Posts Tagged ‘welfare state’

THE CURSE OF LIBERTY

September 18, 2020

In science, we’re always talking about sensitivity and specificity. As an example, consider the COVID-19 test: the more sensitive it is for detecting the disease, the more likely it will over-call it in some individuals; it’s a yin and yang thing. Now, as the tests improve, both sensitivity and specificity can too, but there’s always a trade-off. Liberty is something like that.

Everyone, including politicians, plays lip service to fealty to freedom. It seems a no-brainer. Then why, time after time, do people vote away their freedom? We’ve seen the Palestinians do it for Hamas, and the Venezuelans for socialism. These are just two of the dozens of examples that could be cited. It’s because the ying to freedom’s yang is law and order, or more broadly, security. It’s not that freedom is incompatible with law and order; we’ve admirably demonstrated this for over a couple of hundred years and have had remarkably peaceful transitions of power. It’s just that it takes constant effort and sacrifice. And the people have to decide if it’s worth the price.

The sacrifice is obvious in obtaining liberty; it’s usually a war with casualties and death and a tremendous outlay of resources. Maintaining it is another matter. Liberty naturally fades, even in (one might say especially in) a democracy. Over time, in a successful society, people become acclimated to security. A free society, with equal access to opportunity, naturally favors those with greater talent who exhibit greater effort; those who have high levels of competence and conscientiousness, in the words of Jordan Peterson. This results in disparity of outcome. It does not mean that a rising tide doesn’t raise all boats, just that some boats are much larger and more opulent than others. Every good society with a conscience strives to help the small boats in danger of capsizing; this charity, or welfare, is a good thing. The problems begin when the people in the small boats begin to think those in the large boats are bad, and that the government needs to fix it. Then the charity moves to sanctioned theft. The argument about the point at which this occurs is the basis for politics and ideology. The bottom line is that democracy inevitably deteriorates into socialism which more quickly devolves into poverty and fascism. History proves this. Unequivocally. So the founders tried to create a democratic republic with checks and balances to slow the deterioration, recognizing that it could serve only a moral people.

As government and the welfare state has grown and crony capitalism inevitably along with it, the family has shrunk. Charity is slowly being replaced by government largess. One or two generations ago a check from the government was seen as failure and often shunned. Now it’s more common to see it as an entitlement and something to be sought after. Being taken care of is slowly becoming more important than liberty.

With liberty comes free speech with the downside of allowing “hate” speech. Law and order with the downside of more rogue agents misusing it with criminal intent. More reliance on self, family and friends, and the Church, and less on government. Clearly, some societies favor less freedom and more security.

The coming election is so important because it will demonstrate the net vector of America in terms of this preference. It will serve as a bellwether as to how much time remains in our current system of government, founded on the values of the Declaration of Independence and implemented in the Constitution. History tells us this. Unequivocally.

The curse of liberty is that it has in its seed the very essence of its own destruction.