One thing I've learned over forty plus years of life is that no matter how independently I wish to live, to think, and to pursue my own happiness, my independence itself depends on conscientious awareness of my interdependent relationship with the world and other people in it. Like it or not, I necessarily depend upon other people - and they also depend upon me - whether I like it or not. Alas, have I gone "socialist," or am I talking about the free market as I understand it?
I depend upon other people to respect my property. My independence depends on my ability to provide for myself - and not engage in stealing from others, nor allow others to deprive me of property. My welfare depends on my labor and my willingness to perform a useful function in society, as long as I'm capable of doing so - and leaving others be to do the same without my interference. My well being depends on my realizing that every member of the human species goes through stages of dependence on others, in infancy, childhood, infirmity, and old age, including myself - my state of independence cannot secede from humanity without harmful consequences to my state of interdependence.
I depend upon other people to refrain from aggression against me. My security depends on my ability to protect myself without acting aggressively against others, or having my means of protecting myself taken by force. When the weak depend upon the powerful for protection, the weak get weaker and the strong get stronger. The weak do not long retain riches, nor do the powerful refrain from accumulating riches out of fondness for poverty.
I rely upon other people to honor their contracts with me. My happiness depends on my ability to honor contracts that I make freely, and my freedom from contracts that I do not choose to make. When a gentleman's word and the presence of reliable witnesses is not sufficient to validate a contract, inviting ungentlemanly words and the presence of unreliable witnesses as our court system does only undermines people's ability to contract freely and moderate disagreements fairly, speedily and amicably. The more people who become party to a given contract the less ability an individual person retains to negotiate agreeable terms. The State conducts itself as an open-ended, open-armed, constantly changing contractual arrangement forcibly embracing all comers with or without consent. I cannot choose whether the State embraces me - only whether to yield to it, or to protest.
I depend on other people to tolerate their differences with me. My participation in an interdependent world is subject to my personal approval, and when I feel subject to harsh disapproval from others or make others the object of my disapproval, my relationships with others deteriorate. Independence allows for free interaction with others - isolation, by reducing interdependence, results in less independence. We're most free when we're free to interrelate with others without coercion - and least free when we're unable to.
I depend on other people to respect my needs, as I respect the needs of others. Freedom to prioritize and provide for our own needs enhances interdependence - when people fail to respect each other's needs, everyone concerned feels needy due to unmet needs. Just as I cannot determine priorities for anyone else, no one who presumes to determine my needs for me shows respect for my primary need - a healthy sense of interdependence.
The State has no incentive to protect the independence of the individual, since it has no power without dependents to justify its protective authority. The State has every reason to wreak havoc with our states of interdependence, because it cannot guarantee our dependence on itself without destroying our interdependence. The State can only take what we already have, and can only give back what it has taken from us: It can take our independence by destroying our means of remaining interdependent. When we give government that power voluntarily or involuntarily, we lose both our interdependence and our independence because the two are not separate but indivisible. The greatest amount of independence naturally results in an optimal amount of interdependence.
I hear incessant talk these days about rights and responsibilities: "Patient's rights and responsibilities" and "citizen's rights and responsibilities" in particular. Responsibilities and rights are a package deal, just as independence and interdependence are. Someone who would define rights and responsibilities for me assumes that I'm not responsible enough to define my own, and will therefore define my rights on the same limiting basis.
Perhaps I'm not the only one who's noticed that the more we celebrate our independence, the less we appreciate it. This Fourth of July I mourn our interdependence - and am glad to have an opportunity to spend the day with friends who appreciate the independence we've individually lost as much as I do, in a state where it is still legal to wave sparklers like I did as a little kid. It certainly wouldn't feel appropriate to celebrate Independence Day anywhere else.