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Freedom

What is Reasonable to Hope For?

I love freedom. To me it is not too different than air, food, and water. Yet, sadly, in America in 2013 there is a reasonable limit to the degree of freedom we can expect to experience. You see, real freedom must always accompanied by responsibility and accountability and those are increasingly foreign concepts in America.

Take the case of Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on the sale of extra-large soda bottles in New York. At the root, this was a move to chip away at the horrible problem of rampant obesity in our nation. Many were up in arms, including freedom lovers who may despise the notion of people glibly consuming massive quantities of harmful liquids but hate the intrusion of government even more. While I sympathize deeply with this sentiment, I've come to understand that freedom cannot be found without the balance of accountability.

If as a society we were willing to allow people to suffer the consequences of their acts then a laissez-faire attitude towards such detrimental acts as massive soda consumption, or smoking for that matter, would be wholly appropriate. Rightly or wrongly, this is not even remotely close to the case today. We have a very low tolerance for human suffering, even when it is the result of self-inflicted actions. Our social safety net is huge and promising to grow. People acting irresponsibly, be it by over-eating or smoking or placing their hard-earned savings into poorly-managed banks or overpriced securities, are going to have their consequences borne by the rest of society and this does little to encourage people to make responsible choices. So, in a world that seems to be committed to bailouts, regulatory intrusion is unfortunately needed in order to provide the rest of us with some degree of risk protection against our brethren’s failures.

In the ideal, our society (read: government) would not intrude much on any of our personal lives and would leave us to learn and grow on our own, and to come together as a society as we saw fit rather than by edict. Like many freedom lovers, I am convinced that, while the path would be messy for sure, the result would be significant and exciting growth in human consciousness. We seem to be basically stuck in a version of the same world consciousness that has existed for time immemorial because some version of society’s elders have seen fit to dictate terms of life and to socialize suffering, thus preventing people from experiencing the full consequences of their actions and ideas. In my mind, it is only through a highly individualized trial and error process, largely unfettered by intervention, where real growth can occur.

I know that the transition from today’s world to a truly free world would require baby steps that would wean people off of their dependency upon others to bail them out. For this we need visionary leadership. Instead, we seem to continue to get the kind of leadership that seems to enjoy the fruits of society’s dependency state and thus continues to foster it.

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