Friday, July 11, 2008

Fighting For Freedom With Our Choices

Written June 10

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that “nothing is more fertile in wondrous effect than the art of being free but nothing is harder than freedom’s apprenticeship. The same is not true of tyranny, which often advertises itself as the cure of all sufferings, the supporter of just rights, the upholder of the oppressed and the founder of order.”

As Americans, we regularly face choices about our government, its reach, and its effect upon our lives. No more so than during election years.

Through those we elect, we ultimately choose how much power our government will have over our lives, and in doing so, we decide how much more freedom we aspire to or how much less freedom we are willing to accept. We decide how much freedom we will or will not let the government take from us.

Only by our choices can we let the hard work of freedom be replaced by what superficially appears to be the easy route of government caring for our needs. In reality, that choice is government controlling our lives and requires surrendering the power of individual freedom to empower government instead.

Each time we opt for the government over our own hard work, we lose yet another degree of freedom. A choice to let the size and reach of government grow so that it can care for us is choosing freedom to be taken from us. We have chosen to let government, with its inevitable quagmire of regulations and bureaucracy, make another set of decisions for us. We have elected to let the behemoth dictate to us the parameters within which we will live.

With each allowance we make to government for controlling yet another aspect of our lives, we scurry away from the difficulties Tocqueville saw in “freedom’s apprenticeship.” Instead we select what appears to be the easy route of letting someone else become responsible for us, rather than being responsible for ourselves, our families, and our neighbors.

At best and at minimum that someone else is a benevolent democracy representative of the people with powers checked by the people. At worst it’s a tyrannical leader or group who promises all that Tocqueville said they would, but who in fact have taken power from the people in order to gain the power necessary to appear as the provider of all needs.

Between those two rests a government which is designed to empower the people, but through concessions by the people of their power, grows and grows until it takes on a power of its own. This government becomes increasingly difficult and finally impossible for the people to keep in check.

It gains strength enough to dictate to the people the parameters of their freedom rather than having free people decide the parameters of institutional power.

In today’s context such a government would determine the limits of, or simply eliminate, free speech or freedom of religion, and make its own interpretations of rights. It might use as its basis for doing so allowances of the people in one area to intrude upon others.

Such a government would control commerce more than less, view the fruits of individual’s hard work as its own to take at any percentage deemed necessary for redistribution or its own devices. It views all solutions as needing produced from within rather than by those who must live with the solutions.

Such governments eventually encompass enough power to even dictate where you live, the temperature of your home, what you will or won’t drive, how much food you’re allowed, and rations out substandard mandatory government health services. It may even decide what job is best for you and how you will educate or raise your own children.

Getting to such a cataclysmic point does not happen by accident. It happens by the design of some to garner power unto themselves, their affiliates, others unwilling to work hard for freedom, and gains momentum through those whose daily lives are so difficult or busy they unwittingly follow the path being lit. Eventually, enough people have to choose to shift their own power to the government.

As Americans we constantly have to be aware of the likely consequences of our choices. Do we opt for the path of hard work and maintenance or reacquisition of freedoms, or do we surrender them to those who, as Tocqueville warned they would, advertise themselves “as the cure of all sufferings, the supporter of just rights, the upholder of the oppressed and the founder of order?”

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