Dec 03

Freedom From What: Responsibility or Tyranny?

Freedom From What: Responsibility or Tyranny?

By: Brian Samuels

Sometimes in politics, it seems like the only thing opposing political parties can agree on is to keep fighting with each other. Even when they agree with each other, they will often continue to yell at each other and hurl foul names. One instance where this odd persistence in quarreling occurs is in disputes regarding freedom. Those on the left and right of the political spectrum both claim they are fighting to protect every person’s right to be free. But if they are both in favor of freedom, why are they still carrying on like two children in the backseat on a five hour car ride? It all has to do with what it means to be free.

Many people have heard of the concept of freedom, but not everyone agrees upon what it means. How should one define this word; it all depends upon who you ask. If a reader would ask this author, they would be told that “freedom” is defined as a person being able to act to further their life in the direction that they deem will maximize their happiness without outside constraint. Freedom is a pathway that one can take to attain what they desire and not a final destination. Freedom does not guarantee financial success, safety, or happiness; but then again, nothing in life is guaranteed. When one is free they have the opportunity to pursue what they desire: whether it is money, a large family full of children, or peace and quiet.

While there are many advantages to being free, it is not without risk. When a person is free to act as they desire, both positive and negative results may ensue; nothing is guaranteed. When people are free, they will fail in some of their efforts due to a lack of effort, ability, or favorable environmental circumstances, but they will have the opportunity to try something else when their actions do not go as they would like. The path of freedom can be smooth sailing for some and a bumpy road for others; the only guarantee is opportunity.

Some do not agree with the above view of freedom; rather, they define a life of freedom as a world free of unhappy endings. They believe in an alternative reality where nothing can harm them and all their needs are met. This is a magical land where a person can party like a rock star, spend all their money and never end up in debt. In many respects, it is similar to living in a Disney movie; a fairy godmother is always able to bail a person out by turning a pumpkin into a fancy coach when a ride is needed. The ideal life is one where every whim is met at no cost to the individual.

In an attempt to create a life free from bad things ever occurring, people try to control everything in an attempt to eliminate all risk. The government writes laws and issues regulations to ensure that nothing bad ever happens. Unfortunately, childproofing the planet requires the government to take away one freedom after another: parents are not allowed to bring a birthday cake to school, someone might be allergic to an ingredient; do not drink alcohol, someone might accidentally harm another; and no one is ever allowed to fire a BB gun, they might shoot their eye out. Fearmongers argue that the government should make all of these situations illegal in order to make the world free from harm, but when the government bans all of these actions have they created freedom or shackles in disguise? A person might consider themselves free in such a world, but a more accurate summation would be that the individual has become a slave to safety. People are not allowed to take risks because they might hurt themselves. Ironically in such a world, people can still be harmed, the only thing they cannot be is free to do as they wish.

With all of this in mind, which type of freedom seems preferable? Making choices for one’s self would require grit to strive for success and might result in failure. The alternative involves relying on the Government to take care of us?  If allowed; government will try to meet our every need and keep us safe, but at a heavy price. By ceding more and more of our money through taxes, the Leviathan, which is government, will continue to grow as individuals’ freedom to act shrinks.  With less money, people will have fewer resources to do what they wish. With more regulations, the individual will be forced to do what government “knows is best” for everyone.

How should an individual respond to this continual growth of government? Should a person embrace and cheer its growth or push back and demand a less intrusive government?


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