Summary: HOW I FOUND FREEDOM IN AN UNFREE WORLD by Harry Browne
Harry Browne’s Freedom Principles
Answered by Peter Taradash, EdenPress.com
Harry Browne defined freedom as living your life as you want to live it.
He claimed that you can enjoy a high degree of freedom right now. He
indicates that: Hoping to be free, many people engage in continual
social combat joining movements, urging political action, writing
letters to editors and Congressmen, trying to educate people.
They hope that someday it will all prove to have been worthwhile.
But as the years go by they see little overall change. Small victories
are won; defeats set them back. The world seems to continue on its path
to wherever it ‘s going. Until they die, the hopeful remain just as
enslaved as they’ve always been.
The plans, the movements, the crusades none of these things has
worked. And so the un-free man continues to dream, to condemn, and to
remain where he is.
There must be a better way
Fortunately, there is such a way.
There’s a way that depends entirely upon what you choose to do. You can
live your life as you want to live it no matter what others decide to
do with their lives.
By trying to change others in order to become free you’re always trying
to do something out of your control. On the other hand, you can use
methods to free yourself that are completely under your control.
There are two basic reasons why most people remain enslaved:
They’re unaware of the many options and alternatives available to them;
They accept without challenge certain assumptions that restrict their
These are the “assumptions traps.” As long as you don’t challenge
these assumptions, they can keep you enslaved.
If you want to increase your freedom, Grandpa’s Bye Bye Big Brother and Browne’s How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World and are must reading. I don’t know of any other books that even come close to providing you with such powerful self-liberating information. Here is a brief overview.
Identity Trap #1: The belief that you should be someone other than
yourself. You need to be true to yourself. Find out who you are; be
yourself; do things your own way.
Identity Trap #2: The assumption that others will do things the way you
would. You can’t control others, but you can control how you deal with
them. Harry Browne says, “you have tremendous control over your life,
but you give up that control when you try to control others.”
Intellectual Trap: The belief that your emotions should conform to an
intellectually preconceived standard. Emotions are best regarded as
signals that tell you how you’re doing. (For the most powerful
techniques to achieve emotional control, see Report #TL12: How to
Achieve Emotional Control.)
Emotional Trap: The belief that you can make important decisions when
you’re feeling strong emotions.
Morality Trap: The belief that you must obey a moral code created by
someone else. In order to become more competent (and free) you need to
strengthen your understanding of the cognitive links between your
actions and the consequences you produce. Morality is basically a set of
very general rules concerning what to do and what not to do, generally
involving large consequences. Blindly using someone else’s moral code,
tends to reduce your competence, because it prevents the forming of
proper cognitive links between actions and consequences. To be free you
need to create your own moral code.
Unselfishness Trap: The belief that you must put the happiness of others
ahead of your own. A world of maximum value is a function of the total
of maximum individual value. You know yourself and what you value far
better than you know others and what they value. Therefore, you are much
more competent to increase your own value than that of others. So,
maximum value is achieved by each individual maximizing his or her own
Because we live in an “expanding-pie” world, it’s possible to maximize
personal value while at the same time adding to the value of others. We
maximize personal value by creating values for others to freely choose.
The assumptions that “selfishness” and “greed” are evil need to be
Group Trap: The belief that you can accomplish more by sharing
responsibilities, efforts, and rewards with others than you can by
acting on your own; the belief that anyone can speak on behalf of
To overcome the Group Trap organizations can be organized in such a
manner that the links between actions, results, and rewards are as
direct as possible. For example, instead of hiring additional personnel,
work can be subcontracted.
Government Trap #1: The belief that governments perform socially useful
functions that deserve your support.
Government Trap #2: The belief that you have a duty to obey laws.
Government Trap #3: The belief that the government can be counted upon
to carry out a social reform you favor.
Government Trap #4: The fear that the government is so powerful that it
can prevent you from being free.
The above are Browne’s Government Traps. Grandpa adds the following:
Government Trap #5: The belief that government people can do anything
better than other people. Government people don’t have any special
Government Trap #6: The belief that governments will produce beneficial
results. Because government people essentially collect their income at
the point of a gun, they don’t have to produce anything worthwhile to
survive. In fact, their incentive is to make all problems worse so they
can demand more taxes to “solve” the problems.
Government Trap #7: The belief that government represents the people.
Individuals always represent themselves (Unselfishness and Group Traps).
To think otherwise is a delusion.
Government Trap #8: The belief that government can conjure up resources
from thin air. Everything government has, was essentially stolen at the
point of a gun.
Government Trap #9: The belief that government provides protection. Just
look at the crime statistics.
Government Trap #10: The belief that certain activities or functions
must be done by government. Government consists of people. These people
don’t have any special magical powers.
Government Trap #11: The belief that government must or can control
people. Because only individuals control the energy that animates their
bodies, it’s really impossible for anyone to control anyone else.
However, people can relinquish self-control by choice or unwittingly.
Government Trap #12: The belief that you have to do something about
solving the problem of government. You are best off solving your own
problems. In addition, you may also want to persuade a few others to
solve their own problems. If enough people solved their own problems,
the problem of government will disappear.
Government Trap #13: The belief that government exists as a volitional
entity. This is an aspect of the Group Trap. When having to deal with
“government,” you always have to deal with individual human beings.
Realizing this helps make you much more effective in warding off any
attempts by individual government people to violate your freedom. Rather
than having to handle “the government,” you have to handle one or a few
specific individuals. Frederic Bastiat said. “The State is the great
fictitious entity by which everyone expects to live at the expense of
everyone else.” [emphasis added]
Government Trap #14: The belief that the government’s constitution is a
valid, legal contract. All the government constitutions I know of are
fraudulent hoaxes. For a contract to be valid it must be entered into
knowingly, intentionally, and explicitly. Have you ever signed any
so-called “constitution” of any supposed “country?” What if all coercive
political systems are fraudulent hoaxes? See Report #TL07: The
Constitution of No Authority.
Government Trap #15: The belief that government can make laws. In the
final analysis, the noises and scribbles that emanate from the mouths
and pens of government officials are just noises and scribbles. The
power you ascribe to these noises and scribbles is your choice.
Obviously, the vast majority of people believe that the noises and
scribbles of government people constitute “the law.” There are also
hordes of bureaucrats, police, and judges who regard “the law” as
sacrosanct. If they suspect you disrespect their “law,” they tend to
feel very threatened and may become extremely vindictive. There are
times when your freedom depends on your ability to convince them that
you respect the noises and scribbles they call “the law.” See Report
#TL07B: The Nature of Government.
Despair Trap: The belief that other people can prevent you from being
free. You are always free to move on and start a new life.
Rights Trap: The belief that your rights will make you free. The U.S.A.
is supposed to be a country where certain individual rights are
guaranteed by the Constitution and government officials are supposed to
swear an oath to uphold the Constitution. Yet there are thefts,
robberies, rapes, murders, etc. every day. Furthermore, government
officials violate individual rights with abandon in the form of
taxation, regulation, more taxation, and more regulation.
In choosing your actions, you are far better off carefully considering
the consequences to yourself, rather than acting in accordance with your
“rights.” As Max Stirner said, “Might is a fine thing, and useful for
many purposes; for “one goes further with a handful of might than with a
bagful of right.”
Utopia Trap: The belief that you must create better conditions in
society before you can be free. You’re far better off and much more
powerful if you concentrate on changing and improving yourself ‘ and
creating your own personal utopia of freedom and wealth rather than
trying to transform society.
The world-changers are powerless. They dream of remaking the world; but
they can’t, and so they’ve placed emphasis where they have no
power at all.
Free men recognize that they can’t change the world. and so they
concentrate on the enormouspower they do have . They realize
that they can choose not to be involved in situations that don’t suit
So they look for situations that do suit them. And they discover far
more opportunities for such situations than most people imagine exist.
A free person doesn’t try to remake the world or his friends or his
family. He merely appraises every situation by the simple standard: Is
this what I want for myself? If it isn’t, he looks elsewhere. If it is,
he relaxes and enjoys it without the problems most people take
A free man uses his tremendous power of choice to make a comfortable
life for himself.
The power of choice. You have it. But you forfeit it when you imagine
that you can choose for others. You can’t.
But you can choose for yourself from hundreds of exciting,
Why not use that power?
Burning Issue Trap: The belief that there are compelling social issues
that require your participation.
Previous-Investment Trap: The belief that time, effort, and money spent
in the past must be considered when making a decision in the present.
You know the old saying, “Don’t throw good money after bad.
“In every case, the question is: With what you have now, what is the
best way to use that to get the most in the future?” What you’ve paid to
get where you are now is irrelevant; those resources are gone and can’t
be retrieved. Kiss the past good-bye.
Box Trap: A box is any uncomfortable situation that restrains your
freedom. The box trap is the belief that the cost of getting out of a
box is too high to consider. The problems associated with maintaining a
false image are part of the box trap.
To get out of a box, consider three factors, that is, the disadvantages
of the box:
The price you pay for remaining stuck in the box;
The cost of escaping from the box; and
What you could do after escaping the box, that is, the benefits you gain
by escaping the box.
Obviously, marriage or citizenship could be a box. There’s a very important
principle: the sooner you pay the price to get out of a box, the less it
costs you. In other words, the longer you stay in a box the more it
Certainty Trap: The urge to act as if your information were totally
certain. Firstly, our perception is limited and subject to error.
Secondly, information evolves continuously. Tomorrow we’ll know more
than today. Some of what we know today will be proved wrong by what we
Because we always act on incomplete or on at best partially correct
information, we take risks in everything we do. Harry Browne says:
The individual who ignores these risks can lose his freedom in three
1. He’s likely to take risks that would be unacceptable if he were to
recognize them; and by acting rashly he can get himself into boxes that
restrict his freedom.
2. When things don’t go his way, his previous certainty can turn quickly
to despair and depression: after all, he was “so sure.” Now that he’s
discouraged, his emotions can tempt him to run from his bad consequences
into a worse situation. In other words, he’s fallen into the Emotional
3. By accepting opinions as absolute fact, he can allow his freedom to
be restricted by information that may not be true.”
Harry Browne identifies five “information principles”:
Popularity isn’t proof. The fact “everybody knows” could mean little or
Be skeptical about new information. Don’t expect to have an explanation
for everything. To some extent, you always have to act in the dark.
You can’t see everything; recognize that you see only part of the
Recognize the risks and liabilities. Action always involves risk.
“You are the sovereign authority for your life. You are the ruler who
makes the decisions regarding how you will act, what information you
will accept. You do it anyway but if you recognize that you do it, you
can gain much greater control over your future
But whether or not you accept it, you are sovereign. You rule one life
and you rule it totally.
You decide which information you will accept or reject. You decide what
your next action will be. You decide what moral code you’ll live by
To be free, you have only to make the decision to be free. Freedom is
waiting for you anytime you’re ready for it.”
Harry Browne died on March 1, 2006
Dr. W. G. Hill disappeared in the Amazon Jungle on the same day.
Peter Taradash survives; was last seen 2016 in Monaco.