Posts Tagged ‘seatbelt’
Perhaps the most thoroughly American word is “liberty.” Since the revolution, Americans from all points on the political spectrum have claimed that their particular agenda would lead to greater liberty. Regardless of the particular issue, virtually all interest groups use the language of freedom to justify their pet projects.
So what about the UM Constitutionalists? We call for radical tax cuts, an end to the American empire, phasing out the welfare state, immediately abolishing all forms of Big Government-Big Business-Big Bank incest, and restoring our civil liberties lost in the name of fighting terrorism. We claim, and of course we believe we’re right, that only our libertarian agenda truly protects the liberty of the American people.
But what exactly is liberty? We realize, of course, that one short blog entry cannot provide a complete discussion of liberty. We hope that this will simply be the beginning of an important dialogue.
Essentially, two understandings of liberty have been voiced. Negative liberty holds that a negative relationship exists between government and liberty, so an increase in government power by definition results in a decrease in liberty. Every time the government expands its power, that much of the people’s freedom disappears; it is a zero sum game. Liberty, therefore, connotes freedom from government. Government may still be necessary, of course, but because it endangers the rights of the people, its powers should be as limited as possible. George Washington once said that government is like fire, a useful tool if controlled, but a fearsome danger if not. The negative liberty view is quite simple: More government, less liberty.
While the ideals of the revolution and constitution rested on a healthy distrust of strong government, negative liberty today commands few adherents. Since 1900, increasing numbers of Americans have turned to the opposite view, positive liberty. According to this perspective, government does not necessarily threaten liberty. Rather, government action can actually maximize liberty by protecting the individual from himself. Those who accept this view reject the knee-jerk fear of government because, in their view, government action could lead to positive outcomes.
Take the example of seatbelt laws. The state of Mississippi has decreed that all passengers in cars will wear a seatbelt. The issue is not whether doing so promotes safety, but whether the state of Mississippi can force its will on the people. The negative liberty view is simple: No. Free individuals are masters over themselves and by right are free to make choices for their own lives, even if those choices are foolish. So long as the individual poses no threat to others, he can pose a threat to himself. Since he owns himself, the choices and repercussions of unwise decisions belong to him, not the government.
In contrast, the positive liberty view impatiently ignores the individual’s freedom from government coercion. Seatbelt laws can save the life of the individual, so government force has generated positive results. Positive liberty emphasizes the safe outcome, not the individual’s choice. Note that seatbelt laws are designed to protect the individual driver, not innocent bystanders that the driver may threaten. Positive liberty assumes that government action plays a legitimate and necessary role in forcing us to make wise decisions. Government laws that coerce us to do what the government thinks is appropriate can lead to safer, happier lives. Strong government, then, is not by itself a threat, but rather a necessary companion to liberty.
The UM Constitutionalists fully embrace negative liberty. Only this view of liberty champions self-ownership and calls for the liberation of individuals from all undue coercion. Positive liberty is truly frightening because it has no logical endpoint. If the government presumes to know how to live our lives better than we know how to live them ourselves, where will government expansion stop? Though unintentional, positive liberty carries totalitarian implications.
As stated above, this one entry cannot provide an exhaustive explanation of liberty. It is time, though, for Americans to seriously ponder the nature of freedom, for much is at stake. We urge everyone to understand, as previous generations once did, that an expansion of government threatens individual liberty. We demand the emancipation of all citizens from government slavery because they have the right and capacity to enjoy their lives without a Big Mama government to monitor them. Let the ruling classes tremble at a libertarian revolution. We slaves have nothing to lose but our chains. We have our liberty to win. Citizens of America, unite!