19 September 2009

On Liberty

Much has been said recently about the erosion of the Constitution, growing big government, spending by that big government, bailouts, socialism, and public capitulation regarding these matters. The debate, those on the left would say, is over. It has been over as far as they are concerned for a long time – it’s just that no one else knew it. The various tea parties and “conservative” protests are a peculiarity, an eccentricity. The remedy for such things is to simply turn off Fox News.

What is really going on in what strangely is called our national conversation is the re-emergence of liberty – individual, personal liberty – as a point of discussion. To paraphrase Dennis Prager, bigger government makes smaller citizens. And citizens have been shrinking at an alarming rate. When the bill comes due for all of this compassionate, bail-out, too-big-to-fail spending by Democrats and Republicans alike, the citizenry is likely to go from small to downright miniscule.

But where did the shrinking stature of citizenry come from in the first place? One might say that it came, in part, from shirking individual responsibility. From easy credit (which, incidentally, is still pretty easy if one has a good credit rating) to “universal” government plans to “universally” tackle any perceived problem, it has been all too easy to slough off personal responsibility onto something else, be that thing minimum payments at 15% APR or another lump of mounting, money-hungry bureaucracy. Either way, any perceived issue can be deflected elsewhere. At least for a time.

At some point, though, all bills come due – even the bills for the bills that pass through Congress which we are told will expand our “freedom” and our “rights”. What I believe they expand is the envelope of risk-free living. These “guarantees” – from free health care to job security to investment certitude – are supposed to make living more antiseptic. No risk, no worry, all happiness. That’s the message of the authors of the savior plans.

What these savior plans really do is limit personal liberty. Choice and risk are required for liberty. They also require the ability to fail; they allow the potentiality of bad things happening. Bad choices lead to bad outcomes. Risk is around us daily; pretending that we can somehow be shielded from it is an illusion. What I plan to write about in the next few weeks is the joy of liberty, the joy of being able to take responsibility for one’s own life and one’s own choices. Cheers.

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