‘You Are Free To Do As We Tell You’
For those who pay the slightest attention to politics a sudden realization arises from the start- both the Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ both seem to love freedom and liberty and want to be elected to, along with other things, make sure that freedom and liberty aren’t destroyed by the other side. This freedom thing sure is a quandary. Who doesn’t want freedom?
Personally, I’ve been called everything from a socialist to a neoconservative, a liberal, republican, etc. Yet, the supposed justifications behind such cute labels usually come back to the notion of freedom. In philosophy, one deals mainly with three different forms of freedom- negative freedom (freedom from constraint), positive freedom (freedom to…), and ontological freedom (freedom by nature of human consciousness). As it applies to this piece; I’ll be dealing mainly with the first two while using the third to justify the whole theory.
Let’s begin with the wonderful stereotypes of both sides- the left are touted as the pagan nanny state advocates- high taxes, increased social safety net, fans of big bureaucracy, etc. The right is touted as those crazy fundamentalist Christian corporatists- against change unless it takes five generations to culminate, war-loving, boring, uptight, and obsessed with the supposed ‘moral degradation’ of society. Of course there are many more things that could be added to each side but I just wanted to lay a simple framework with one more additive. Along with the aforementioned general characteristics, there is one that screams volumes- the left wants to take your money and through their oversight, allow you to more/less do what you want- do drugs, engage in gay marriage, get an abortion, allow embryonic stem cell research, etc. The right wants you to keep more of your money but then wants to legislate morality- no gay marriage, no drugs, no abortion, no embryonic stem cell research, etc. This is what I want to examine a bit further as it applies to the three notions of freedom.
Thus far, whether you find yourself supporting the right or the left- the notion of freedom is so limited, yet largely advertised, that the notion itself is dying, serving merely as a couple more points being added on to the polls for each time you look sentimental while uttering it. So while the left seems to want more social freedom and less financial freedom, the right wants more financial freedom with less social freedom.
Let’s make something clear- without one of these freedoms the other really doesn’t matter. Let’s not forget that these broad generalizations have many cracks- for it was the left who passed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ while the right, under President Bush Jr. passed significant Medicare entitlements. Neither side wants to discuss our abysmal ‘war on drugs,’ and neither side sees gay marriage as anything other than another notch in the moral degradation of our culture. Both sides enjoy bombing the hell out of third world countries without a declaration of war, both sides enjoy ignoring the Supreme Court when it comes to rulings on detainees, both sides love bailing out failures yet talk about our wonderful ‘free market system,’ both sides talk about ‘ending our dependency on foreign oil’ yet since the Department of Energy was created in the 70’s with the goal of doing just that…..it has grown as much as our dependency on tyrannical oil holding countries.
This is one reason why I enjoy discussing the notion of freedom with those who think that their side is the true party of personal freedom, personal responsibility, personal liberty, for the difference between the two main parties/ideologies is pretty damn negligible.
Is it any more or less insulting to be told by our government that we are either too stupid to control our finances- be it education, retirement, medical costs, food purchases, etc. than to be told that we are too stupid to make our own moral decisions? How can there be such disagreement between the two sides when they both find the masses to be too ignorant to do one of two things?
Now, due to this obvious emphasis on the limiting of positive and negative freedom, what are the options? Well, the first thing is to see the illusory notion of bi-partisan politics. To stop screaming about the ‘left-wing’ media bias, to argue over CNN and Fox News, to decide whether to read an Ann Coulter book or a Michael Moore book, etc. ; for these entities merely serve the purpose of further dividing us on a subject they help to further fog. Bill Clinton, during his Inaugural speech, cited his mentor Carrol Quigley, who stated:
‘The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to the doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ‘throw the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extreme shifts in policy.’
In the end folks, both the right and the left, the R’s and the D’s, don’t like freedom; at least not in any real sense of being free. They want us to be free to do as they instruct us in one form or another.