Government Corrupts the Simplicity of Freedom

Albert Jay Nock, commenting on Franklin D. Roosevelt's 'Four Freedoms,' said, 'There is no such thing, four or forty. Freedom has no plural. Freedom either is, or isn't.' Roosevelt, and successive executive tyrants, have destroyed the meaning of freedom, making it a privilege to be bestowed, regulated and even revoked at the discretion of government. Since his presidency, generations of Americans have bought into this philosophy, even embracing it as necessary to preserve freedom. In truth, government only destroys freedom; it never protects it.

Freedom is a very simple concept. To understand it requires little or no formal education. Once, while traveling across the sometimes desolate roads of northern Arizona , my eight-year old daughter asked my wife, 'Mom, why do we have to have laws? Why can't we just be free?'

Many Americans persist in complicating freedom by attributing its existence and survival to the vigilance of government. Government responds, passing thousands of laws and creating layers of bureaucracy to enforce them. Laws have no purpose except to confiscate, transfer, and restrict property use, inhibit the movement of individuals, stifle entrepreneurship and commerce, and increase the size and scope of government. The end result is a calculated destruction of freedom.

The nineteenth-century French economist Frederic Bastiat understood how the law subverts freedom, serving only the condescending tyrants in government and their greedy masters in the worlds of business, commerce, and finance. As Bastiat noted in The Law, 'the tendency of the human race toward liberty is largely thwarted,' mostly by men who 'desire to set themselves above mankind in order to arrange, organize, and regulate it according to their fancy.'

Bastiat was not unique in his thinking about government, the law and liberty. The early nineteenth century was fertile with great minds who shared his perspective on these subjects. Yet his words are spoken so clearly and forcefully that, according to Walter E. Williams, 'even the unlettered can understand them and statists cannot obfuscate them.' A century and a half later, The Law remains one of the great books on the subject of liberty.

After extensive study and research, Bastiat concluded, 'for whatever the question under discussion - whether religious, philosophical, political, economic; whether it concerns prosperity, morality, equality, right, justice, progress, responsibility, cooperation, property, labor, trade, capital, wages, taxes, population, or government . . . The solution to the problems of human relationships is to be found in liberty.' Yet for all these potential problems associated with human relationships, government intervention is seen as an indispensable component of success.

Since World War I, our government has used the excuse of 'war' to attack and destroy the freedom of the American people. Indeed, government has waged nearly a century of uninterrupted war on freedom itself. Whether 'at war' with industrialization, economic calamities, foreign powers, communism, drugs, poverty, or terrorism, endless opportunities have been fabricated by our government to scare the hell out of people, solely to facilitate the growth of its own power. As John Taylor said in Tyranny Unmasked, 'War is the casualty which most extensively transfers property, and by that effect most sorely oppresses nations. It invariably generates a class of men, who wish for its continuance, however injurious it is to the people generally.'

In an essay titled, 'The Essence of Government,' Doug Casey argues it a 'perversely misleading myth' that government promotes social harmony. On the contrary, it does the exact opposite. As Casey says, 'There is no cosmic imperative for different people to rise up against one another - unless they're organized into political groups.' Government sows discord among social, ethnic, and racial groups by granting exclusive privileges to some at the expense of others. The resulting strife falsely convinces many Americans that government intervention is necessary to preserve order and peace. As a result, we get more laws, more restrictions, more government and less freedom.

James Ostrowski has most likely offered the simplest and most concise definition of freedom. Freedom, he said, 'means doing what you wish with what is yours . . . when you wake up in the morning, your life, liberty, and property are yours to do with them what you will . . . That's freedom. It's that simple.' Conversely, you must accept that everyone else has the same freedom to do what they want with what is theirs, without interference from you or government. So long as one individual does not interfere with the freedom of another, there should never be a need for any third-party intervention.

Even when the need arises for third-party intervention, what 'cosmic imperative,' as Doug Casey might ask, demands that government step in and resolve conflicts? Knowing this, government has worked hard to corrupt the meaning of freedom by indoctrinating Americans of all ages to accept massive government power spread across countless agencies in order to be prepared for what might happen. In government's pursuit of security, justice, fairness, equality, etc., freedom becomes a scarce commodity controlled by government commissars.

Applying Ostrowski's definition of freedom to American society proves that we are far from free. Does a business owner really have full property rights to his business? Can he hire and/or fire employees at will, without fear of breaking some law? Can he refuse to do commerce with people of color solely because he finds them revolting? If you own a home, can you 'legally' alter your property without first getting permission from government? If you choose to sell your home, can you refuse to sell to any prospective buyers for reasons of your own choosing? If you are an entrepreneur who discovers a universal cure for all cancers, would you be permitted to retain exclusive property rights to your discovery and the ability to charge whatever price you wished for its use? No matter what you do, where you go, or what activities you engage in, government is there in some way to regulate your freedom to dispose of your time and property.

Anyone who believes justice and social order is served when government parcels out freedom at its discretion, does not believe in freedom. True freedom is incompatible with government. Freedom either is, or isn't. It's that simple.

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Harry Goslin lives in eastern Arizona.