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Freedom fired, and forgotten

By Henry Lamb
web posted December 3, 2007

There was a mechanic who was so successful he had to hire someone to answer the phone and schedule appointments.  His business prospered and his accountant recommended that he incorporate his business, which he did.  Then came hard times.  The board of directors, eager to cut costs, fired the mechanic who built the business.  The business died.

America may have done the same thing.  Freedom - individual freedom - built this great nation.  America prospered as no other nation in history had, because individuals were free to invest their time, energy, and creativity into any venture they chose.  Individuals were free to accumulate property and wealth - without government oversight or limitation.  Individuals were free to pursue happiness any way they chose, and those who chose to infringe upon another's freedom were subject to pay damages as determined by a jury of their peers.

America has fired freedom - the mechanic who built the prosperity in the first place.

For nearly two hundred years, America flourished.  Freedom moved civilization from horse-and-buggy to rocket ships to the moon.  Of course, free individuals made mistakes.  Injustices occurred.  People were hurt, and pollution poured from smokestacks where millions of laborers earned their wages.   When people are free, these mistakes tend to be self-correcting.  When management abused workers, free people created labor unions to balance the power.  When landlords abused tenants, bankers offered mortgages so tenants could become homeowners.

A free society allows ideas and creativity to solve problems and make opportunities.

But America has fired freedom.  Now the board of directors - the government - is trying to solve problems and create opportunities by forcing individuals to perform as government dictates.  The concept behind the "School to Work" initiative of the ‘90s was to guide individuals into the labor markets that government defined.  The concept behind "No Child Left Behind" is to transform the attitudes, values, and ultimately, the behavior of individuals to what the government defines as desirable.

That granite cornerstone of individual freedom - private property - has been jack-hammered into pebbles by a government hell-bent on controlling virtually every aspect of human life. 

Government decides how much money may be retained by the individual who earns it.   Government decides how land may be used by the individual who owns it.   Government now has the power to decide what crops may be grown, and is trying to gain the power to decide which, and how many animals an individual may have.  Government decides the minimum wage a job-giver must pay.   Government decides who employers may and may not hire and fire through laws that seek to "equalize opportunity."

Tragically, most Americans see nothing wrong in this government power.  They never knew the original mechanic - freedom - who provided the prosperity they now enjoy.

The opposite of a free society is a managed society.  The "land of the free..." is roaring toward a government-managed society.   For more than a generation, America has accepted the proposition that the "collective good" is more important than individual freedom.  The fallacy in this belief is the fact that government decides what is the "collective good."  In a free society, the result of individuals pursuing their own prosperity results in a "collective good," that far outstrips anything any government can dare to dream.

Evidence: the first two-hundred years of freedom in the United States, compared with two-thousand years of societies managed by some form of ultimate government power.   In a free society, individuals compete to produce the best product or service.  In a managed society, competition is bad; equity is the goal.  Schools have been encouraged to not allow children to keep score in playground ball games.  They contend that losing causes emotional damage, and winning creates the idea of superiority.  

In a free society, competition keeps prices as low as possible and  promotes innovation.  In a government managed society, prices are set, directly or indirectly, by government.  Innovation follows government grants - which must first be taken from the individuals who earn the money.

In a free society, businesses go bankrupt when they do not provide goods or services for which people are willing to pay.  In a government-managed society, businesses that find favor with the ruling party, stay in business; those who fall from favor with the ruling party, are closed.  In a free society, farmers may raise animals they choose to raise; in a government-managed society, such as England, farmers who fail to register their animals with the government are subject to lose their animals to government slaughter - without compensation.

Who, in America, can champion Vladimir Putin's iron-fisted control over the press?   Who, in America, can champion Myanmar's,  China's, or Pakistan's absolute refusal to allow political opposition?  Who, in America, can see the slow slide toward this very form of intolerant government by those who seek laws to silence Rush Limbaugh, and other outspoken critics?

The society that trades its individual freedom for management by the government is, indeed, like the corporation that fires its founder, and chief producer.  Without freedom, America cannot prosper, and may not survive. ESR

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.


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