Freedoms Vanishing Act
Dr. Kevin Shrum
Maybe it’s just me, but I hear the encroaching hoof-beats of that dark and mysterious stallion otherwise known as Big Brother-Big Government-Statism. And I don’t think I’m overstating the case. While the ever-present, ubiquitous state and federal governments increasingly squelch human freedom and liberty by confiscating and/or limiting our unalienable rights, the regulation of everything we do from what we eat, to what we buy, to what we say, to where we can or cannot build and live, to what we think continues to grow. Rather than enjoying the freedom that come through self-regulation, self-moderation and self-interest, a small, but growing group of elites do not trust the common man with his/her own freedom. Freedom and liberty are vanishing right before our very eyes.
By definition, and contrary to popular opinion, freedom is not the freedom to do as one pleases without regard for self or others. The reason this is not true freedom is because this kind of freedom usually ends up in some form of bondage to ones chosen vice. Freedom becomes bondage if abused (Gal. 5:13). True freedom is defined by doing what one ought to do; it is a matter of self-imposed regulation based upon a set of eternal truths rather than state-imposed regulation. And the state is more than happy to accommodate our willingness to abdicate our freedoms for a porridge made of state-regulated guarantees. While there is a role for government to regulate those who will not regulate themselves (Romans 13:1-7), this regulation should be limited, specific, and reluctant.
What magicians are to blame for our vanishing freedoms? Granted, those who believe that government is the arbiter of all things good are partly to blame. These magicians of freedom hold to the truth that the ‘collective’ – the state – best represents the people. With slight of hand and thought, they have convinced many that there should be equal opportunity for all and equal outcomes. That is, no one person or group of persons should be allowed to excel to any significant degree over any other person in society no matter how well they use their freedoms and opportunities – personal accountability is out, equal-outcomes are in.
Rather than the state securing our freedoms, the state must regulate individual freedoms to insure that no one person or group experiences un-equal outcomes. Individual achievement is literally flat-lined. To risk and succeed is deemed unfair and uncivilized. The use of one’s freedom to pursue self-interest and to gain thereby is considered selfish and too individualistic. The horizon of freedom must be flatland and not mountainous, where individuals have the opportunity to stand out like the majestic and multitudinous peaks of the Himalayas.
But there are other magicians behind freedoms vanishing act. What is so troubling at this time in our history is that many individuals are willing to give up their freedoms for certain personal securities or rights, i.e. jobs, insurance, housing, social security, individual security, etc. These ‘silver-lining’ issues come at a great price – the loss of individual freedom. In other words, many individual Americans are to blame for their own ever-increasing loss of freedom. We, the people, have become the magician’s assistant.
I believe the issue of freedom will be the key issue both now and in the years to come. Freedom is risky. Yet, we must be kept free to try and succeed or to try and fail only to try again. We must be free to say and think what we will without fear of reprisal, save for that small number of exceptions like yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. We must be free to worship, to gather, to create, to associate, and to produce within the confines of our own self-interests that are regulated by a moral and ethical center rather than an outwardly imposed regulation.
Do not let the term ‘self-interest’ scare you, morphing its meaning into some kind of selfishness. I am using the term ‘self-interest’ in the classic manner used to describe the basic belief that it is my individual responsibility to seek my own shelter, my own food, and my own way in life and in the life of my family. Historically, freedom used in this ‘self-interested’ manner has usually benefited the entire community. Communities don’t create things, individuals do. Communities benefit most when the self-regulated, free members of that community are allowed to freely create, produce, and seek their own self-interests in responsible ways. When the community becomes the definer of individual self-interests then freedom is killed, creativity is hampered, and responsibility is transferred to outside forces.
I can hear the push back already, ‘But what about those who abuse their freedoms and, as a result, abuse the freedoms of others?’ Yes, it is true that there are many who will abuse their freedoms without self-regulation, i.e. individuals, businesses. This is why we are a nation of laws, laws that are not meant to punish the whole of society through the arbitrary limitation of the freedoms of the majority, but laws that are specifically directed toward the people who abuse their freedoms. Punishing the whole by limiting their freedoms is like punishing the whole class because one or two individuals messed up.
‘But, what about those who are truly unable to use their freedoms to help themselves?’ i.e. the disabled, the genuinely poor, etc. Every society has a certain degree of individuals that for one reason of another are unable to fully actualize their freedoms. This is what has made America great – we have used a degree of our freedoms as a nation to assist those who are unable. Check out this truth – the freest nations are also the most benevolent.
The problem in recent decades is that we have used our greatness as a nation to not only assist those who are unable to help themselves, but those who are unwilling to help themselves. We have made unwillingness a disability, an excuse to discredit the virtues of individual responsibility, accountability, and risk/reward.
Our vanishing freedoms will continue to diminish if we continue to allow the magicians of our culture – both state and self – to con us into thinking that freedom is abnormal, self-centered, and unfair. Freedom to do what we ought to do is better than freedom used to do whatever we want to do regardless of how it may affect others. Self-regulated freedom is better than state-regulated freedom. And state-regulated freedom is no freedom at all because when the state controls our freedoms is vanishes right before our very eyes.