The Danger of Freedom

I like Star Wars. It is a compelling story with interesting characters and an emotional message. Beneath all of the entertainment, however, lies a message of warning that many people just don’t internalize because all they see are the flashing lightsabers and cool spaceships. It is a story of oppression by a government who claims to be providing security, and the people willingly give themselves over to it. When people see hard times, it becomes easy to give over control to someone else who claims they can take care of the problem for us. The truth is that no one can solve your problems for you. You have to do it.

Human beings crave freedom. It is a fundamental part of our existence. The ability to choose our own path and shape our own future is one of the most powerful dreams a person can have. Western society has been formed around the idea that a person is a free individual who has the right to choose. Our governments have been formed around this central concept and everything in our lives is shaped by it.

Unfortunately, human beings are also filled with fear, and this manifests itself in a strong desire for security. That same freedom that we so crave is often a source of anxiety because we fear the possibility of failure or privation or even death. We are equipped with a powerful survival instinct, and it usually serves us well, but sometimes it can get in the way of the higher ideals to which we strive. When push comes to shove, our instincts usually take center stage.

It has been said that freedom isn’t free. It has a cost. Part of that cost is certainly the blood and sacrifice paid by those who came before to provide us with a world where freedom can flourish. Many have paid the price for the lives we live now, and most of us respect those sacrifices and salute those who came before. The problem is that while we respect it, we don’t really understand it, and because we haven’t experienced what they had to go through, we don’t value it as much as those who came before. It isn’t until we are forced to go through what they went through that we truly understand the value of what they have given us.

We always struggle to reconcile this dichotomy inside us. We want our freedom, but we don’t want to pay the price that comes with that freedom. It is always preferable to have someone else deal with the problems that come with making a society free, and the ideas that emerge from that line of thinking invariably lead to socialism, and then communism. It is because we don’t want to deal with the dangers of freedom that we eventually lose it. We aren’t willing to live with risk, so we give up our freedom a bit at a time hoping that it will result in a safer community, all the while not realizing that it’s all a lie.

The world isn’t a safe place, and it never will be. To believe that anyone can provide you with a safe place to live is foolish. Our history is rife with incidents of riots and violent protests, many of which were in places where the people believed they had safe communities. It only takes a moment to go from order to chaos, and what will you do when the systems in place are inadequate to respond to unfolding events?

It gets even worse than that. Setting aside random acts of societal violence against cities or governments, what about you as an individual? We trust in our police to provide us with justice, and that is the right thing to do. When someone wrongs us, there must be a price paid for that act, and we rely on our police force to investigate and bring criminals to justice. The problem is that it is very unlikely that the police will prevent the act in the first place; they almost always arrive after the crime is committed. It is very rare for the police to stop something bad from happening to you. The national average for police response time is 18 minutes following a 911 call. Even if it were only five minutes, we can imagine what can happen to us in even such a short time, and that assumes you ever get the chance to call the police anyway.

The lie of big government is that it can somehow mitigate all of these dangers and provide us with a free and open society with none of the risks that freedom entails. This is false. When people are truly free, there is an inherent risk that some of those free people will do something horrible. When we allow people to do what they want, some of them are going to want to do evil things. It is the danger of freedom.

So what do we do about it? Lock everyone down in the futile hope that it will prevent some of us from doing bad? How much government does it take to stop all bad things from happening? Is it even possible? I believe that history has shown us that there is no way to prevent people from doing bad things when they decide they’re going to do it. Criminals will always find a way to get around whatever laws we put in place. It is only those who wouldn’t do bad things in the first place who actually abide by the rules. They aren’t the ones we have to worry about.

If we understand that no government will ever provide us with security, then we have to start moving our goals toward the other end of the spectrum. The more we allow government to interfere in our lives, the most danger we expose ourselves to. This instinctively feels wrong, but when you think through logically to the end, it is the only conclusion. Even putting aside the conspiratorial ideas that the government itself will do something bad to you, which historically it does, big government can never protect you from even the most basic dangers in life. Why would we trust our safety to it?

In the end, we are all responsible for our own lives. Our survival ultimately rests on us. When we trade our personal liberty for a false sense of security, we get neither freedom nor security. Our founding fathers understood this, and we should remember it. If you think you can sit back and enjoy the luxury that has been provided for us without paying the price for it, you are sadly mistaken. We ignore the advance of false security at our own peril.

So if we already know the problem, what do we do about it? Take to the streets? Put on our tin foil hats and gather in dark rooms to obsess over conspiracy theories? Join a cult? No, none of those things are helpful. As Americans, we live in a country that allows us to make new choices and change our way forward. All it takes is a little bit of effort and a little bit of reason to find the way to overcome this false doctrine of security. The power lies in that piece of paper that we all have the opportunity to mark when a new round of elections come around. It is the first cost we must pay to ensure our own freedom. If we are too lazy to pay that small fee for freedom, then our procrastination will lead to far steeper costs in the future, and we will deserve the bondage in which we find ourselves.

The power lies with us. Don’t waste it.

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