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Do You Feel Free?

Don Newman | September 20 2004

Do you really know what it would be like to be truly free? To be totally responsible for yourself and not have government dictate your wages, your jobs, whether you could join a union or not, where you can live, the method of transportation commuting to work, where you can park and for how much, how much you can save tax-free for retirement, what minimum wage you can work for, how many hours you must work to qualify for medical insurance, whether you qualify for medical insurance or not, and the endless list of government programs that you must support through taxes?

Do you really know what freedom is?

We supposedly cherish freedom in this country, laud it and proclaim it. The question is: How free are we really? In contrast to Cuba we are rather free. In contrast to the ideal that our Founding Fathers envisioned, well, that is a different matter, isn‘t it? Just because we are more free than the people in North Korea or Cuba doesn’t mean that we are “free,” in the most liberal sense of the word (to turn the modern usage of that word on its head.)

Do we, today, really know what it is to be truly free? How can we? Think of all the restrictions upon your actions that are imposed by government. Taxes, regulations, restrictions and requirements that are implemented by government, that have nothing to do with preventing you from doing harm to others, but are merely exercises in curtailing your freedom. Born into these, you have experienced them your whole life. You know no alternative, have no knowledge of what it would be like to be truly free.

In current times, these restrictions and regulations have grown to massive proportions. Every aspect of life is regulated. What action is there that one can take that isn’t governed by a plethora of government mandates? Citizens, homeowners, schools, farmers, businesses and corporations are all subject to endless decrees that circumscribe the actions of all in every area and nearly every aspect of life, commerce and existence. Is this freedom?

An element that has been lost from the original formulation of freedom promulgated by our Founders is the concept of “self-government.” In the modern sense this idea appears to mean the tyranny of the majority as it votes for restrictions upon the rest of society. That the society “governs itself.” This is a fatal error.

The true idea of “self-government” is that each individual must govern him or her self, so that excessive regulation by the state isn’t necessary. Self-government is the responsibility of a free people to truly govern themselves on an individual basis. This means that government doesn’t require you to not pollute the stream, because you recognize the responsibility to not do so, on your own. You “govern” yourself.

This concept of self-government is missing today. It has become perverted to the idea that the “people” govern themselves by means of majority rule, as opposed to self-government on the part of individuals in their personal lives. The former is actually a form of collectivism, the beginning stages of communism, and the latter is the responsibility of liberty, in fact, is the definition of liberty.

These issues are something to consider as we seek to impose “freedom” on a country like Iraq. (The idea of imposing freedom is itself an oxymoron, but don’t let that stand in the way. We are going to give them freedom whether they like it or not.) Before we require others to live by our standard, we need to make sure we really know what that standard is.

Is it the environmental regulations and zoning that tell one whether a house can be built upon a given piece of property or not, or is it the ever growing burden of taxation on the individual to finance projects that many don’t want and that work against their own interests? Is it the welfare system that pays the poor to remain in poverty or the farm subsidies that rob consumers through taxes to pay huge corporations to not grow more crops and thereby maintain higher prices for those same consumers?

The idea that we live in a “free” nation is a relative one. It is an idea that is being increasingly qualified by certain interests, from environmentalists to corporations, and needs to be re-examined from time to time, especially today. While in comparison to other countries we may be somewhat free, the idea that we are “truly” free is actually in question. And the answer to that question is: “Do we really know what it is to be ‘truly’ free, or are we free in name only?”

This is something each individual must answer for him or her self. Examine all the constraints upon your choices imposed by government and ask yourself if you truly feel you are free. What would your life be like if you could be truly free?

It isn’t a question that is often asked because we don’t know what the answer would be. For many people, the answer would be too frightening. They prefer having the government take care of them and tell them what to do. Therein lies the problem. But that isn’t the American Ideal. It is just what we have become.

Every day, it seems, we lose a little bit more of our freedom. There are people out there who want you to give up your car, force you to live in little cracker box houses piled one on another, tell you what you can or can’t eat, how you can live, where you can live, on and on in endless profusion. These people succeed because you don’t contemplate the alternative, a life of freedom. This is what they are counting on.

So you, from time to time, must remind yourself, ask yourself: “How would my life be different if I were truly free? How would this country be different if everyone were truly free? How would this country be different if everyone were truly responsible for him or her self? How would this country be different if everyone exercised self government?”

Yes, there are many who wouldn’t like that result, but that isn’t the question. If we are going to celebrate and laud our freedom, as we so often do, shouldn’t we have it in the first place before doing so? Otherwise we are just living in a self-deluded fantasyland. This is something that we in America must really think about as we enter the next millennia.

If this country loses the true standard of what freedom is, it will be lost to the world. We hold that torch that is in the hand of the Statue of Liberty and we best not forget what it means. If we do, there is no telling how long it will be lost to the world. Maybe, forever.

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