We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Wednesday, November 16. 2011
This is a sort of fundamental Maggie's political post, so I urge our readers to spend a little time with it: To what extent do Americans really want liberty?
Has individual liberty been a prime value in American politics and policy since Coolidge? (We are defining liberty as freedom from the power and interference of the state.)
For starters, this excellent Robinson interview with Prof Paul Rahe, most recently author of Soft Despotism: Democracy's Drift:
Do Americans talk liberty, but desire utilitariansm? Is real freedom too difficult or scarey for most people nowadays?
Secondly, three guys including Will Wilkinson discuss Libertarianism and Liberty in serious depth at Boston Review. At Maggie's, we believe that the "liberty cost" has to be a large factor in any policy equation, or else we aren't America anymore.
Today, you hear more about financial cost, health cost, and environmental cost, than about liberty cost. (Can I trademark the term "liberty cost," or has somebody else done that already?)
Seems to me that Repubs talk more liberty than the Dems, who have eliminated it from their political calculus since Woodrow Wilson. However, the Repubs talk it better than they act it. Have pols simply learned that, when it comes to voting, people want stuff more from the feds than they want freedom?
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Libertarians and true Conservatives are the only ones I have talking about about Liberty and Freedom lately.
To the rest, they are just meaningless words muttered on Memorial Day.
Seems to be that Repubs talk more liberty than the Dems, who have long eliminated it from their political calculus. However, the Repubs talk it better than they act it. Have pols simply learned that, when it comes to voting, people want stuff more than they want freedom?
I agree with you on all points but I would add that both the pubbies and demoncrats talk better about liberty than they act it which then implys that the demoncrats are still much less interested in liberty than pubbies.
The Constitution does not give Congress the power to take money from one person and give it to another. If that principle had been held, we would not be where we are, but the temptation that our founders knew was there was stronger than the law. Jean Baptiste Colbert's rule of taxation took over:
“The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing”.
Which begat H. L. Mencken's analysis:
"The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods."
As the number of takers approaches the number of takees, the effort required to reverse the situation increases exponentially.
Have a nice day!
Is it a rhetorical trick that, since the Progressive Era, we talk most about Freedom during wartime - as if threats to liberty are more likely to come from outside than from within us?
The U.S. is a republic in name only. The majority of people in the country don't know the difference between a republic and a democracy and don't care. The majority don't understand what is happening to the country and are incapable of electing officials who can come to grips with all our issues. The U.S. is lost since the population is not interested in freedom, they are interested in comfort and living a long lazy life with football, internet, medicare, etc. In Virgil's Aenied men would say that to live so long as to have grey hair was disgraceful as it showed lack of courage and unwillingness to fight for your country.
Outside of war, liberty is lost at the margin. People like the idea of being free, and some even accept that it comes with responsibility. But few seem to understand that personal freedom also means everyone else gets liberty, too.
That obnoxious neighbor? There oughta be a law! Those idiots driving with cellphones? There oughta be a law! Who needs a military rifle? There oughta be a law! Ad infinitum.
We never limit our own liberty, but we’re happy taking it from others.
It is a result of the fetishization of democracy. We are now trained to believe everything should be up for a vote. We value consensus more than independence.
Though my small neighborhood doesn't have an HOA, it did provide for an Architectural Control Committee in the deed restrictions, and I'm on it. I've let everyone know that, almost no matter what house plans someone brings to me, my answer is going to be "It's your property, build what you like." So I approve houses I consider to be terribly mistaken, even if the deed restrictions would give me an excuse to say no. If my neighbors don't like it, they can put someone else on the committee, but in the meantime I can't stomach telling people what to build for their own homes. I had enough of that when I dealt with HOAs (Satan's spawn) in Houston. -- Doing my tiny part to preserve liberty.
Doesn't this run parallel to the feminization of the country? John Lott in his book Freedomonics discusses the increase in government spending ever since women were given the right to vote.
Let the legacy of Nixon serve as a reminder that Rs and Ds often dance under the same hat. EPA, Affirmative Action, ERA... sound like prototypical Republican legislation? Give me a candidate who vows only to strip away layer upon layer of meddling law. Who was it who said something about ignoring the big laws brings about only hundreds and hundreds of little laws?
Gotta send the kids to Hillsdale. Thanks fort he post, BD... best half hour on the internet all day.
I think we have gains and losses in freedom all the time in America. We were theoretically free to travel far, communicate, and work at whatever profession we wanted two hundred years ago. But you couldn't really. We are much freer in those things now. We fall into the gains and losses, rather than plan them out, because we tend to like short-term, identifiable gains. Freedom is vaguer and long-term, so we often have to choose it explicitly.
We don't mean the same things when we say "liberty." Freedom from interference is only one facet. David Hackett Fischer goes into some detail on the differences in meaning in colonial America in his excellent Albion's Seed.
Conservatives have displayed ambivalence about some freedoms, noting that many do not handle sexual, chemical, or religious freedom very well, and enter into new slaveries thereby.
Have we ever had true 'liberty' in this country? As if we have, then to my mind and its conception of true liberty, it would be perilously close to anarchy. Since our founding, in 1620 or so, we've had laws, laws that limited individual freedom. Yes, most for egregious acts, murder, etc. Others though, and many, for actions that only effected the sensibility's and sense of righteousness of a majority.
So then, our Founders, knowing their Continental history, advanced the Republic, which sole intent was to limit the ideals of democracy, or mob rule if you will. A brilliant idea. But an idea which, as noted in the above comments has become nearly meaningless in practice.
I'm thinking we need a different, more nuanced and explainable definition of freedom. A definition that encompasses, and reaches, those who can't even spell the damn word. That is almost the majority now, we ignore that at our peril.
Oh hell, another damn.
Are you suggesting that I should read the links first... how craven of you for insinuating such... :)
As politics and economics are going I don't see that it matters what we WANT.
What is important is what we're going to be forced to accept.
Forced, unless we're willing to accept the hardship of resistance, the structure of self reliance and the fear of uncertaincy
This rather tracks with Michael Totten's interview from Egypt. Interesting..... "When we lose the fear of authority in a country where since the time of the Pharaohs authority came from outside, we cannot have a Western-style democracy."
As an American helping to nudge Israeli democracy from its socialist roots to something more like America - this "freedom anxiety" angle is extremely interesting.
I work in Israel's hi-tech sector - the most free-market capitalist sector of the country by far - and I am amazed that my Israeli coworkers are still spouting lines they learned as children from the socialist elite that then ran the country.
Most Israelis descend from immigrants who came from Eastern Europe and North Africa - so they are culturally predisposed to the 3 major non-Anglosphere models of government:
-The corrupt patronage model of the sultanates.
-The statist/guild model of Europe.
-The socialist "neo-statist" model.
Combine this with a history in which the socialist founders purposely induced dependency in the waves of immigrants - especially among the Jews from Arab lands, who were largely uneducated and ill-suited to an industrialized economy - and you have a lingering political culture based on government nannying and distribution of favors.
It is often VERY hard to penetrate the years of propaganda and reach these otherwise intelligent people with a small-government message.
(And the propaganda is still ongoing: Israel's left-leaning media is currently puffing a tiny group of "Occupy Tel Aviv" protesters whining about "social justice.")
Paradoxically, the large number of Soviet emigres over the last decades are all staunchly anti-socialist: maybe you have to experience the bottoming-out of a socialist system to really appreciate free-market capitalism. I certainly hope that isn't true, but...