Things I've Tagged ‘Liberty’

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Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom.

Milton Friedman

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.

John Adams

Rights, Duties, and Obligations in the Modern Era

I recently discovered a brand new and interesting philosophical blog, via Marginal Revolution. If you happen to get an opportunity, please explore–there is quite a bit there worth reading. And so far, I’m enjoying it immensely.

In a recent post discussing rights and duties, James Otteson lays out the interplay between the two very well and the important roles each play:

Whether one has a “right” to something is whether someone else has a duty to provide it. The two—a right and its correlative duty—are logically inseparable; like mountain and valley or ebb and flow, one exists only with the other. Hence if no one has a duty to provide you something, you have no right to it; and you can claim a right to something only if it is someone else’s duty to provide it for you.

He goes on to say that if one really, really wants whatever it is they’re clamoring for, it does not then become a right, nor does it become a duty for another to provide it for them.

The whole post is a pretty interesting discussion concerning positive and and negative liberty, one that I’ll leave to you to read and digest, but it brushes nicely over the current health care debate.

The question we have is, if health care is a right, as claimed, who then has the duty to provide it at their expense? Anyway, read the article and the accompanying discussion for a little balance.

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Patrick Henry, 23 March 1775

What’s Wrong With Wanting to Promote Individual Liberty?

I was walking down town the other day, looking for a spot to grab a quick bit of lunch, when I ran into my old friend, Johnny. He asked, “Did you see the news? Our president won the Nobel peace prize!”

I gasped rather noisily. Johnny asked, “you ok?”

“Sure, Johnny, I’m fine. What did you say about the prize?”

“I can’t believe it either, but it’s a sign to conservatives in this country to get in line with our great president’s, and the world’s, agenda. That’s for sure!”

I had to ask him, why he thought this was necessary or even good for our nation and those living in it. A world wide agenda designed to create equality does not necessarily create favorable outcomes. “What do you mean it doesn’t create ‘favorable outcomes?'” He air quoted that last part. I explained that by drafting and passing legislation designed to create expensive entitlements, entitlements that would eventually need to be paid for with taxation, they were creating an environment of diminished liberty.

“But Bush was a fascist!” Woe, Johnny, woe! What made Bush a fascist? “Well, he just was. He stomped all over the constitution by lying about a war and people died! And that made us lose our rights, like freedom of speech and stuff!”

Wait, we lost our rights? There aren’t many examples of this situation, I’m sure because I’ve not seen any laws produced or evidence that this has occurred. If it has, please let me know. Opposition was rarely denounced by the administration or by any members of Congress, so I’m not sure how any free speech was stifled. The issue here, Johnny is what I mean by diminished liberty, and how this administration deals with the rights you were so concerned about under the Bush administration.

In order to pay for the entitlements that I mentioned earlier, our government (left and right politicians are guilty of this) must reduce our right to the fruits of our labor, our property if you will, our money, in the form of heavy taxes. This burden more often than not will fall on the moneyed, wealthy class; the folks that provide jobs, drive innovation, and have the money to invest in future growth. The more you earn the more you pay. This encourages the wealthy to limit their earnings in an effort to curb their tax burden. With poorer individuals, it is also in their best interest to limit the amount of money they earn in order to ensure they maintain their entitlement benefits.

Keeping individuals on the dole allows for them to create an environment of reliance on the government, while government grow ever so slowly in order to cater to that new found need.

Johnny screamed, “Liar! They would never do to our liberties what Bush did! They care about people!”

And so do conservatives, it’s just that their principles encourage individuals to go out and work hard to attempt to make it for themselves, but when they don’t make it they should rely on the charity of other individuals, churches, and groups that are privately owned and operated to pick up the slack and give people a hand. It should never be the government’s role to do these things, as they will be done inefficiently, will expand the role and scope of government in society and create a life that will not be worth living as property rights are diminished in an effort to collect more taxes. In that case, wealth creation is a burden.

And Johnny, individual liberty has more to do with making a go of it and failing than being guaranteed a good home, a hot meal, and a job by the government. It sounds nice, but breeds a situation of equal misery.

Both parties in this country are as guilty as can be of statist tendencies, their speed and outright efforts are just a little different.

“Huh?” Johnny asked blankly. “You’re getting that hate filled diatribe from Fox News! Your hating, hater, hate speechiness!”

What are you talking about Johnny? Where’s the debate my friend?

Johnny walked away screaming.

The Good War and Our Fight For Liberty

It’s been called the war we were supposed to be fighting. The one we should have focused on before running headlong into Iraq, and I must echo this conclusion.

We’ve been entrenched in this country for 8 years today; the invasion was meant to find Osama Bin Laden, destroy a significant portion of the leadership of Al-Qaeda, and to remove the Taliban from governing as they harbored and sponsored the group. We’ve managed to do two of the three. Finding Bin Laden, or his remains, has been the most difficult task to date.

We have yet to achieve the goal of completely stamping out the Taliban, the source of much of extremist Islamic influence left in Afghanistan, and establish a strong democratic system–but why should we do this last thing?

Should we be in the business of nation building, or securing liberty for ourselves and our progeny? I can agree that liberty and freedom are important goals, but a society must set that contract with itself.

I want to echo this editorial when I say that while it is important for us to establish some real goals and walk away from Afghanistan with a victory, our real goals should indeed be establishing and maintaining a defense against those philosophies and those peoples that are at odds with our own philosophies and constitutional liberties.

It is not wrong to oppose such antithetical ideas; it is not wrong to demand that any individual from another nation or culture that enters our country on any sort of permanent basis disavow their former allegiances and embrace that which is truly American: freedom, liberty, a shared culture of individualism, and fierce opposition to tyrannical encroachments on any of it. To become a member of our society, one must become an American and nothing else.

And this is what we should be preparing for; we should be preparing for the eventual encroachment on our liberties from a politically correct philosophy that would embrace those antithetical cultures and encourage them to flourish here, when in fact what has made this nation great has not been those diverse cultures, rather it has been the ability for individuals to take what is best about their cultural influences and use that within the framework of what freedom and liberty can provide.

As was stated by Theodore Roosevelt, despite his progressive shortcomings:

In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin.

We are at odds with radical Islam, and we cannot back down, but Afghanistan and the middle east might not be the appropriate theater for this opposition. Rather it should be in defense of our own borders.

In Honor of Lizette Mendoza

It was certainly a day I’ll remember more than any other, however hazy the memories become, simply because of the intense emotion surrounding what we all witnessed. But the intensity I felt is merely a shadow of what anyone would have experienced in New York that day, the 11th of September, 2001.

When I first heard of Project 2,996 I felt that I needed to participate in some way in order to honor the memory of those who lost their lives. I was assigned Lizette Mendoza, and I must admit that finding information on this individual seemed like an extremely daunting task simply because I did not want to dishonor her memory. So here goes.

Lizette was in New York on that crisp, clear morning, at work on the 105th floor of the WTC where the Aon Corporation was located; this is where she disappeared. She began her day as usual, on this Tuesday, without knowing that it might be her last. Afterall, it was a Tuesday, the week was really just beginning.

What more we might gather about her disappearance is not important, but what is important is that those who knew her, loved her dearly and enjoyed her passion and devotion to her children.

I know that she graduated from High School the year I was born, putting us at vastly different ranges of life experience, perhaps at the low end of being old enough to have been my mother.

She died at the age of 33, when I was just nearing the end of my high school career. I would go on that day and finish classes, attend football practice, and go on to play Friday night with a touching tribute to the events of that previous Tuesday. But, I did not have a connection to that day, until now, that made it real for me at that time.

I will honor Lizette today, in the hopes that her memory, and the memory of everyone else who lost their lives that day and in the war to follow, will not be forgotten.

Letter to the Editor: Healthcare

We can all agree that healthcare costs can be, and often are, unaffordable for many; the system needs reform, but to what end? A recent proposal from Congress would create a public option for individuals earning up to a certain percentage above the poverty line in an effort to ensure that the roughly 47 million uninsured individuals in this country are covered.

Unfortunately, that number is a bit disingenuous, but effective, in helping push legislation. Let’s break that number down a bit: roughly 18 million can afford insurance, but do not want it; 8 million are young 18-25 year olds and choose not to sign up; 12 million are non-citizen residents or illegal; 9 million are between jobs and only temporarily uninsured; 8 million are covered children, who have merely not been signed up; and another 3 million are eligible for government health programs but have not signed up. This adds up to more than the 47 million uninsured that is often cited, but many individuals will fall under multiple categories. What we also know is that roughly 80 percent of those that are uninsured are in good to excellent health and the majority tend to be young. Additionally, the numbers cited are merely a snapshot, or a moment in time, of the true picture of the uninsured, which could be higher or lower than the official figures.

So just from looking at these rough numbers, we can see that it can be a bit misleading to claim a government option is needed immediately for the health and well being of the citizenry.

From a financial perspective, the Congressional Budget Office gives a pretty clear picture of why bringing a public option to the table should be so unpalatable. By its own reports, the claimed savings on Medicare of $2 billion over 10 years is small in comparison to the roughly $1 trillion it would cost in that same time frame to fund the public option–and we’re only in the first decade of the program. Beyond that the net cost of coverage would continue to grow by 8 percent a year. What this means is an unsustainable level of deficit spending over the long term, unless taxes are raised significantly on everyone–including the middle class and poor. Any move towards a single-payer system would force these numbers sky high to a level that would bankrupt government and the system.

This program is unneeded and too expensive, in addition to the many other problems presented by the House’s version of the legislation, to be seen as a real solution.

There are other options available for decreasing costs and reforming the insurance industry, but keeping it out of the hands of government is best if we respect the principles set forth in the constitution. Otherwise we trample on them in order to gain more entitlements and increased tax obligations–perhaps not for ourselves but certainly for our progeny, and at the unintended cost of changing the face of what liberty means in this country.

Mike Mattner

Update: To be published in the Herald Palladium. Not sure on the date yet.