Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Myth of Freedom

If you are like most Americans, you will read the title of this article, and think to yourself, "I am free, it's not a myth it's a fact." I have the disconcerting challenge of proving you wrong, explaining how it got this way, and letting you know what we can do about it.

Think about a typical day. Your alarm clock sounds off, so you wake up and turn on your light. The electricity that operates your alarm clock and light comes from a power company that has no competition. It is prevented from having competition by our government. Lack of competition means you have to pay whatever they charge for electricity. You have lost the freedom to choose what you will pay.

You make yourself a little breakfast. Eggs, toast, and milk. The government has forced you to pay for subsidies that drive the cost of these items up. The subsidies go to prevent farmers from "growing too much." They actually get paid not to produce. You, however, pay at least twice. Subsidies are funded by your tax dollars, and you pay more for the product. The product costs more because there is less of it. Supply, and demand. Not only do you loose the freedom to pay what a product is worth, but you loose the freedom to spend your money as you see fit.

You shower, brush your teeth, get dressed and watch a little television. The government regulates the water you use. The regulation prevents competition. You are forced to pay a fixed price. The Food and Drug Administration approves your toothpaste. You have lost the freedom to choose toothpaste that may be more specified toward your needs. The Federal Communications Commission regulates the television you watch. You have lost the freedom to be entertained and informed in a manner that is appropriate to your personal tastes and needs.

I want to prove my point at the bare minimum, so I will assume that you are single and without children or pets. It's time for work. You walk out the door and get into your car. You car is regulated by a number of government bureaucracies including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Transportation. There are restrictions to mileage per gallons of gas used, safety restraints, and fuel emissions. In this case, your freedom is again restricted by the inability to make personal decisions for yourself. You may need a car that is less costly, and can manage with less safety. While you are driving you are restricted to government-monopolized roads, and face a fine if you do not maintain a speed lower than the posted limit, and higher than the posted minimum.

You arrive to work. For roughly 4 hours, out of an 8 hour day, the money your earning is being used to pay for all of government programs and regulations. You will not be able to use White Out unless you know how to research the dangers in a Manufacturer's Safety Data Sheet book, required by a government bureaucracy known as Occupational Safety & Health Administration or (OSHA). OSHA take your freedom away to do your job as you see fit, instead they implement their own plans and enforce them with expensive fines.

Once your workday ends, you must choose your favorite recreation or leisure. If you smoke and drink, you will pay a sin tax, that is if you are 21 or over. If you are a recreational drug user, you face prison. If you watch a movie it must have some sort of rating. If you frequent a nightclub, you must pay extra for booze, or pay a cover charge, to compensate the club owner for all of the rules and regulations he or she must abide by. If you live here in Delaware, you are not allowed to enjoy a cigarette in any public or privately owned building for public use, even if the business owner does not mind. You cannot gamble, unless the government has authorized it. You cannot have sex for money, without a politician saying so. Maybe you are more of an outdoorsman. Instead of the nightclub, you prefer to hunt. Licensing and registration are necessary to carry a gun. Licensing and registration is necessary to hunt and fish.

Maybe you decide to use your free time to plan a business. You must apply, and pay for a license, and hope for approval. You are forced to pay a minimum wage. You are forced to disclose all of your personal financial information, and the personal financial information of your employees. You have lost the freedom of free enterprise, and the freedom to privacy. In fact, you cannot perform one thing in your life without some sort of government involvement.

How did it get this way? As you were reading the above paragraphs, you were no doubt saying, "Well, we need this kind of regulation," to at least one of the examples. More than likely, you haven't noticed all of the government involvement, because a majority of it is out of sight. You have probably thought that what effects you directly are minimal and barely intrusive, but when you scratch below the surface and see exactly how much it all affects you, it is overwhelming. All of these lost liberties are a direct result in allowing one favorable rule and regulation to pass. Not only does a law or regulation chisel away at your freedom, but it opens the door for more laws and regulations. Today they are banning smoking, and tomorrow it will be junk food. More laws and regulations follow, because every law and regulation brings a fresh new set of problems. For example, drug prohibition and the War on Drugs were instituted to prevent people from using or selling drugs. Since making drugs illegal did not stamp out the demand for narcotics, the drug sellers where able to make more money off of drugs. Because the drug dealers were making more money, they became more protective of the "turf" in which the peddled their wares. Because they can't have legitimate business fronts, and have no police protection, they sell drugs in the streets, and defend their marketplace with violence. Because violence inherently spreads to innocent bystanders, politicians decide to become tougher on drugs and violence. Because they are tougher on drugs and guns, it further perpetuates the black market value of drugs and guns. Gangs are formed to protect "turf." Addicts steal more to pay for their expensive habits. More government is enforced. This crackdown on drugs and violence does little to prevent drug use and murders, but is very costly to innocent law abiding citizens. Even drug users, who are non-violent, are subject to having their property confiscated and imprisoned. As a matter of fact, more than 50% of all prisoners are incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses. That means that murders, rapists, and child molesters are set free early to compensate for the over population of our prisons. Still, most think that more government is the answer, because the politicians never admit their programs are failing, instead they insist the laws need to be tougher and the Drug War needs more funding. It wasn't this bad before drug prohibition and the War on Drugs, and it will be better after it ends. We should learn; more government never solves our problems, it only makes different problems.

How do we once regain our independence and freedom? First, demand that your senators, and representatives set term limits for themselves. If they fail, vote them out immediately. Second, cut the government back to its constitutional restraints. Get rid of the War on Drugs, farm subsidies, trade regulations, income tax, welfare, social security, government loans, government insurance, TSA, FDA, FCC, ATF, and anything else that violates the constitution. This includes YOUR favorite legislation. You cannot truly regain your freedom without giving back the freedoms of others. Third, make congress read bills before they pass them, and vote out anyone who increases the size of government. Know this; if we do not dramatically cut our government, and cut it now, we will soon see unleashed moral and social decay, a tyrannical police state, and an economic catastrophe. Finally, institute a principled libertarian government. Until we take a stand to regain control of our own lives, freedom will continue to be a myth.