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But don’t tell me we have personal liberties!

threedonia.com has an essay about the United States versus every other nation.  And liberty.

What Rufus says, in part:

~What used to set the U.S. apart from all other nations was our citizens had more personal liberty than any others.

The U.S. government can take whatever percentage of money I earn, whenever they choose.  They can take whatever percentage of money they choose from any agreement I may enter into with another person.  They can even take whatever percentage they choose of my worldly possessions when I die.  They even control and forbid what I can use as money in exchange with others for goods and services.  My state and local governments do the same.

The U.S. government and my state government mandate standards that I must adhere to while educating my children.  They mandate how many days and years I must educate my children.  If I fail to meet their standards they can remove my children from my care.  If they determine I am not feeding or exercising my children properly they can remove them from my care.

The U.S. government controls what I eat.  I cannot put a food or liquid into my body without prior consent from the U.S. government.  A dairy farmer cannot drink the milk from his own livestock without first meeting government standards and controls.  If, tomorrow, I am diagnosed with a deadly disease and I meet another citizen who has developed a medicinal cure for that disease I am not permitted to purchase that cure without government approval.  That government approval almost always takes at least one decade and can often take two, or more.  If my life expectancy is less than the period required to meet that process I will die.  At its discretion the government can prohibit any medicine it chooses, regardless of its benefit.  The same is true for foods and beverages.

The U.S. government controls how I can defend my property and limits what weapons I can use in my own personal defense.  Local and federal governments limits the construction of any edifice I may wish to build on my property.  Each autumn I fill over 120 bags of yard waste with leaves.  Even though I have three fireplaces and a fire pit on my property (and all meet proper building codes) I am forbidden to burn those leaves on my land.  The size and material of the bags I must put the leaves in are also dictated by local statute.  I am forbidden from growing fruits or vegetables on my land for sale to others.  I am forbidden from owning livestock of any kind.  My pets are subject to enough laws and regulations to fill a bookshelf.

I cannot enter into an agreement to fly on an airplane with a private company without submitting to a search of my personal belongings and my own body.  I cannot drive the automobiles I own as fast or slow as I believe is prudent.  I cannot ride my bicycle on public roads without “proper” equipment.  I cannot paddle my kayak without proper registration, life vest, equipment…

Even though I have worked very hard since the age of 15 and have money invested in stocks, bonds and commodities, as well as owning property and quite a few material goods I am broke. Actually I am in debt.  My government has borrowed trillions of dollars in my name.  As a citizen I am responsible for those debts and they amount to more than I can pay.  My government has bankrupted me financially.

Many men throughout history, including some of the Founding Fathers, have referred to the United States as “an experiment” in government.  And it was.  The question has always been, “can men handle liberty and freedom.”  We have been avoiding the obvious for decades, maybe a century or more.  The experiment has been run.  The hypothesis has been tested.  The data have been collected.  The conclusion is, “No.”

That does not mean there are no people here who cherish liberty.  There are.  Millions.  I’ve traveled to dozens of foreign countries; communist, socialist, monarchy, theocratic, democratic…  In each nation I met men and women who cherish liberty.  Men and women who love mankind and devote their lives to bettering the human condition.  Men and women who work for human freedom.  Governments can’t take that spirit away.  It will never die.  But that’s separate from our relationship with our government.  That relationship used to be equivalent in the United States.  No longer.  Life is good.  My wife and kids are healthy.  We’ve got food in the pantry, central air-conditioning, books to read, music to listen to, clothes to wear.  The U.S. is a great place to raise a family.  There are oceans, mountain’s majesty and fruited plains.  I’m not going anywhere.

But don’t tell me we have personal liberties.

Please go to the link above and read the whole thing.  While it’s still allowed. – Guffaw

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About guffaw1952

I'm a child of the 50's. libertarian, now medically-retired. I've been a certified firearms trainer, a private investigator, and worked for a major credit card company for almost 22 years. I am a proud NRA Life Member. I am a limited-government, free-market capitalist, who believes in the U.S. Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Discussion

15 thoughts on “But don’t tell me we have personal liberties!

  1. Well done and thanks for the link!

    Posted by Old NFO | July 2, 2012, 9:07 am
  2. Some outfit did a study of liberty a year or two back, and concluded that Alaskans rank #1 in “personal freedom” … for whatever that’s worth. I’ve noticed a distinct downturn in that level, just in the last 24 months. And if it’s that bad here, it must be worse elsewhere. (Blood nears boiling point…)

    Posted by Rev. Paul | July 2, 2012, 9:29 am
  3. It’s commentary like this that I struggle to understand. Let me start my reaction to this piece that I see myself as cherishing liberty and freedom. Where I struggle with connecting to the author of this piece is understanding where his feeling of oppression comes from.

    I can see plenty of reason to complain about the WAY things are done, sure. But that certain things are done AT ALL seems to be what he’s upset about.

    Income tax levels are at their lowest since the 1950s. As far as state and local taxes go…well, that varies of course. The author indicates that he is of some means, which leads me to believe that he has the ability to re-locate to a place with a smaller tax burden. Even here in the greater Phoenix area, people sometimes cross city lines (or go to one of the nearby Native American reservations) for shopping because of the different tax liabilities on various goods and services. And, many of those local taxes (not all) have been put up for a popular vote.

    As far as the “death tax” goes…well, he must be wealthy indeed if he has a serious concern about it. My personal feeling is, this country was founded on the principle of NOT having a hereditary oligarchy of landed gentry – so taxing large estates doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I will concede that reasonable people can disagree on that point.

    Successful democracies depend on a well-educated population. Again, free, public education has been a cornerstone of our national heritage. I’m always puzzled by those seeking to undermine it. I’m all for choice – private schools, home education, etc. as long as they can demonstrate that they are indeed meeting educational standards. Who would want their kids to not be at least on par with the public schools?

    And, yes, I have to say that if children are being neglected and abused – they do need to be removed from situations that are a threat to their health and/or life. I just don’t know how anyone would be against that?

    Food safety laws…well, there’s a reason why milk is pasteurized, meat is tested for e. coli, etc. It saves lives. I guess I just don’t see that as being oppressed by the government. I can walk (not in this weather, though!) to a small farm not far from my house and point at his produce growing in the ground and say, “I want that!” and he can harvest it for me right there and I take it home. I don’t know what federal, state, tribal regulations he might under, but I certainly don’t feel big brother watching me.

    I also have a local butcher that I can go and watch him cut up the carcasses and pick my cuts of meat. I’m sure he’s under some health code jurisdiction, but that knowledge encourages me to buy from him, rather than otherwise (keeping his small family-owned business in operation).

    I’m really scratching my head over the point about a cure for a deadly disease being unavailable. Yes, new drugs and treatments can take frustratingly long to become available, but if he is that well off, I can’t imagine he couldn’t obtain it somewhere if it exists.

    When my nephew came down with a rare seizure disorder, his parents took him to the Dominican Republic for stem cell therapy (with financial help from the entire family). It didn’t turn out to be the miracle cure it was purported to be. That sort of “snake oil” or even harmful treatments are what the FDA process is meant to prevent. Many drugs and cures for rare diseases and disorders are unavailable, not because of the government, but because of the free market: not enough people have the disease to warrant the cost of producing the medicine.

    His complaint about zoning laws: he can move to a location where they are much less restrictive. Burning leaves: smoke in the air can cause real, serious harm to his neighbors, should they be unfortunate enough to have asthma or other breathing problems. Living in a community means taking other people’s needs into account.

    I guess he must live in a severely restricted area, because where I live many people in the neighborhood sell their home-grown produce – openly and on the street! It sounds like his choice of community is not in line with his values.
    Same goes for his pets: our dogs need to be licensed, on a leash, and picked up after – that’s it! And, many people have livestock of various kinds: chickens, goats, emus, horses, etc. I really think the writer needs to investigate options are surely available to him should he wish to explore them.

    I shudder to think of a community where everyone is left to their own judgment as to how fast to drive their cars. I guess I’ve seen too many idiotic drivers to ever think that is a good idea. In Germany, you are allowed to drive as fast as you please on the highways – it’s true, but with two important caveats: the police will pull you over if they judge you are going too fast for conditions and secondly (and most importantly) it is much more difficult to obtain a driver’s license there – much more knowledge and skill are required than here.

    Anyway, I hope I’ve expressed why I find his attitude puzzling. It’s not that I don’t think there are real, serious problems with our government – I do!! Where I struggle to understand is the (seeming) resentment that it exists at all.

    I hope all (if any) readers will take this in the spirit that it’s meant – an attempt to dig deeper into something that I find confusing and difficult to understand.

    Posted by Tomi | July 2, 2012, 12:12 pm
    • I, of course,cannot respond on behalf of the author. But, I’ve a few observations:
      ‘But that certain things are done AT ALL seems to be what he’s upset about.’
      ‘Income tax levels are at their lowest since the 1950s.’
      What if there were no income taxes? Defund the big government and eliminate the IRS. Shut down the bureaucracy.
      ‘As far as the “death tax” goes…”
      Same for the ‘death tax.’ Why is it assumed that excess income (like estates) automatically should defer-by law-to the government? Why can’t people decide to whom their estates go?
      ‘Successful democracies depend on a well-educated population.’ Show me one. There have been a few REPUBLICS, but democracies don’t work.
      ‘Who would want their kids to not be at least on par with the public schools?’ Statistics show private and parochial schools far outweigh their public counterparts in producing educated graduates. I think the public schools need to be on their par.
      ‘That sort of “snake oil” or even harmful treatments are what the FDA process is meant to prevent….’ Yet it’s a huge, inefficient bureaucracy designed to control, not to produce excellence. Let the free market and courts decide if their is harm.
      ‘His complaint about zoning laws: he can move to a location where they are much less restrictive.’ Where? Most local zoning has become tiny fiefdoms, again based on control, not serving the public. I think about the vets who cannot fly the flag they defended, or the ‘eminent domain’ laws where governments forcibly take property for their own use, like selling to make more profit. For the government.
      Driver licenses. Have you been on the roads of late? People drive like maniacs, anyway. The so-called driver license is a minimum standard in this country.
      My view – and I’ve no idea if it coincides with the author’s – is there is simply too much government, too much regulation, and too much bureaucracy.
      All based on the premise that somehow government is a good thing. The specifics may be argued and discussed, but more government is not the solution.

      Posted by guffaw1952 | July 2, 2012, 4:38 pm
      • Thanks for the thoughtful response. I have just few things to add, mostly for the sake of clarity.

        First, I don’t think that MORE government is needed (although I would like to see some things done differently), I just don’t feel oppressed by the one I’m living under now. I certainly have frustrations and complaints, but they don’t amount to a feeling of oppression like the one in the original post.

        Having said that, it does seem as if the writer is living in a community with much more restrictions than the one I live in. I’m just wondering (since he’s apparently a person of comfortable means) why he doesn’t attempt to find a place more to his satisfaction. If he WANTS to keep livestock, sell home-grown produce, etc. I promise that there are plenty of places he can do that. If he’s living in a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, obviously he’s made a different choice (I know, it’s an extreme example). But that’s the great thing about the USA: if you have the money, you can live in Manhattan and enjoy the benefits of one of the greatest cities in the world, or you can go to Wyoming and be a gentleman farmer. Or, pick a lifestyle just about anywhere in-between.

        RE: the death tax, as I said, reasonable people can disagree. I’ve come to my philosophical point on the subject, but I can see how people can see it differently.

        RE: public education – yes, it’s in a sad and sorry state. I see daily proof! That’s why I said: “Who would want their kids to not be at LEAST on par with the public schools?”

        RE: drivers’ licenses – yes, I was making the point that strict libertarian-ism doesn’t work on the streets, rules HAVE to be followed or there is nothing but chaos. (And having seen rush hour in Saigon, I can say that despite having a totalitarian government – anarchy reigns on the streets!)

        As far as the REALLY BIG aspects of government (income tax, FDA) etc. I guess I’m still not understanding what the ultimate goal of the libertarian philosophy is. Without an income tax – would we have a military? Veterans’ benefits? Interstate highway system? State department? National monuments? Standardized currency? Would we maintain a federal government at all? I’m just curious about how an ideal libertarian society would look like, and how it would operate in the 21st century. Is it possible to be simultaneously libertarian and a global superpower?
        Sorry to ask so many questions, but this is me trying for a deeper understanding of the libertarian ideal.

        Posted by Tomi | July 3, 2012, 11:11 am
      • I’m still unpacking here @ Guffaw’s New Room.
        Any libertarians out there care to field Tomi’s questions? Anyone?

        Bueller? Bueller?

        Posted by guffaw1952 | July 3, 2012, 12:17 pm
  4. Oh, hey, I’m the author. Just doing some cleaning up at http://www.threedonia.com and I saw this reference. Sorry I didn’t see it sooner. I hope Tomi is still around, or someone can send this on to him…

    Regarding Tomi’s questions; I have been to China and saw hundreds of thousands of people and none of them looked “oppressed.” I never saw a single Chinese soldier with his boot on a Chinese citizen. In what way were the Colonists “oppressed” by Britain prior to the Revolution. It is man’s relationship with Government that has me concerned. If you don’t find the very idea that the federal government takes a portion of your wages before you even see them oppressive I’m not sure I can come up with a definition of the word “oppressive” we both will agree on.

    Our nation was founded on the principle that Federal government was restricted to 14 enumerated powers and, in order to raise the funds necessary for those powers Congress can levy taxes. Consumption taxes. Congress can build interstate roads. If Congress chooses to do that Congress can raise money. They can directly tax the users of the roads through a toll. They may decide it’s more efficient to levy a tax at the time of vehicle purchase, to avoid all those nasty tollbooths. They may decide to levy a tax when fuel is purchased. They may decide to tax products that are shipped on the roads, in order to fund the roads. But taxing all income?! Even income earned by folks who never drive?!

    Let’s say I am diagnosed with a new disease tomorrow; grouchoitis, and it’s fatal and I am guaranteed to die in 3 months. So, I write a post on http://www.threeedonia.com and a pharmacist reads it and e-mails me and says he’s just concocted an elixir that will cure grouchoitis and he’d like me to reimburse him $100 for his work. If he sells it to me he’ll be thrown in jail! If I purchase it and drink it I’ll be thrown in jail! Excuse me, but we must not have similar dictionaries. A government that would restrict a private transaction to save a man’s life is “oppressive” in my Funk & Wagnall’s.

    Think about what enraged our Founders enough to Declare Independence from England. Now, think about your relationship with the U.S. Government, and your State, County and City Government. England under King George III looks like a libertarian utopia in comparison. The slide has been gradual, generational and slow, and quality of life has improved so it has been masked, but we have lost a tremendous amount of liberty in the last 200 years. The bears I see penned at the local zoo are not oppressed. They are well fed, have access to good medicine, live long lives. They’re just not free.

    Posted by juliushmarx | November 8, 2012, 4:46 pm
    • WOW! Quite the comment, thanks!
      And yes, Tomi (she) is still around.
      Thanks for getting back to us – love the blog!

      Posted by guffaw1952 | November 8, 2012, 5:16 pm
    • Hi there!

      Thanks for taking the time to reply. I really appreciate it. I suppose you might be correct in that we do not have matching definitions of oppression. I agree with you that the Chinese people are oppressed by their government, but I do not see similar oppression on us. We have unfiltered access to the internet, we are allowed to publicly criticize our government, we’re allowed to reproduce as we please, etc. etc.

      I do have to disagree with you about losing a tremendous amount of liberty in the last 200 years. Women haven’t even had the right to vote for 100 years yet! Would I trade being a woman now for being a woman in 1784? Heck no! (Same for being gay or any ethnicity besides WASP). Talk about being a bear in a zoo….it’s only been in about the last 130 years or so that the vast majority of women have not just been property transferred from their fathers to their husbands.

      Finally, about the cure for grouchoitis – the reason such a transaction is illegal is because such cures were virtually always fraudulent or even harmful. If such a hypothetical case were to come along – and somehow you came to be prosecuted for it – I would be more than happy to donate to your legal defense.
      :-)

      Posted by Tomi | November 9, 2012, 7:35 am
      • Tomi,

        I apologize again for not seeing your reply sooner. The original post I wrote at Threedonia was concerned with the demise of freedom in our nation regarding our relationship with the government, primarily the Federal government. I’m a man and I doubt I’d swap my life with a man living in 1784. At the very least, I don’t think I’d enjoy the 38 year expected life span. But I wasn’t writing about quality of life, I was writing about independence.

        I’m going to start with the FDA topic first, because that’s simpler to explain. I am no more anxious or likely to consume a “miracle cure” that hasn’t been approved by the FDA than you are, but when we agree that the Government can define what is legal to put into our bodies we agree that the Government has dominion over our bodies. Mine is a philosophical argument.

        When I first began driving at the age of 16 no state had a mandatory seat-belt law, yet I always chose to wear my seat-belt. I studied the statistics and decided it made sense for me. Now that I’m teaching my children to drive I encourage them to do the same and when I drive them I insist they do the same. It’s up to me, as a free individual, to know the risks of what I am doing and take whatever measures I personally find sensible to protect myself. Driving itself is risky. In a 30 minute commute I may interact with thousands of other motorists, making millions of independent decisions. There are significant odds at least one of those drivers will do something improper that affects my property and or health! Some people choose not to drive. I choose to drive sometimes, and often I ride my bike, run or walk, and when I’m in a motor vehicle I find a seat-belt and I put it on.

        I am still opposed to mandatory seat-belt laws. I know people who fear being trapped in their vehicle after an accident due to a seat-belt restraint, and that does happen sometimes. It’s rare, but some people are killed because they are belted in at the time of an accident. As a driver or passenger we should understand the risks and make a personal decision. Yet if I decide not to wear a seat-belt the State will fine me; may incarcerate me. The State does not view me as an independent, sentient being capable of making decisions that impact my life. Philosophically that matters. In either scenario (prior to mandatory seat-belt laws or the current environment) I am a seat-belt wearer. But in one scenario the State assumes control over the decision and assumes dominion over me should I make a choice different from one the State determines is best.

        Do a lot of people suffer from quack medications? Yes. Do a lot of people ingest too much alcohol or cocaine or heroine or coffee or cool whip or hostess ho-hos? Yes. Is it the government’s role to control what I put into my body? What I do with my body? It is fine to think so, many people do, but if you believe that then you must admit that your concept of a citizen and his or her relationship with the State is inconsistent with what the authors of the Constitution believed.

        Now, onto the first part of your comment; women, homsexuals, non-WASPs… First, there is not enough room here to touch on slavery in the U.S. I have written about that at threedonia, but that’s way too large a topic to cover concisely or appropriately here. It is the original sin of our nation’s founding. The vast majority of blacks were not free prior to this country’s founding, nor after it’s founding for at least a century, and, even after Emancipation most Blacks suffered tremendous injustices. So, forgive me, but I won’t even attempt to address that here.

        Regarding non-male, non-WASPs; No, you are much less free than a woman living in 1784. Is your quality of life better? Sure. But there are inmates in Leavenworth who have a better quality of life than most folks living in the U.S. in 1784. Medical care, ample food, free access to books, television, exercise, life expectancy… That woman in 1784 just may be willing to trade places with a prison inmate living in 2012! Quality of life is not the same as liberty. If you read my original post I stated that I have a wonderful life. I do. I’m not going anywhere. This is a great place to live. However, my post was concerned with whether those who live here are free in a sense that folks in 1784; men, women, homo-sexuals, WASPs, Jews, Catholics or Atheists would understand.

        Imagine telling a woman in 1784 that it is illegal for her to put up preserves from a fruit tree on her property and sell them to a neighbor without first receiving certification from the Government. She’ll have to fill out mounds of paperwork and allow Government inspectors into her home (whenever they choose!) before she is allowed to sell her wares. And, after each successful sale she must pay taxes to the government on the proceeds. Her very productivity is taxed! If she hires employees to help the government dictates how much she must pay. If her own children help her the government dictates the maximum number of hours they can work. I can do the same with every aspect of her daily life; what type of fuel she can burn in her stove, how she must educate her children, the medicines she must give her children, what she can feed her family, what she can consume herself, how she can defend her home against intruders. How she can divert water on her land. How deep she can dig a well on her land. Try to explain to that woman that she will be the one who goes to prison if she shoots an intruder on her property!

        I’m confident the typical woman in the U.S. in 1784 couldn’t even comprehend what such a society is like. She would view such things as 100 times worse than living under the tyranny of King George III.

        People in Venezuela vote. Germans living in the Third Reich voted. I’m glad all U.S. citizens over the age of 17 can vote, but voting don’t mean freedom.

        I hope this helps you better understand my original essay. You are a good writer and make your points intelligently.

        Have a great weekend!
        Rufus T.

        Posted by Anonymous | November 9, 2012, 3:25 pm

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