Archive for September 4th, 2010

[The conversation with Rutherford did make me realize that this might be more appropriate.  Allegheny Unprising, 1939, in which John Wayne and his fellow Kentucky Backwoodsmen have to take matters into their own hands when unscrupulous merchants solicit the protection of the distant British Military Authorities in their scheme to smuggle liquor and firearms to unfreindly natives, who use the shipments to prey on the settlers.]

A cousin of mine commented on Facebook recently about the controversy surrounding President Obama signing the Great Health Care Takeover of 2010, and remarking about how funny the “social stream” on it was, with remarks about Socialism and the end of Freedom, complete with some “funny takes” from people who are against what the bill aims to do.  He referenced another of his Facebook friends who presumably got this ball rolling with this status:

We seriously need a national philosophical debate about what “freedom” means. I don’t understand how freedom is enhanced when everyone has guns to blow people away or when we have no obligation to provide basic needs like health care to one another. Are the dead free? I find the use of the word “freedom” by many in politics bizarre.

I tend to agree.  We do need a national debate about what the word “freedom” means, because there are far too many in this nation who keep trying to confuse it with something else.

I like to start with the dictionary.  Presumably, we all speak English, and unless I am trying to define a term of art used in my profession, which usually sends me to consult with my good friends Mr. Black and Mr. Barrons, I prefer to consult with Mr. Webster.  Not only was he a patriot, but his definitions embody time-tested meanings and connect this century to the ones prior.  I find it to be more informative than the newspeak tumbling from the lips of people with a vested interest in me not knowing the truth.

From my Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language:

1.the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint: He won his freedom after a retrial.

2.exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.

3.the power to determine action without restraint.

4.political or national independence.

5.personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery: a slave who bought his freedom.

6.exemption from the presence of anything specified (usually fol. by from): freedom from fear.

7.the absence of or release from ties, obligations, etc.

8.ease or facility of movement or action: to enjoy the freedom of living in the country.

9.frankness of manner or speech.

10.general exemption or immunity: freedom from taxation.

11.the absence of ceremony or reserve.

12.a liberty taken.

13.a particular immunity or privilege enjoyed, as by a city or corporation: freedom to levy taxes.

14.civil liberty, as opposed to subjection to an arbitrary or despotic government.

15.the right to enjoy all the privileges or special rights of citizenship, membership, etc., in a community or the like.

16.the right to frequent, enjoy, or use at will: to have the freedom of a friend’s library.

17.Philosophy. the power to exercise choice and make decisions without constraint from within or without; autonomy; self-determination.Compare necessity (def. 7).

origin: 900; ME fredom, OE frēodōm. See free, -dom
—Related forms
non·free·dom, noun
o·ver·free·dom, noun
un·free·dom, noun
1. Freedom, independence, liberty refer to an absence of undue restrictions and an opportunity to exercise one’s rights and powers. Freedom emphasizes the opportunity given for the exercise of one’s rights, powers, desires, or the like: freedom of speech or conscience; freedom of movement. Independence implies not only lack of restrictions but also the ability to stand alone, unsustained by anything else: Independence of thought promotes invention and discovery. Liberty, though most often interchanged with freedom, is also used to imply undue exercise of freedom: He took liberties with the text. 9. openness, ingenuousness. 12. license. 16. run.
While they are all good, I think that 2, 3 and 17 sum it up pretty well, and that any serious reflection on it should lead one to consider that we no longer have it.
We didn’t come to this point quickly.  It has been the culmination of a long, slow process by which the average American citizen has allowed themself to succumb to the idea that he can’t.  The idea that he can’t make smart decisions for himself.  The idea that he can’t make an informed decision without consulting the “experts”, many of whom have made themselves eminently well-versed in theory without ever imbibing in the courage to test those theories against the harsh edge of reality.  The idea that he can’t apply the rules by which he must live to the problems that face this country because they are so complex that they will resist the application of simple wisdom.  And too often, this opinion is resoundingly echoed by those, who like a child that declares to hate a food they have never even tried, reject these everyday guideposts, secure in the untested knowledge that the self-appointed experts, and only the self-appointed experts can save us from ourselves.

How do we fix America? Any five-year old can say “look to the Constitution and the Bible”. Utter simplistic nonsense. We need policy. The folks represented in the cartoon couldn’t come up with policy if their life depended on it …. and I’m not sure they could recognize good policy if it smacked them between the eyes.

Your cartoon was right on … but not for the reasons you think.

 Two things have given this opinion a legitimacy it hasn’t earned. The first is a post-modern philosophy that has taken root in all aspects of society.  Though disturbing, it was not unexpected.  As we allowed a vocal minority to push christianity out of the daily life of society in to the boxes labeled “Sunday” and “church”, where they could no longer provide a meaningful prism with which to view society, nature, and man’s role in both, in an increasingly busy world, we looked to the next best thing for the answers to the questions that two working parents with children, and schedules burdened with bills and activities no longer had time to ponder.  We looked to SCIENCE!
The problem with this is that once we started to look to SCIENCE!, that meant that we had to accept the constant and enduring feature of SCIENCE!…the paradigm shift.  This meant a subtle acceptance of the concept that the “truths” of SCIENCE! change with the increase of knowledge.  Because this ever-changing nature was a product of this process, we soon bought into the idea of turning to the experts to explain and break things down for us.  And from there, it really wasn’t much of a stretch at all to come to the belief that the only inevitable truth is that there is no inevitable truth.  Once we arrive there, we reach a point where we have been conditioned to acquiesce to tyrannies large and small because we cannot possibly understand what is happening, or what it means, and as a result, too many of us become willing to surrendering choices that are our individual purview alone to exercise or not exercise.
The second thing is that we have sorely abused the roadmap and guiding principles that our forebears formulated, debated, and put to paper.
The Declaration of Independence was not simply an act of defiance against a distant despot.  It was a stark recognition that every human being possesses rights that are intrinsic to his or her very existence, and that are not granted by governments of men, which at best can merely enshrine those rights, and at worst, impede them, but never create or bestow them any more than they could create life from lifelessness.  This document was a recognition of the individual, and the choices reserved to him or her who were fortunate enough to live in a country that recognized these rights.
The Constitution was the blueprint for a three-part limited government that respected the rights of the individual, but would provide a strong national aegis under which the co-equal sovereigns established pursuant to the concept of federalism could prosper.  But over the course of centuries, we have stood and watched as the distinctions and duties of the individual branches of the federal government have become purposely blurred, and government as a whole has increasingly determined that its business is being in our business.  As a result, the rights reserved to us have become pockmarked with asterisks, anchoring exceptions and explanations why reservations of rights plainly stated don’t really mean what they say.  The “experts” and peddlers of complexity have so burdened these bylaws that those who haven’t paid attention or considered the implications are willing to join in the chorus of those who have something to gain by telling us that “it isn’t that simple” , and then set out to tell us that if we only surrender more control to them, they can fix the problem.  And, of course, at every step, government is there with a big stick in one hand, with the other outstretched for money, telling us how we are to proceed with whatever we are trying to do.
Do you want to have a pet?  You have to license it.  Don’t want to spay or neuter it?  The fee would be double.  You want to build a shed in your backyard?  No problem.  Get a permit from the county.  They will even be so polite as to tell you where you can’t put it on your own property.  You want to remodel your bathroom?  Sure.  Just get your permit$, consent to having it in$pected by a stranger, and oh, sorry.  You can’t have THAT toilet.  The government has determined that it uses too much water, and no, they don’t care if you have to flush more than once.  You want to start a business?  Excellent!  Be sure to get all necessary licen$e$ from your city, your $tate, and your county, and be prepared to share information which is none of their damn business with them on a regular basis.  And if these direct intrusions and invasions were not enough of an impediment to your ability to act without interference and regulation, we have strayed into the world of “Government Knows Best” and its favorite new practice, Nudge.
There is a time in everyone’s life when someone will decide what is best for you, and give you the illusion of choice.  When my sons were three, I would often let them choose between wearing the green t-shirt or the blue t-shirt.  I made this choice because they were the shirts that were clean, but I wanted the boys to start learning how to make simple daily choices as part of growing up.  As they have gotten older, I let them make more choices, but always within the confines of what I have decided would be best for them.  We go through this process with the intent and purpose of teaching them how to make good choices so that when they reach a certain age on the cusp of adulthood and independence, they can make their own decisions,  just as our parents did for us.  The fact is I have been legally, and in fact, an adult, for over 20 years now.  And yet the self-appointed experts have moved themselves in to government, and aim to use its power to infantilize us all, and make our decisions for us.  This is wrong.  This is wrong because first and foremost, government answers to us, not the other way around, and it is wrong because it is not government’s proper role to try to mitigate the consequences of the decisions we make as individuals by limiting those choices to only the ones it approves of in the first place.  Of all the practices perpetrated by government that negatively impact our freedom, Nudge is the worst, because it presumes that:
a)  Some “expert”, directly or indirectly employed by the government has studied “the problem” and determined “the solution”, therefore
b) They have the right to steer you into acting in the manner that they have determined is best; and
c)  That it is perfectly acceptable for them to make those decisions for you.
How does Nudge work?  Very simply, Nudge is about limiting choices in order to “nudge” you in what they have determined is the “right” direction.  That way, they are spared the burden of having to try to pursuade you to do things that way, and the frustration of you making your own choices that would reject their expertise.   They don’t want to bother with those inconvenient discussions about your rights, or the fact that you have already grown up and aren’t looking to make people who serve you into latter-day parents.
Nudge comes in big and small packages.  Let’s say that someone in government decides that energy conservation is not just a good idea, but a moral imperative.  Knowing from experience that those pesky citizens will refuse to recognize their inferiority to the Deciders, and resist the various attempts to implement this policy, they decide that they cannot mandate that people start using the squiggly little compact flourescent bulbs in their homes.  Instead, they determine that incandescent light bulbs are inefficient, and must therefore be regulated out of existence.  No one told those pesky citizens that they couldn’t decide to spend the extra couple of bucks a month on energy to use incandescent light in their homes, they simply made their designated alternative tremendously less expensive and troublesome.  Nudge.
The experts long ago decided that guns in the hands of the public are bad.  However, despite repeated efforts to install enough progressive jurists who subscribe to the view that the Constitution is a living, breathing document that allows jurists to craft processes by which they can build institutions of government that are absent from the blueprint (because they contradict the intentions and institutions actually established), they have not yet managed to issue a decision that accomplishes what the legislative branch has thus far lacked the courage to attempt directly: a gun ban.  But never fear!  Nudge is here!  The experts have determined the answer:  simply have an executive agency determine that the main component of ammunition, lead, is an environmental hazard.  Can citizens still buy ammunition?  Yes, but now it is much more expensive and far less effective.  Not enough?  Have another regulatory agency decide that it has the right to track ammunition sales.  Regulation.  Intimidation.  Intrusion.  Nudge.
But this malignant practice is no more onerous than where it is employed in the arena of “health”.  Passage of Medicare and Medicaid was the culmination of a wet dream for the control freaks and petty tyrants drawn to the power of government, because they knew that this was a way into the minutia of the daily lives of the average American, and control exerted here, would allow control over everything.  It was the stepping stone for health care reform and the warehousing of knowledge on each and every one of us that could be incredible tools for abuse if they came into the wrong hands, and anyone who has ever opposed an administration and then been audited knows that kind of abuse never happens. But the most immediate effect is that other people decide what is and what is not healthy for us, and they have decided that we have to do it their way.  They have substituted our judgement with their own, and believe that an excessive and unwarranted usurpation of authority into areas not designated to government gives them the right and the duty to make decisions for us, be it banning the use of transfats to prepare foods that no one believes are good for us, declaring a war on salt, banning the sale of sodas, and determining that our health care providers must store our information, including BMI and other details in a central database, where people who do not know us will pass judgment on our behaviors and practices, and determine that we MUST change.  It is a bit like the homeless person inviting himself into your home, having a seat at the dinner table, eating your food, then criticizing your menu and demanding you make changes.  But that is the natural progression…entitlements will eventually make you slaves to them.  But the latest health-related Nudge to make my blood boil comes from my own county…again.
Let me preface this with the admission that aside from the very occasional cigar, I am not a smoker.  That said, I have been appalled by Pierce County’s approach to smoking and smokers.  Several years ago, armed with the debunked studies about the health effects of second hand smoke, the county health authorities took it upon themselves to declare that owners of restaurants, bars, and bowling alleys could no longer determine for themselves if their patrons could smoke in their establishments.  I was appalled.  The state supreme court saw it my way, shockingly, but the state legislature decided to make it law everywhere in the state.  Now a group calling themselves P.U.S.H…People United for Smoke-Free Housing, has decided that they would like the local health authorities to classify smoking as a nuisance in multi-unit housing, and to have the finding inserted into the state landlord-tenant act,  claiming that second-hand smoke could seep into non-smoker’s units and bother those residents.  Such a finding could then allow landlords to evict smokers based on the complaints of non-smokers.
Let that sink in for a moment .  We are now considering having government again restrict a lawful activity, and prevent people from doing it in their own homes.  This is unacceptable.  If we allow this, then there is nothing that government cannot regulate, intrude on, or interfere with.  Nothing.  Especially in the light of the new justifications they can seize upon in claiming that we are all paying for each other’s health care.  It will justify a peek into your pantry, a fine for those potato chips, and warning letters for ice cream.  This cannot stand.  I had parents, but I grew up.  I own my choices now, and you cannot have them.  You can have my steak when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.
I’ve come to the conclusion that our ancestors would be ashamed of us.  The people who tamed a continent would look at our willingness to subject every action to government approval and spit.  The people who faced chicken pox and typhoid with equal dignity, while eating red meat and butter three or four times a week would apply the mother of all brain dusters to the backs of our miserable skulls.  The men who went to the moon with slide rules and kept their firearms after keeping us free would roll their eyes and leave us to the tender mercies of the collectivist ideals that we have slowly come to embrace.  While these ideals make control easier, they do nothing for the spirit and shackle every decision we the people make to those no better, and sometimes worse than ourselves, so that they may benefit from our decisions first.  That is NOT freedom, no matter how good the experts have determined it to be for me or you.  I’m really starting to resent Nudge.  I think its time we started to respond to Nudge with SHOVE.

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