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The Price of Freedom

Wendell Phillips said "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." If that were the only price, it is obvious we defaulted on our payments long ago. It is nice rhetoric, of course, but the price of freedom is higher than that, much higher.

When discussing the nature of a free society, an admittedly hypothetical thing, it sometimes dawns on even the dullest of wits, that in such a society, no one may force anyone else to support them, pay their bills, or to clean up after them if they screw up their lives. That sudden revelation usually comes as a shock eliciting involuntary and demanding questions like, "you mean you would allow a homeless person to starve?"

If there were a little more dawning, such questioners would realize, in a free society there is absolutely nothing preventing them from feeding as many of the homeless and indigent as they like. If they, and no one else, chooses to feed them, however, in a truly free society, no one can be forced to feed them. Most likely, knowing the choice is starve or work, most of those presumed to be in imminent danger of starving would suddenly discover how to work and feed themselves.

There might be some who really cannot work, "through no fault of their own," as it is usually sonorously intoned. If no one chooses to help them, they might starve and die. That is one price of freedom.

For most people, that price is unacceptable. Most people are unwilling to, "take the risk," of living in a free society, where some, who will not or cannot feed, clothe, or otherwise provide for themselves, might not be provided for. If it is necessary to sacrifice freedom for the sake of security, they do not think twice about, "giving up a little freedom."

Freedom or Slavery, Which?

The problem is, there is no such thing as, "giving up a little freedom." One is either free or one is a slave to the state. There is no middle ground. Slaves are always allowed to keep some of what they produce so they won't starve, else they will be no good to the slave owner. Slaves are always allowed some time to themselves and some limited "freedom" to do some things they enjoy doing. Slave owners know just how much "liberty" to give their slaves to keep them from rebelling. Keep them tired and entertained and your slaves will thank you. Every politician knows that. Most slaves do not.

Freedom is a principle. Freedom means free to act by one's own choice in all aspects of one's life; it means, being responsible for all of one's choices. For any individual, it is "enjoying without limit the benefit of his successes and suffering without mitigation the consequences of his failures." Any violation of that principle, which is only possible by the use or threat of force, makes one a slave to whatever individual or agency wields that force.

Whether it is the Federal government taking a portion of whatever money you earn or some local municipality requiring you to get "permission" before building a shed on your own property, the necessity of paying, (for protection from the federal government goons who will kidnap [arrest] you if you refuse to pay), or getting permission (to keep the local government goons from kidnapping you and taking your property), is slavery. Most people neither understand or care that it is. Freedom is not what most people want anyway.

The Progress of Oppression

Once a violation of a principle is excused on the basis of, "well, its only a little violation for a good cause," there is no way to limit that violation. There is an inevitable parade of, "good causes," that eventually and implacably cancel the principle altogether. Once the violation of the freedom principle is violated, there is no end of the restrictions and demands on one's choices and life that will follow.

What begins as, "we cannot allow people to starve," ends as, "we cannot allow people to be uneducated, not have good housing, be poor in their old age, not have health care, not have a job, not be protected from scurrilous marketers, not be "safe" on the highway, business, homes, bathrooms, or ... (supply your favorite thing no one should have to go without, whether they earn it or not). You can have all of these things and more, at least until the slaves who are supplying them realize they are slaves; you can have them, but you cannot have them and freedom too.

The price if freedom is not having all those things. It is the price most are unwilling to pay. It means not having the government supply your education, health care, expensive drugs, guaranteed retirement income. It means not being guaranteed no one will ever say something mean to or about you. It means there are no guarantees. It means you will live in a world of danger, temptation, and risks. It means you will be responsible for every aspect of your own life from the time you reach adulthood until you die. It means, if you mess up your life, you and only you will suffer the consequences.

That is the price of freedom. It is the price most people are not willing to pay.

Dead is Not Free

We have always heard, but much more so today, about those who, "died," or "shed their blood to purchase freedom," or even more absurd, those who "die to preserve our free society." Those who are saying these things are the very ones who despise freedom, the ones who are not willing to pay the real price for freedom, not willing to, "give up," what they have not earned. What they want to preserve is not freedom, but that system that makes them the beneficiaries of government confiscation and the enslavement of those who provide their unearned benefits.

While they are unwilling to pay the price of having to be responsible for their own lives, in their twisted view of moral values, they think the lives of enthusiastic naively overzealous young men shipped off to every hell-hole in the world to die or have their bodies so badly mutilated their lives are not worth living, is a "small price to pay."

Even those who despise freedom ought to be able to understand, killing the youngest, most able, healthy, and ambitions young men and women for the sake of protecting the indigent, the sick, the helpless, and the hopeless, is destroying the best for the sake of the worst. It might even occur to them there is a mistake in a foreign policy that kills the best of its citizens to protect a domestic policy that insures they will not be free once (and if) they return.

—(8/03/04)