There are those who claim that the reduction of freedom is not the foundation of the Obama Administration. As one who believes that Obama and his allies are indeed basing their agenda on the destruction of freedom, I think it is important to examine the concept of freedom. Clearly what it means to be free is not understood the same by all parties or else there would be universal agreement on opposing Obama’s agenda.
In truth, freedom is an illusive concept. Or at least it’s relationship to government makes it one. At its heart freedom is anarchy. It is the state of being completely and utterly free to do as you please. In a society such absolute freedom does not work as some would take actions that harm others. Absolute freedom and anarchy was certainly not what the framers of our nation had in mind when they created the Constitution that set limits both on the people and on the government.
In our society the word freedom is used when perhaps the word liberty would be better. By it we mean that power comes from the people who give some of their power to government to act as their agent for the common protection of everyone’s liberty. Government was created to ensure that each person was protected in his or her rights to the fullest possible extent – limiting freedom only to the degree necessary to protect the life, liberty and property of all. We are not free to take anything we want because that would infringe on the rights of those from whom we would take it. We are not free to kill those we dislike because that would infringe on the lives of those we would kill. We are not free to censor opinions we oppose as that would infringe on the liberty of those we sought to silence.
Our Constitution is, as Obama correctly stated, a document of negative powers. It states what government is limited to doing, reserving all else for the States or the people in their private lives. It seeks to empower government only to the minimum extent necessary to protect life, liberty and property. In that way, we remain free.
Over time those limitations have been eroded. Today a citizen is not free in his own home. The government has assumed the mantle of protector, nurturer, equalizer and enforcer. Where once you were free to do as you pleased almost without limit so long as you did not directly harm someone else, today we are bound by countless laws dictating everything from what kind of outlet you can have in your bathroom to how much water you toilet tank can hold.
Any law can be justified. Any problem can be solved on paper by passing a law, yet one look at our society will show that attempting to curtail liberty in an effort to reshape society is a failure. Banning a thing does not eliminate it. Regulating a thing does not eliminate malfeasance. All these thousands of laws based not on protecting our lives, liberty and property but rather on engineering some alternate vision of society do little more than strip the average citizen of the freedom to live their own lives. They obey these laws that they don’t need and lose their freedom as a consequence while those who carry out abuse continue to do so. In most cases, these criminals were already breaking an existing law long before we wrote a hundred more.
This brings us back to this administration. President Obama and his allies have a different view of the role of government than its original purpose. They see government as an appropriate vehicle to re-engineer society. They do not see government as existing to protect life, liberty and property but rather to regulate the way in which society operates. Their view is, to put it simply, the exact opposite of what the framers attempted to create with the Constitution.
If government seeks to raise one person’s standard of living by taking from another, the government has not preserved the freedom of the person it robbed. To make the argument that it isn’t robbery because the government did it and it is elected by the people is basically to buy into the excuse of Richard Nixon that “if the President does it, that means it isn’t illegal”. Yes the people elect the government, but the government is bound by the Constitution. Fostering economic equality is not one of the enumerated powers. Therefore it is, by the tenth amendment, reserved to the States or the people in their private lives.
If we look at the policies of this administration, we see their opposite view of the role of government underlying them all. Government control of banking, suspension of investor rights in the takeover of two auto manufacturers, dictating the types of light bulbs you may use in your own home, seizure of your private medical information and the list goes on and on. Yes, every action done by this administration can be justified with arguments on how those actions will potentially save money or improve the environment or increase efficiency. None of those things, however, is an enumerated power granted to the government by the people. Therefore all of those things are being done through the usurpation of power at the expense of personal and collective freedom.
We should pause to remember that American slaves had free housing, free food, free heat in the winter, free medical care and were cared for in their old age when they could no longer work. Those things are no substitute for freedom and thousands risked their lives and gave up all those things in an attempt to be free even if that meant starvation, sickness and homelessness. What this administration is doing today is turning back the clock and making us all slaves not of a few plantation owners, but of government itself. We lose the fruits of our labor to our government master and in return we get the barest of our necessities meted out in equal proportion. That isn’t freedom.