Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“It will require many long years of self-education until the subject can turn himself into the citizen. A free man must be able to endure it when his fellow men act and live otherwise than he considers proper. He must free himself from the habit, just as soon as something does not please him, of calling for the police.”     Ludwig von Mises,    Liberalism

July 23, 2007

Monday Open Thread: Getting To Liberty From Here

by Brad Warbiany

Alright… So yesterday I alluded to one of my older, more optimistic posts, where I suggest that the internet will fundamentally change the world and be an enormous force for liberty. But on other days, I get very pessimistic, and worry that America has gone too far down, and that the trappings of “society” will forever crush liberty. On those days, I feel like the only way we’ll ever have liberty is to make our way to the frontier, and in the modern world, that’s going to have to be outer space.

But I wonder what you guys think:

Do we have a chance at restoring liberty? If so, what will be the cause?

Or, if you think we’re pretty well doomed, explain why.

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9 Comments

  1. As optimistic as I am, I think it will take another revolution to truly put America back to where she needs to be. The 20th century was the century that broke the camel’s back and put us on the road to an indebted socialistic machine, with little more than a glimmer of what the founders imagined for America. Our constitution is in shambles, the government is out of control as it breaks its own laws, and the populace is too busy worrying about what Becks and Posh are doing to care what is really happening to our union. People ask me why I care about politics. I tell them politics matters because it affects everything – my freedoms, my taxes, my property, and ultimately, my life. They just shrug and walk off, too blinded by their “government owes me” mindset. America didn’t have to have it this good, but we were blessed. If we don’t stand watch, those blessings will erode and our standing as nation of liberty will be no more.

    Comment by Adam — July 23, 2007 @ 11:21 am
  2. Doug,

    Although I certainly see a lot of creeping statism/authoritarianism in recent events, I also have reason to be relatively hopeful for the long-term. True, the Republicans turned into a bunch of money-grubbing entitlement whores and incompetent war-mongers when they were in office, but the American voters eventually recognized them for what they were and we voted them out. And although there’s a great chance that the White House will end up in Democratic hands in 2008, as will Congress, I think that the Dems will also be on a short leash with the American public if they screw the pooch on Iraq and spending (which I have no doubt they’ll do). The Internet may not enable us to stop abuses of power, predict terrible policy decisions, or prevent bad politicians from getting into office, but it allows us a chance to recognize those things more quickly and react in the next elections by voting the worst offenders out. And that can only be a good thing. So as long as we’ve still got a vote, there’s hope for liberty. And if not, we’ve still got the Second Amendment :)

    Besides, looking at the very long-term, in human history there hasn’t ever been an example of a totalitarian government that could suppress liberty indefinitely without eventually falling apart or being forced to reform. In the end, authoritarian, controlling governments aren’t really a viable model and they eventually collapse, at a much greater rate than freer societies do.

    Comment by UCrawford — July 23, 2007 @ 2:11 pm
  3. This was my post, not Doug’s :-)

    As for the question of long-term, I see us following the European model, unfortunately. Get to a comfortable standard of living, then tax the crap out of your economy to ensure you never get beyond a comfortable standard of living. Sadly, many Americans are more than willing to gladly go along with it, and the rest of us who are pissed off realize that we’re still pretty well free, and have nowhere better to go.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — July 23, 2007 @ 2:39 pm
  4. Brad,

    This was my post, not Doug’s :-)

    You mean were’ not interchangable ;)

    Seriously, I am alot like you on this issue. There are times when I am very optimistic. The Ron Paul candidacy makes me think that there is still a group of people out there for whom a pro-freedom message resonates, and as long as that’s true, there’s hope.

    Other times, though, I think that it will take something truly drastic, a further erosion of civil liberties to the point where the great number of the public finally wakes up and realizes what has happened.

    Whether it will be too late at that point to do anything about it, is another question.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — July 23, 2007 @ 2:42 pm
  5. Sorry Brad.

    Comment by UCrawford — July 23, 2007 @ 3:00 pm
  6. Brad,

    I’m more on the optimistic side, especially on civil liberties. At a certain point when Habeus Corpus, freedom of speech, and right to arms are encroached upon by the state, enough will be enough. Americans, at least the Americans I know, won’t stand for such idiocy.

    I am not so sure about economic liberties. That will depend on how the health care reform debate turns out. If we enact universal health care on a federal level, I think the US will become more and more like Europe. Health care is so expensive that we’ll have committed ourselves to perpetually high taxation.

    If we reject universal health care on a federal level, I think we can start changing the attitude of the average American citizen towards entrepreneurship and capitalism. If we can successfully market entrepreneurship – and I think we will – we can show people that a free market is best at encouraging people to be creative and adventurous, and create higher and higher levels of prosperity for all.

    Comment by TanGeng — July 23, 2007 @ 3:42 pm
  7. I see it as a one-step backwards, two-step forwards kind of deal. Yeah, we fall back into the quasi-socialist entitlement trap every once in awhile, but if you look at human society I think it’s progressed. There’s more discussion on the ideals of individual human rights, technology continues to improve, humans are smarter, healthier, richer and live longer lives. And more of us seem to embrace the idea of capitalism than before. Overall I think we’re doing okay, even if we have the occasional setback once in awhile.

    For U.S. politics, the thing I’m kind of curious about is if the Democrats and Republicans continual embracing big government means that a third party like the Libertarians could seriously challenge for seats in 2010 or 2012. Both major parties seem so polarized by their bases that it seems the middle would be wide open for a group that embraces the social freedoms the Democrats used to love and the economic freedoms the Republicans used to champion. At the very least I figure that the rise of a third party would force the Dems and the GOP to moderate their views again, just to compete for centrist votes.

    Comment by UCrawford — July 23, 2007 @ 3:45 pm
  8. By the way, as a people I think that we Americans are a lot more contrarian and resistant to big government than the Europeans are, and the Europeans are actually starting to move away from socialism towards free markets again anyway. Sweden’s been reforming its health care system (because it’s turning into a mess that the government can no longer fund) and Britain seems headed that way with the NHS. France elected a right-wing candidate at least partly as a reaction to all the students who were rioting to prevent laws allowing them to be fired and their declining economy. Germany booted their socialist PM Schroeder because their ridiculous work laws and entitlements were pushing the economy towards meltdown.

    Socialism doesn’t work economically, and it inevitably results in stagnation and poverty. I think most people are able to recognize this (some slower than others, of course), so just because Europe is widely socialist now doesn’t mean it will always be that way or that the they can’t change course. Capitalism has a remarkable ability to reform governments and societies without invasions or armed revolts, after all. And I think that Americans have been pretty good about recognizing this more quickly than the rest of the world, so I remain optimistic.

    Comment by UCrawford — July 23, 2007 @ 3:57 pm
  9. We aren’t getting smarter, just the opposite. American IQ is going down as upper IQ folks are having fewer children, while the lower IQ folks are having not only bigger familys, but the ruling elite is importing a new under class.

    I have seen nothing in my experience to think the American people are about to give up their welfare state bennies. Most don’t want to deal with the reality of Real Life and prefer to live off the scraps a gubmint check provides them…that and the lottery or a trip to an exotic locale, anything that makes them forget about the fact that one day,like us all, they shall die alone.

    If I have hope and optimism, its that people in our generation are rejecting the egalitarianism of their parents. The Human Genome Project is not only fascinating but its rekindling a desire in the human heart to know more about who we are as people. This will fuel revisionism and undermine the myths of the Creedal Nation, as it creates new myths for the historic American civilization, that despite many betrayals, including that of the Constitution that replaced the Articles, that desire for to be left alone, to live in freedom, survived. This gives me hope not only for myself, but my children (we’ll out breed them yet!) as folks discover that secession is their political birth right.

    Comment by C Bowen — July 23, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

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