In honor of the 4th of July comes what I like to call “The Freedom Debate.” Today I’m debating a fairly good acquaintance that I actually know to be a pretty smart man…of course he’s also a conservative but nobody’s perfect. The topic is all things Freedom, are we more free, less free, and what exactly is freedom? I must have been in an off mood because re-reading the debate it looks more like an honest representation of philosophical ideals than a snarky bitchfest, don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be back on top next week.
Brody: Thanks for coming. I’ve been trying to get you to come on for a while now and you’ve always said no before.
Dr. “Hank”: I was always reluctant but since you said it would be for the 4th of July and dedicated to the troops I don’t see how I could say no.
Brody: I lied.
Dr. “Hank”: I was afraid of that.
Brody: For starters it will have to run the day after the 4th of July, but the archive number will be 911 so that’s a pretty good tie in, and the topic is freedom. Let’s start off with you giving me your definition of freedom.
Dr. “Hank”: A deceptively easy question. On the surface it’s tempting to say “Democracy,” but it’s more than that. It’s about the freedom to make all kinds of choices provided they don’t hurt someone else. How would you define it?
Brody: That’s not a bad definition, but I would say that sometimes freedom can hurt someone else or at least can be perceived to such as the case of abortion. The perception is that it’s hurting someone but no society can call itself free without having the right to chose that. My actual definition would be “Equality for everyone.” It’s not really freedom unless everyone can do something. The same rules apply to anyone regardless of if they’re gay, black, a woman, or any group you can think of.
Dr. “Hank”: Freedom has limits–
Brody: Well then it isn’t freedom.
Dr. “Hank”: It can’t infringe on the freedoms and protections of another person, even one that isn’t technically born but is very much alive. Just as you wouldn’t want someone smoking around your pregnant wife even if there was no law against them doing so in a public restaurant.
Brody: You could say the same about almost anything. If you use that argument then you also have to make the case for gun control as the right to buy a firearm could very well hurt someone.
Dr. “Hank”: But it isn’t guaranteed to. The trick is the guarantee. I can buy a gun but there is no guarantee of hurting another person until I do it.
Brody: Pollution very much infringes on my rights and safety. Under the rule you laid out, the practice of stripping mountains for coal by blowing the tops off of them very much endangers the safety of all those forced to drink the filthy water left behind by the coal company.
Dr. “Hank”: That’s a better example of economic freedom. You can ask a good question about what is the cost of energy but shutting down an operation because it could hurt someone would apply to any capitalist enterprise.
Brody: There is no could. There is a guarantee that blowing the top off that mountain will make the area around it almost unlivable for years and directly give people in that area health problems. It will guarantee the endangerment of lives as surely as anything else.
Dr. “Hank”: That becomes an economic debate though–
Brody: I feel like it’s a moral one, just as I feel healthcare is, but no one wants to see it that way. People feel the only moral issues are stopping gay marriage but turn a blind eye to corporations deliberately causing health problems.
Dr. “Hank”: They aren’t doing it deliberately. I can’t lie and say they’re completely caring about the people affected but the goal is profit, not hurt.
Brody: If the outcome is the same then profit isn’t worth it. But where do you see freedom in America headed? Are we more free or less?
Dr. “Hank”: Less.
Brody: I feel the same way but I feel we will disagree on the reasons for that.
Dr. “Hank”: [Laughter] Probably so. I think we are less free because more than ever we are seeing restrictions placed on our freedom. Such as the right every American should have not to buy health insurance. The fact that the government forces you to buy health insurance now is absurd.
Brody: They force you to buy car insurance but nobody thinks that’s crazy. They also force you to wear a seatbelt, which I don’t like, but nobody complains about that.
Dr. “Hank”: Actually I’m with you on the seatbelt law–
Brody: Oh good, common ground on something irrelevant.
Dr. “Hank”: The thing about car insurance is that the government doesn’t force you to own a car. There’s no way out of not buying health insurance unless you’re dead. If you’re alive, you have to buy health insurance. If you don’t want to buy car insurance, just don’t drive your car.
Brody: But see when I think of an erosion of freedoms, I think of the unions being restricted, the end of collective bargaining in several states that were supposed to be purple or blue, and the funneling of money to campaigns by elite corporate interests so that politicians now represent the few over the many.
Dr. “Hank”: It’s funny you mention economic freedoms because the Obama administration has put into place more banking restrictions and regulations, thus restricting more freedom at a time when America desperately needs to stay competitive.
Brody: He put in more banking restrictions that every credible economist in the country was asking for. Plus, I don’t think it’s tyranny to ask some of the men that almost sunk the US economy to have more oversight on their industries.
Dr. “Hank”: It doesn’t start out that way, but gradually you get to a place where more and more restrictions are passed. Eventually you start hearing that America could solve its debt by nationalizing the banks and oil industry, and on it goes under the guise of economic emergency.
Brody: The same guise Republicans used to strip unions of power? They created a deficit and then went about attacking people they didn’t like anyway to try to “fix it.”
Dr. “Hank”: Whatever you think has been taken away from Americans is not fixed by a hard turn towards socialism.
Brody: Economics is only one part of this. The Governor in Wisconsin voted to give himself more autonomous power which we’re seeing more and more out of the Tea Party pols. Also, there’s the issue of a police state that we could spend an entire other debate getting into. Americans are spied on by their own government, The Patriot Act, torture, privatized prisons that keep people locked up for exaggerated drug crimes, all of it adds up.
Dr. “Hank”: I wish it were a world where none of it is necessary.
Brody: None of it is necessary. We don’t know that being able to lock up a marijuana dealer for ten years or read my emails has saved a single person’s life.
Dr. “Hank”: We’re fighting an enemy that has no rules, no code of conduct, and not even a country. The unfortunate truth is that we have to fight them everywhere, and giving up some privacy is a very undesirable byproduct of that.
Brody: I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said “Those who will give up a little bit of freedom for a little bit of safety will often get neither.”