Thursday, September 15, 2011

What Freedom is About

Ron Paul, a libertarian disguised as a Republican, recently said that freedom is about taking risks.

Ron Paul is wrong.   Totally and completely wrong.

George Washington did not rebel against Great Britain because King George was stopping him from putting all his money in junk bonds.   Abolitionists did not demand freedom for the slaves because the masters were not letting them get drunk.    The Allies did not fight against the Axis powers because they wouldn't let them drive too fast.    My ancestors did not flee communist Russia because they forced healthcare on us.

No.   In all of those cases, freedom meant freedom from a TYRANT, not freedom from a nanny state.   If freedom was about taking risks, no one would want it. 

Freedom is about doing what we want to do, not ignoring safety.   Yes, when you do what you want that come with additional risks, but the risks are the costs we pay to get freedom, not the goal.  More importantly, sometimes those costs are too high, and we give up the freedom.

The honest truth is that the majority of Americans are not libertarians and do not want total freedom.

We want police to stop us from doing stupid things - like drinking and driving.
We want the EPA to stop people from putting lead in gasoline - because lead causes nerve damage.
We want the FDA to make the use of addictive substances such as Meth illegal.

Why?  Because those risks are too high for the amount of freedom.  So we give up the freedom because of the risks.   Moreover, it's not just the risks.   It's also the arguments.

Freedom and peace are opposites.  The more we have of one, the less we have of the other.  The peace we get from agreeing to things a set way means we give up the freedom to do it the way we personally like (but others hate).   Freedom to play music at all hours will piss your neighbors off, and that creates strife (less peace).  Freedom to paint your house any color may lower property values.

People don't always agree as to how much freedom we want.  Some people want more.  I myself am willing to give up the freedom to play loud music at 3 AM, but am not willing to give up the right to paint my house whatever color I want it to be.

That why not all local governments have the same rules.  We get to pick how much government we want.   That's the beauty of having local governments.  But some things can't be left to local governments.   We found out the hard way that single nation can not let individual states decided about slavery.  Run away slaves caused too much problems, let alone the moral outrage that Slavery was legal in America.

Here are some good reasons why freedoms need to be curbed for an entire nation, as opposed to just a local government:
  • Shared resources.  Water does not respect local boundaries  Water used upstream is not available downstream.
  • Shared dangers.   Diseases and pollution don't respect local boundaries either. If an epidemic starts in Texas, it can easily spread throughout the country.  Pollution from coal plants in Ohio can affect the air in New York. 
  • Economies of Scale.  Many items, whether we are talking about an emergency reserve fund for disasters, a Coast Guard, or the FBI, are cheaper to do for a larger area.
  • Business consistency.  It is easier for a large business to operate the same across all areas rather than conform to different local regulations.

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