Sweet Land of Liberty?
The Fourth Of July is upon us and along with the popping whoosh of beer cans and the delightful aroma of delicious animals being slow roasted over an open (okay not really open so much as carefully contained inside some sort of metallic or ceramic container that we have carefully placed outside our homes in such a place as to not risk damage should something go awry, but you get the point) fire there will be flags a fluttering, fireworks a booming and patriotic songs a singing all across the land. We shall talk of freedom and sing of the sweet land of liberty without most of the participants having one fucking clue what liberty is or how it is obtained.
I love my country not so much as it exists but as the ideas that sparked its inception. This is still a beautiful place to live, and we have a standard of living that exceeds that of much of the world’s populace and I suppose we have fewer restrictions that many nations but this is not the sweet land of liberty any longer and as not been for a long, long time. Think I am wrong? Try driving a car without a seatbelt. Decide to homeschool your child without registering said instruction with the proper authorities. To protest local government decisions don’t pay your property taxes. Ride a motorcycle without a helmet. Enjoy a cold beer on the sidewalks of Main Street. Fire up a cigar in your office inside a building you own. Attempt to retain the right to refuse service to anyone. Try to start a business.
I could ramble on in this vein literally for hours, but you get the point. Over 241 years government has grown to be of enormous size and employs about 17% of the total US workforce. They have passed restrictions, regulations, and guidelines for just about everything imaginable and woe unto those who run afoul of this bureaucracy. Of course, it is all for our own good, but as Supreme Court, Justice Louis D. Brandeis warned us “Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” The thing that should concern, indeed frighten the literal shit out of all of us is that nearly all of our laws have been written and passed by well-meaning men and women who are absolutely convinced that they know what is best for the rest of us. “Do it for the children” is the most frequently used phrase in the halls of tyranny.
No one cares perhaps what the opinions of the humble pastor of this clueless church may think of liberty, but it is worth time between trips to the grocery, liquor store and fireworks purveyor to think a bit of what liberty has meant to some of the greatest thinkers of the ages. Liberty is an excellent concept and sounds fantastic when we sing songs of freedom but what is it really and what does it cost?
HL Mencken goes right to the heart of the meaning of liberty when he writes “I believe in only one thing: liberty; but I do not believe in liberty enough to want to force it upon anyone.” Liberty is the ability to live your life the way you choose, to think as you will. To worship as you will and to love as you will. Liberty is being able to be offended by the thoughts and even actions of others without doing one damned thing about it. It is being free to engage in commerce with whom we wish under the terms we wish without interference from those who may not approve and not attempting to force others to participate in commerce of a type that we approve. Be free to do as you please but ignore the urge to insist others act and think as you do.
George Bernard Shaw opined in Man and Superman that “Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” This is one of the reasons, so many of us find that liberty is much better in song than in reality. If we have a true state of liberty, then you are responsible for you own actions and more importantly their consequences. You swindled your friends and neighbors and were tarred feathered and run out of town on a rail? Tough shit, you should have been honest in your endeavors. Lost everything as a result of bad decisions? Better luck next time. Liberty means that the decisions of the marketplace will hold sway and they can be at times brutal. Correct, fair but brutal. As you sow, shall you reap I believe was the suggestion of a great pastor of times past and this equation lies at the heart of liberty? The problem is too many of us want to harvest what some other poor fucker sowed. To be free, you have to understand that what’s your is yours but what is the other guys is his and you have no claim to it whatsoever.
Academic Thomas Szasz expressed a similar thought when he opined that ““Men love liberty because it protects them from control and humiliation from others, and thus affords them the possibility of dignity. They loathe liberty because it throws them back on their own abilities and resources, and thus confronts them with the possibility of insignificance.” In the sweet land of liberty, you are entitled to what you earn or are given freely. Nothing more and you have you no claim on the possession of anyone else. You are eon your own and best of luck to us all.
Robert Ingersoll was a lawyer, thinker, orator and (insert gasp of horror here) politician back in th1800s. His friend Walt Whitman said of him that” It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is ‘Leaves of Grass.’ He lives, embodies, the individuality, I preach. I see in Bob [Ingersoll] the noblest specimen, American-flavored, pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light.” Ingersoll in his book The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child said to his fellow citizens “This is my doctrine: Give every other human being every right you claim for yourself.”
We see an appalling lack of this today. Want to say what in your mind? Fine but I get tot say what’s on mine. You want to tax the rich to fund your pie in the sky social programs that have been proven not to work. Fine, take to the streets and protest with your silly signs but I have the right to suggest t that perhaps your interests and those you claim to be helping would be better served if you pulled up your pants, got a job and quit asking for someone else to pay for your shit. You can’t have a safe space paid for by an institution for your (insert description of protected calls here) unless those outside your class attending the same institution also have a safe space. If you want to wear a Malcolm X or Che Guevara Tee shirt down the street that’s fine. But if you punch the guy wearing the Donald Trump or Ronald Reagan short then you are a criminal and a hypocrite. I don’t have to agree with you, and you don’t have to agree with me but if we are free then neither has the right to attempt to force their belief system of values on the other. Most people have a problem with that especially if their belief system includes relieving others of assets or income for the benefit of themselves. As Murray Rothbard once observed ““It is easy to be conspicuously ‘compassionate’ if others are being forced to pay the cost.”
Returning briefly to Robert Ingersoll we find that he wrote ““The man who does not do his own thinking is a slave, and is a traitor to himself and to his fellowmen.” This is what I consider to be the biggest threat to freedom and society today. No one thinks for themselves. It is all party line Jesse Waters of Fox TV does a great bit where he goes out in public and asks people how they fell about a particular politician’s beliefs. The twist is that he attributes the beliefs of another party to the individual in question and often misstates the politico’s beliefs. The best example of this was when he asked Hillary Clinton supporters if they supported her plan to assert Sharia law to protect women’s rights they all fell right into lock step.
That’s not to pick on the left exclusively although I have to admit that they have made it pretty easy in recent years. When the GOP politicians decry against abortion, gay marriage and the criminalization of pot their supporters fall right into step without a moment’s thought to the matters at hand. Whatever the leadership says they believe without an ounce of thought expended.
The hardcore Christians I know believe what the church tells them pretty much without question. As far as I can tell most of them never even pause to consider that the Christ they claim to follow hung out with hookers, thieves and an unseemly portion of society. He eschewed and even despised organize religion and once took a whip to the moneychangers who so much resemble the leaders of the modern church. He preached compassion for your fellow humans and was a big fan of things like forgiveness, acceptance and feeding the poor. Not sending checks to organizations or holding food drives but actually feeding the dirty, nasty lice inflicted, drug addicted wine soaked poor people with your own hands. I’m pretty sure he didn’t just mean at Thanksgiving either.
The more left leaning folks of my acquaintance believe that eating the rich is a good start and that doing well in life should be punished. They feel they should be able to speak their minds but if you do not agree all the way down the line your right to speak should be limited. In spite of all the historical evidence to the contrary, they think a government solution for all of our problems can be achieved if we just find someone to pay for it that is not them. Whatever the leadership says they believe without ounce of thought expended.
To be free, we must think. Independently and critically. Far too few do so anymore as it is just easier to pull the lever suggested by those we call leader and get back to blaming the other guys for everything wrong in the world.
Liberty is messy. It requires personal responsibility for your thoughts, actions, and deeds. If you get in a car with no seatbelt and wreck without the means to pay for the care needed you are going to fucking die. If you shoot heroin in your veins to the point your bodily functions begin to shut down, there is no social obligation to save you. You are going to fucking die. If you don’t work to provide for yourself, you are going to fucking die. If you attempt to steal or defraud others of goods and property odds are when you get caught you are going to fucking die.
It means relying on the harsh conclusions and dictates of a free market. If you make a product, no one else wants you will fail. If you offend the community, they will stop doing business with you, and you will fail. If you pollute the environment and deprive others of clean air and water to make some product, you will fail and should be made to clean up the mess. Or perhaps you just may have to fucking die.
Liberty requires a violent response when someone attempts to deprive others of the liberties they themselves enjoy. Liberty means accepting beliefs, lifestyles, and choices of others if we don’t necessarily agree with them. Liberty means not relying on a bureaucracy populated by those who are absolutely convinced they know how other should conduct their affairs.
Liberty means accepting one great truth. Life is not fair. Some will do well in life. Some not so well and some will be abject failures. The only one who can impact that out come in any meaningful way is the individual. Not the government as history has proven. Some of those who do well will have the kindness of heart and understand that helping other to succeed is in their best interest and will help lift other who want to be lifted. Some will not. We cannot compel them to do so and claim to live in a land of liberty.
Liberty can be simply expressed. First, do no harm. Then leave me the fuck alone to live my life, and I shall leave you the fuck alone to live in the manner and style of your choosing.
John Adams once said of the 4th of July ” I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” I quite agree.
Now, go forth eat, drink and blow shit up.