People Need to Understand Freedom

From Michael Farris on Facebook.

This morning I am reading some embargoed polling statistics. It is shocking how little the public understands freedom.

One question asks whether freedom always diminishes as government grows in power. The answers make it clear that people just don’t understand reality.

So let me explain why the expansion of government power always decreases freedom. Always.

Let’s start by answering the question: What is freedom?

It’s really quite simple. Freedom means that you make your own decisions rather than the government making your decisions for you or restricting the range of your choices.

Take education as an example. If you (as a parent) get to decide what kind of education your children will receive, then you have educational freedom.

If you get to decide what doctor you go to, then you have medical freedom.

Absolute freedom is not possible in a civilization. You cannot be free to decide that you will take my property.

In the field of education, our country has decided to limit parental freedom on the question of whether a child will receive education. You must see to it that your child is educated. You are free to decide how this is done.

This serves as a perfect example of the general principle. Government power limited freedom to an extent. Parents are required by law to educate their children. But the power has been restrained as to the method.

The more rules that are added limiting such choices the more power government has asserted and the less freedom parents have.

Accordingly, the very definition of freedom requires the conclusion that every increase in government power necessarily correlates to a decrease in freedom. Someone’s choice has been removed or limited.

This does not mean that every decrease in freedom is inappropriate.

The key question that voters must consider in every election is this: does this candidate propose limiting my ability and the ability of others to make our own decisions in inappropriate ways?

Socialism represents a far extreme in increased government intrusion into individual freedom to make decisions.

Our nation was built on the premise that we will all be better off in the long run if people are as free as possible to make their own decisions and that government intrusion is carefully limited.

I have met remarkably few people who didn’t want a great deal of latitude to make their own decisions. But an appreciable number of people want freedom for themselves but not for others.

Freedom never works that way. If you only want freedom for yourself and you deny it to others who are similarly situated, you only believe in raw power and in a system of spoils for the victors.

Again, unlimited freedom is not possible or desirable. We don’t need a country that permits freedom to murder anyone (unborn, infirm, aged), but we are trending dangerously toward the far excesses of government power.

Freedom should be the default and government a begrudging exception.