While speeding down the road one night in a taxi – blasting the horn, whipping around semi-trucks, turning the head-lights off, yelling at anyone that didn’t comply with the driver’s demands – we passed 5 kids ranging from ages around 5-13 speeding down the highway on a single four-wheeler. Shortly after, a moped passes us with a man and his wife sitting sideways holding her baby in her arms….a moped!
For those of you who have lived in Egypt, this is an all too familiar scene. It’s not uncommon to see 5,6, or 7 year old children racing their dirt bikes down the street, dodging holes in the pavement. My thoughts here are not on safety but rather on the freedom that allows these things to happen. I would argue that in many ways, Egypt is more free than the United States.
I’ve recently put these thoughts in front of my friends and wife, only to be disregarded as absurd. So instead of making a comparison between the United States and Egypt – which would most likely be a comparison of religious freedom – let’s consider the U.S.
First let’s look at some of the freedom’s that we enjoy:
- Voting. Yay, so we can vote for the people that represent us. Do they…represent us? I might feel more confident in saying they represented the population if they actually spent time in the trenches with the everyday worker, if there weren’t such things as earmarks, if there weren’t lobbyists persuading the minds that govern. The world is a complicated place and I learn that more and more each day and decisions that may seem obvious may not be so obvious once you have all the information at hand. That withstanding, I would not say that the government of the United States represents me or my beliefs. Neither could the 38%-53% that never show up to vote. So you have a right, and you don’t even use it, or bother to educate yourself enough to have a valid opinion? At the very least watch Stephen Colbert and turn out for the next election and use the freedoms that you do have.
- Religious freedoms. As long as I don’t impose that religion on others by quietly reading my bible (or other religious book) in school or quietly bowing my knee and praying to my God (or gods) for my safety and the well being of all the players during a game, America forbid that. Does religious freedom simply mean that I can believe whatever I want to believe and put up a building to practice that belief in? Those beliefs aren’t protected other than to the extent that people don’t get hurt.
- Freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly. Uh, really? Now, I understand that there are probably a hundred laws that are being broken during the wall-street protests, and whether I agree with them or not is a different story, but would they be given the freedom of assembly if they applied for a permit? I would think not. So our freedom of speech and assembly is only valid when it’s convenient for the government. We saw these freedoms challenged even more during the SOPA and PIPA bills that went before Congress recently.
- Right to bear arms. Sorry for the image, I couldn’t help myself. I don’t own a weapon, but I do defend anyone’s right to protect themselves, their family, and their property. While the NRA is a little nutso at times, they have a done a wonderful job at protecting this freedom.
- I’m not sure that rights really fall under freedoms, but we do have the right to a speedy trial. I have a case that has been going through the court system for four years now. That is about 1.6% of the time that the United States has actually been in existence as we know it today. If we stuck with that same timeline and the United States was 2000 years old, that would mean I could expect my case to be in the court system for 32 years. Hardly speedy.
- Right to a trial by jury. Bleh. What good is a jury if they can’t get all the information they need and people on the stand can only answer questions without elaborating on what they recalled.
- What are some more freedoms and what are your thoughts?
My list of freedoms we don’t have consist of nuances that I’m inconvenienced by in life or by things that I feel I should be able to do should I ever desire to do them. I can hardly be objective. Simple things like:
- Not wearing a helmet on a motorcycle or bike. If I understand the risks involved (which there is a risk just getting on a motorcycle) and don’t mind if my head gets smashed in, I should be allowed to ride my motorcycle with no helmet. Now, before you go saying, “Yeah, that’s right”, you also have to understand about externalities. If you choose to ride your motorcycle with no helmet, you get in an accident, and the ambulance has to come out only to find you are dead and your family can’t pay the medical bills, your externality is that you have just helped to increase medical care by being irresponsible. You have in fact, even unknowingly, caused harm to someone else by raising the cost of medical expenses. So understand that when I list these things, you have to be able to afford any and all externality expenses and harm you may cause to someone else.
- On second thought, I won’t list a bunch of things here. I’ll let you fill in the blanks or comment with the freedoms you feel have been taken from you.
We have seen many changes and restrictions on the freedoms that we do have. What will the country look like in a thousand years if we continue to let the government run it’s course? Whether it means well or not, it’s headed down a dark path. Remember, the United States is only 236 years old. A lot has changed in that time. Some good and some bad.
Gerald R. Ford wrote, “A government big enough to give you everything you need, is a government big enough to take everything you have….”
Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The course of history shows that as government grows, liberty decreases.”
The government imposes restrictions on us for various reasons – lobbying, safety, human rights, health, etc – and with each passing rule imposed, the government grows and our freedom and liberty decreases.
In the end, we sacrifice freedom for safety. Unfortunately, that idea of safety just compounds on itself. Meaning, people never think to take away safety regulations that inhibit fun or growth. They simply compound rule on rule, choking our freedoms tighter and tighter.