From 1945 to 1991, a war was fought between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This wasn’t a war of guns and explosives, it was a war of ideas; a war between the freedom of our constitution and the slavery of communism.
The communists saw poor people everywhere, unable to provide a living for themselves, while at the same time there were those who lived in wealth and luxury. This was unacceptable. Obviously, people could not be trusted with their own freedom. Once given to them, what did they use their free agency for except to kill, steal, and oppress their fellow men? Communist revolutionaries envisioned a utopia where everyone was equal. There were no rich or poor; everything was shared in common. There was no crime, because no one would need to kill or steal to get what they wanted.
But this utopian dream had one fatal flaw. It took away individual freedom, and ignored the fact that while humans can be subdued by force, human nature will never surrender. You know the story. After 70 years of bloody disaster, the USSR finally collapsed.
But there’s one thing the communists were right about: we all make mistakes. We all get hurt. We all say things we wish we hadn’t said, and we do things we wish we hadn’t done. Overall, life is pretty risky! And because of this, there are some people in this crazy world that seem to agree with communism. They want to take away our freedom, telling us that we can’t be trusted to make our own decisions, and that the world would be so much safer if we just let them handle everything. (If you want to know who some of these people are, just watch the news.)
But if freedom is so dangerous, then why is it so important for us to have? Why have thousands of brave men and women died defending it? Today I’m going to try to explain the balance between freedom and security.
Mahatma Gandhi said “Freedom is not worth having if it doesn’t include the freedom to make mistakes.” Mistakes are super important, because they are how we learn. If you think about it, literally everything we learn is from one of our own mistakes, or was learned in the past through someone else’s mistakes. Without mistakes, we’d all be about as smart as 2-year-olds, which, let’s just say, would not necessarily be ideal.
I found a quote online that said “Doing what you like is freedom. Liking what you do is happiness.” When you look at it though, Doing what you like and liking what you do are basically the same thing. The reason we’re here is to experience happiness, and that could never happen without freedom. Honestly, life without happiness would be pretty sad!
Here’s where we come to security, because although freedom is super important, safety is also important. There has to be a limit to individual freedom that can’t be crossed. If people were allowed to do anything, the world would be a crazy mess (not that it isn’t already; it would just be a crazier, messier mess).
So where do we draw the line? To help sort through the confusion, we can categorize freedom into rights. Some rights allow us to act freely, like the right to freely exercise our religion, the right to free speech, the right to peaceful assembly, the right to bear arms, the right to free enterprise, the right to own property, the right to liberty (which is the freedom to exercise our rights),.. the list goes on. Other rights protect us, like the right to privacy, the right to a fair trial, the right to not be killed for unjust reasons (also known as the right to life), the right not to have cruel or unusual punishments inflicted upon us… you get the idea. When we categorize freedom into rights, it really simplifies the conflict between freedom and safety. I have my rights, and those rights only end where another person’s rights begin.
The reason we have a government isn’t to give us welfare or build nukes or keep the Mexicans out or stop climate change. The reason we have a government is to protect our rights by establishing laws.
The problem is, people don’t always obey those laws. People make bad choices that hurt others around them. Here we go again. It really would be safer if we didn’t have freedom.
But, as Dr. Ron Paul said, “Freedom is not defined by safety. Freedom is defined by the ability of citizens to live without government interference. Government cannot create a world without risks, nor would we really wish to live in such a fictional place. Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens’ lives. Liberty has meaning only if we still believe in it when terrible things happen and a false government security blanket beckons.”
Benjamin Franklin wisely stated: “Those who trade freedom for safety deserve neither and will lose both.”
So why should we choose freedom? I think you know the answer by now. Thomas Jefferson said “I prefer dangerous freedom to peaceful slavery.” Without freedom, we can’t learn. Without freedom, there is no happiness. Without freedom, everything that makes life worth living is gone.
Can we live in an dangerous world and still hang on to our freedom? It’s up to all of us, starting with you. Will you sit and watch while your freedom is traded for false security, or will you guard it with your life, like the brave men who came before us?
The choice is yours.