Pushing the Box Towards Freedom

12 10 2009

Sometimes it seems hard to qualify why or how we are supposed to fight for freedom.  After all, America is still one of the most free countries on the face of the earth; we’ve got it pretty good compared, to say, Singapore, where you can’t chew gum in a public area, and besides, there are some things, like drug legalization, that are just so unlikely to happen that they almost seem pointless to argue about.

Singapore...no smoking, eating or drinking, and no...durians?

Singapore...no smoking, eating or drinking, and no...durians?

Yet with seemingly every law passed by Congress, we get a little less free.  Why doesn’t it ever seem to work the other way?  Thanks to Doug Tietz (one of U of M’s YAF refounders and candidate for Troy City Council), we now have a simple but effective way of visualizing this problem and working towards fighting the erosion of our liberties.
As Doug explained during our last meeting, one can visualize the spectrum of political possibilities as a simple, left-right axis with slavery, or complete lack of control over one’s own life and decisions, and freedom, or total control of one’s own life and decisions, at opposite ends of that spectrum.

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Simple, effective, and not too gimmicky

Somewhere in the middle lies the box of political possibility.  All political decisions occur within this box, the boundaries of which are ultimately set by public opinion—politicians will rarely act outside of the box, no matter what their ideals, because at the end of the day they would like to get reelected.

Our job then becomes moving that box towards freedom by shaping public opinion. We can do that by writing letters to the editor, standing on a soapbox on the Diag, or teaching others about the benefits of increased personal liberty.

After all, moving the box is what the enemies of freedom have been doing for generations.  Would an individual health insurance mandate have even been feasible for a politician to propose in this country fifty years ago?  Unlikely.  But the leaders of public opinion have worked tirelessly to drag that box away from freedom, and now that very issue is on the table.
But the box moves the other way as well.  While unrestricted ownership of automatic weapons is still out of the realm of possibility, a persistent gun rights movement has resulted in several recent Supreme Court victories for firearm ownership.  And marijuana legalization, while controversial,  seems less and less impossible every year.

No matter what cause is most important to you, work to move the box towards freedom—and we’ll all benefit.

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