is ideal, but depending upon the loudest influences it can be dangerous. In order to have a successful culture of self-governance virtue must abound. Virtue is power drawn from willing compliance to natural laws. Virtue follows the good influence of the opposition in all things. Virtue is the result of good use of independence. The tendency towards virtue is innate, but then the practice of it is reinforced or abandoned as life progresses. Virtuous living (including honesty, chastity, respect, charity and forgiveness to name a few) must be taught and should be the fundamental lesson in socialization. It falls upon the parents and the family to teach virtuous living and self-governance. The truly free and independent live according to the dictates of their conscience, which conscience does not contradict virtue. The conscience can be desensitized and ignored until a counterfeit conscience seems to appear, but the natural conscience will not contradict virtue. When these principles of living are taught then individual will thrives and self-governance becomes a viable way to live in society.
Toddlers express a desire to be individual when they begin to develop autonomy. They do not give up their reliance on and preference for familial interaction, but line by line they develop the tendency toward autonomy. If they are taught well and allowed the freedom to exercise their will as appropriate, by virtuous parents, then their liberty increases along with their education and experience. They act in society-minded ways, lifting others and carrying their own load as best they can. Though they will yet make poor decisions, they will endeavor to repair damages and redouble their effort to live well.
I believe this is achievable, but it requires a conscious, prolonged and sustained effort by every individual. Every individual needs to find value in something beyond their self. It is interesting that self-governance cannot succeed under principles of selfish living. I see it as an affront to nature to put too much reliance on external factors of control, such as with a formal government, elected or otherwise. I know it is impractical and illogical to expect a society will exist with such minimal governance from external sources, but I still hope for it. There will always be individuals who find ways to skirt the methods of control to carry out their own selfish desires. These same individuals would likely create countless victims in a society with minimal external control as well. This is why the emphasis needs to be on teaching virtuous living and self-governance. If the people are taught how to live well, I believe they will then be more likely to do it. At any rate, what we are doing now obviously isn’t working.