by Selwyn Duke
We here in America take great pride in saying that we are the "freest nation on earth."
We, especially when we perceive our country to be threatened by an external force, will pound our chests and give ourselves pep talks wherein we laud the unshackled state of being that we fancy ourselves to enjoy. For instance, it's often said that terrorists have us in their crosshairs because they hate the freedom the United States represents.
This being an election year, talk of freedom sometimes becomes the indispensable stuff of campaign rhetoric and passes the lips of politicians almost as readily as well-crafted prevarications. In an ominous tone a candidate may tell us that the President is taking away our freedom, or in an imploring one may try to woo us by casting himself as the reincarnation of Patrick Henry.
As far as our supposition that no country rivals us in the freedom department goes, a little patriotism is not a bad thing. But there is one danger: sometimes, when you're thoroughly convinced of your greatness, you fail to scrutinize yourself closely enough to realize it's escaping your grasp. It's like the undefeated boxer who is so convinced he's nonpareil, that he slacks off and doesn't realize he's not the man he used to be until he wakes up on a trainer's table with a lump on his head. And as far as the politicians who proclaim themselves to be champions of freedom go, are they what they claim to be? Or, are they simply bad trainers who will tell their charges sweet little lies designed to endear the latter to them? The real questions are: how does one measure freedom? And, how can one distinguish between prospective leaders who truly value freedom and those who are just wolves in eagles clothing? Then, how free are we? And lastly, are we more or less free than other nations and the America of days gone by? Is it all a matter of perception, just a judgement that can only be made on a subjective basis, or is there a way of quantifying such things?
There sure is a way freedom can be measured and it's really quite simple: a nation's degree of freedom will be inversely proportional to the number of laws it has enacted. In other words, the more laws you have the less free you are. This is because a law by definition is the removal of a freedom; it states that there's something you cannot do or something you must do. And, needless to say, if there's something you cannot do you're not free to do it -- if there's something you must do you aren't free to do otherwise. Armed with this knowledge, we can determine how free our country is and where it stands relative to other nations and its former self. We also will understand that since our nation creates more laws every year but hardly ever rescinds any, it means that every year we are less and less free.
Once this understanding has been established, determining the degree to which a given politician understands and will protect freedom becomes a very facile task. If a politician's solution to most problems is another law, if he seems to believe that society can be legislated to perfection, he either has no grasp of how freedom is lost or, even more damnably, is willing to fritter it away in order to serve his own selfish political ends.
Tragically, there are precious few politicians who exhibit any grasp at all of the aforementioned. By and large, the difference between liberals and so-called conservatives now is one between big brother and big brother light. Consequently, barring a second American revolution, the only thing in question about our movement toward complete governmental servitude is the rate.
Understanding how freedom is measured is of the utmost importance, because only then can you understand how it is lost and what you must do to preserve it. Every time legislators decide to enact another law they have legislated away another freedom -- this is why lawmaking and choosing lawmakers are serious matters. It's also why civilization tends to gravitate toward tyranny: the little child inside of everyone wants immediate gratification. This causes people to demand that social problems be remedied expeditiously and the only way to effect instant change is through the law. What happens then is what I spoke of before: the society will create more laws every year but will hardly ever rescind any, and this means that every year its people will be less free - I call this creeping totalitarianism. It's the simplest of truths, but yet, one that eludes virtually all. This is no doubt why the great philosopher G.K. Chesterton said that it is a myth that civilizations transition from tyranny to democracy -- they transition from democracy to tyranny. It makes perfect sense, because as time wears on freedom gets incrementally squelched under the ever more burdensome yoke of proliferating laws. So, how free are we? Well, in the "freest nation on earth" there are now over 250,000 laws . . . and counting.