Sunday, July 27, 2008

What´s So Scary About Freedom?

This article was originally published at on July 19th, 2008

It seems to me that many Americans have given up on the concept of freedom, perhaps the majority of them. This is evident when you consider the "what´s in it for me?" mentality that many people take with them when they go to the polls to cast their votes. Many people are going to vote for a candidate they feel will give them a bigger piece of the economic pie. If one is poor, this traditionally means one will likely vote for a Democrat since it is often they who offer tighter business controls and social reforms that are supposedly good for the less fortunate and designed to redistribute wealth. Those of greater means often vote for a Republican because it is often they who offer tax cuts and laws designed to oppress those who some mistakenly believe are trying to steal from them or are trying to change the current culture. What these people may not realize is that these types of beliefs, these types of schisms, are the very things that empower the politicians and disempower the common man.

It seems to me that the politicians we have in this country have become quite adept at pitting one group against another. They, along with their media comrades, appear to have mastered the art of deflecting dialogue toward meaningless squabbles while evading real issues. In fact, I would venture a guess that we may very well have the best politicians in the world when it comes to this. It appears to me that those in power have effectively been able to divide the vast majority of the country into two camps which bicker and fret about fears that may very well go unrealized if not for the fact that so many are fretting about them. They seem to have effectively managed to get the majority of the population to engage in group think by planting the fear that one group is trying to tread upon the "rights" of another group. It is this phenomenon of thinking in terms of groups instead of in terms of individuals that leads to the collectivist societies we have seen fail over and over again in human history. It is this type of thinking that leads to tyranny. This is why our founding fathers emphasized the individual when they first set up a government to lead this nation, and it is individualist thought we need to return to in order to restore the freedom that so many of us realize we have lost.

But freedom is scary to many. It is something that seems to have been bred out of the common American citizen or a concept made foreign by the socialist group thinking we have grown up with and become accustomed to. We are no longer sovereign individuals, we are upper, middle or lower class. We are Democrats or Republicans. We are liberals or conservatives. We are pro life or pro choice. We are isolationists or interventionists. We are pro military or anti American. It´s ridiculous how many pigeon holes one can be placed into and categorized with. So many, in fact, that at times it seems many Americans have become frightened of mentioning even the most innocuous political questions for fear of offending and being left out of some group. Every issue seems to have become polarized and painted in black and white. The majority seems to have forgotten that there are many colors in the rainbow as well as many different shades of gray.

And so, in our democratic society with the majority seemingly afraid of freedom and voting against anyone who advocates its restoration, how can we in the minority who wish to regain our freedoms do so? It may help if we explore exactly what it is that´s so scary about freedom. Why do people fear this concept of liberty? What is it that holds such a majority down and prevents them from realizing their true potential?

One thing I´ve noticed in my lifetime is that people have a tendency to fear that which they do not understand. I believe that one of the reasons freedom is so scary to some people is because they don´t understand its true meaning and its true nature. They confuse freedom with security. They believe that the way to make themselves more secure is to increase the power of the state and to try to force people into behaving as they wish them to behave. What they don´t seem to realize is that this leads to a police state, which leads to oppression of the masses. What they don´t seem to realize is that this kind of forced security is nothing short of bullying. People are people and will pursue their own desires. Trying to regulate their behavior to conform to some kind of perceived notion of the perfect human is not only destined to failure, it is just plain wrong. Security is not freedom. In fact, as for myself, as the efforts of the state to provide more security continue, I feel both less secure and less free. The more freedom American citizens have, the more they will be able to exercise their personal responsibility to provide for their own security, the better off we will all be in the long run.

Another fear many seem to have is the fear of loss. Some people seem to think that if we gain freedom they will suffer personal loss. They believe they will lose certain government entitlements they´ve been promised all their lives. This is an understandable fear that actually could be realized in a truly free society. Even so, perhaps what one fears isn´t so bad as he imagines. After all, do you really want to be propped up financially through the theft of your neighbors? Don´t forget that many government monies, hence many government entitlement programs, are financed through income taxes which are not voluntary as they were originally meant to be, but are payments coerced out of people under the threat of imprisonment, confiscation or worse. Other words for such collection of money would be racketeering, extortion and theft.

That said, it might be helpful to look at what would be gained economically in a free society rather than what would be lost. First and foremost one would be able to keep all the money one earns and decide for himself what products, services and charities one would like to spend his money on rather than seeing that money taken from them and someone else deciding how to spend it. You would gain the pride of knowing that you were working for yourself and your family, not the government. Many who would otherwise be getting government handouts would gain self esteem upon realizing that everything they own has been earned rather than given to them. Many would also gain knowledge and fiscal savvy as they determine their own retirement plans rather than using those that are government mandated. Besides, as it stands now entitlements are not all they are made out to be and many people have been greatly disappointed when depending on government programs.

Perhaps the most pervasive fear people have would be the fear of self reliance. People seem to be afraid to have to do things for themselves. They don´t want to have to shop for the best deals in medicine. They don´t want to have to decide which power company would offer the greatest value in terms of price and reliability. They don´t want to decide for themselves which safety features on their cars they want to spend their money on. They don´t want to have to determine for themselves which school to send their child to. They want other people to make those decisions for them. They want the government to tell them how to behave and where to spend their money. But this is a fear that would be easily overcome once people began to realize how easy these things can be. This fear would be non-existent once people began to see how many choices the free marketplace would provide and how quickly the prices would drop once real competition was introduced. When freedom reigns, fear quickly dissipates.

Fear is one way government maintains its power. Its one way that people who want to rule over us prevent us from using our own reasoning power to determine what is best in our own lives. Freedom is not a scary thing. Freedom is the dream had by people worldwide. Freedom is the light that once shined from this great nation of ours and attracted the oppressed and downtrodden of the world with its promise. We should not be afraid of freedom, we should have no fear when exercising it, and we should not be frightened when we give it to others for it will be reciprocated to us. If you give it some thought and begin to truly understand freedom, you should find that there is really nothing scary about freedom.

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