"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."
-Samuel Adams

the Misanthropic Humanist:


04 July 2008

Little Freedoms: Happy Fourth!

On the 4th of July, we celebrate our freedom from England. It seems to me that this is a great time to address the Tyranny of self-oppression. That is the tendency even within a republic to continually restrict behavior when we see somebody else doing something that we don't like. Thomas Jefferson said that "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Would were it that simple. In modern times the patriots and tyrants are one in the same. If the enemy of our freedom was an easily identifiable outsider with evil aims and an obvious purpose, then no doubt we would all band together and defend to the death the big freedoms that we all hold so dear. Things become much more difficult when we oppress ourselves incrementally, day in and day out with small and often well meaning regulations of our daily lives. The battlefront against this assault on freedom doesn't involve blood or weapons, but a re-kindling of fervor for the real and tangible freedoms that we all forget to defend.

Which fireworks did you purchase this 4th of July? Bottle rockets? Roman Candles? How about those cool flying saucers that whistle and shoot up in the air before catching on fire? Probably none of the above, because they're all illegal. Are you building a house? You'll discover that you really don't have much say at all in where to build it or what it will look like. In most of the country, building codes, zoning laws, and CCR's now restrict nearly every aspect of your home, from the height and number of stories, to the building materials, what color you can paint it, and whether the doors open in our out. And then for your efforts, you'll pay around $30,000 for required impact fees, taxes, permits, and the services of "professionals" that you are required to solicit whether you need them or not. Our ancestors were picking off redcoats for taxing their morning tea, but we allow local authorities to determine elements that are very basic to how we live our daily lives. Do you ride a motorcycle? Chances are that the state you live in requires you to wear a helmet. Think about that... I'm not recommending riding without one - I personally think that's kinda stupid - but the only person you will potentially hurt by doing so is yourself. How is that anybody's business buy your own?

You can't buy apple cider any more because it all has to have the flavor pasteurized out of it. You can't get on an airline without taking your shoes off, because some moron from England didn't blow up a plane with his sneakers. You can't try an experimental medicine that may save your life. You kids can't ride a big-wheel without a helmet. You can't grade your land without a native plant preservation plan. You can't have a campfire on the beach. You can't camp where you want in a national park. You have to have corn in your gas. You can only water your grass on odd days. The government wants to set your thermostat. You are required to have a fence around your swimming pool. You need a permit to chop firewood. You can't sell beer on sundays. You can't distill. You can't smoke in a restaurant. A-ha!

I bet I got some of you on that one. You like smoke-free restaurants. How about a bar? How about a cigar shop? How about a personally owned business where the owner is the sole employee? This is where I make my point. I too enjoy smoke free bars and restaurants, but that is beside the point. Each and every one of the laws above was made to help somebody in some way, but each and every one of them also restricts somebody else. You may be irked by one that restricts something that you like to do, but then champion and cheer for one that restricts something that you don't like. Like smoking. The point is not to find what the majority of people want. That's not freedom. Freedom is when the majority of people agree that the right to do what you want - even if I don't like it - is what matters. All this without even mentioning the sanctity of private property. Even when a ban (such as smoking) makes reasonable sense on public property where people have to go, it does not stand the test of private rights on private land. So even if second hand smoke was proven to cause cancer (it isn't) at some ridiculously high rate (2 hours exposure doubles lung cancer rates for instance) people should choose whether or not to choose that risk. Just because you don't like something doesn't mean it should be banned. The strength of freedom in a democracy comes only from our willingness to accept other people doing things that we don't approve of. Your freedoms end at the tip of my nose. Accepting that, and realizing how far we have slipped, is the key to maintaining a free society.

Demand from all political candidates a commitment to the medical tenet of "first do no harm". Every law, restriction, guideline and code should be looked at not with the question "is this good?" But with the question "is this right?" When any limit on freedom is considered, it must not merely be nice, it must be necessary. True maturity and strength in a leader is not found in the man that says what he will do for us, but in the man who runs openly on what he will not do for us. We are our own tyrants now. Enjoy your fourth of July, and remember on this day what real freedom is all about.

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