Friday, July 11, 2014

Why Are Americans so Opposed to Freedom?

I haven't written about anything political in quite some time.  Truthfully, I don't think of what I'm about to write as political.  But I know that many people will see it that way.  Unfortunately, the idea of liberty has become very political in our modern society.

Independence Day was just a week ago.  We all waved flags and talked about how cool the Founding Fathers were and paid lots of lip service to freedom.  But when the rubber meets the road, I've found that people in America aren't huge fans of liberty, at least not for anyone else.  Sure, we like freedom for ourselves.  But what if someone wants to do something we disagree with?  What if they want to say something we don't like?  What if they want to abstain from doing something we think they should do?  What if they want to abstain from buying something we think they should buy?  Well, in those cases, clearly freedom only goes so far.

This past week the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby didn't have to purchase 4 forms of birth control that the owners viewed as abortifacients.  They offer 16 forms of birth control, but abstaining to purchase the other 4 on behalf of their employees means that they are denying access to birth control for women everywhere.

Here's the thing about freedom.  Freedom doesn't mean free stuff.  If you want something, and getting it requires forcing someone else to give it to you, that is not called freedom.  It's really easy to think about. Compulsion is not freedom.  If your version of freedom includes compelling someone to do anything, you need to rethink your version of freedom.  Freedom isn't convenience.  Freedom isn't always comfortable.  Sometimes it means you have to buy stuff for yourself.  Sometimes it means someone might say something mean about you.

These are both negative aspects of freedom, but somewhere our society has gotten confused and decided that if something makes you uncomfortable, you must have lost freedom.  Fun fact:  Discomfort and tyranny are totally different.

To all those people who talk about how Hobby Lobby is denying access to birth control, I promise you that if that were actually true, I would be on your side.  Denying access would not mean making it so that individuals have to buy it for themselves, it would mean making it illegal.  It would mean forcing you to go without.  See that word "forcing" there?  See, that's a word you can usually find when there is tyranny.

Interestingly enough, people are up in arms because of the precedent this court case sets.  They say that Jehovah's Witnesses could use this ruling to choose not to cover blood transfusions.  The Supreme Court has specifically said that's not the case, but let's talk about that for a second.  What if that were true.  So what?

I know that's really radical to a lot of people, but honestly, so what?  Think about it.  If a company is looking to hire, and their medical package is inferior, they have 2 options.  They can hire people who are less experienced (thus giving people a job that may not have had one before) or they can offer some other benefit to compensate.

If you had a job offer for $3000 more per year but the health package didn't include blood transfusions would you take it?  The first year you could put the money in your "blood transfusion just in case fund", and after that you go to Hawaii every year.  That seems worth it to me, but if it doesn't to you, you could certainly look for a job elsewhere.

I don't know what benefit they would offer to compensate.  Perhaps it would be less than $3000, perhaps it would be more, or perhaps it would not even be monetary (more vacation days, free lunch every Friday, etc.).  That's not the point.  The point is that whatever they offer, the individual has the freedom to take that job or to look elsewhere for employment that better suits their needs.

This past week there was a bit of a controversy because Costco chose to remove Dinesh D'Souza's new book from their shelves.  I should emphasize, I believe in Costco's freedom to sell or not sell whatever products they want.  They can make business decisions based on profit margin, demand, political affiliation or any other criteria they so choose.  But just because I believe in their freedom, doesn't mean I agree with their decisions.  I think that corporate censorship is cowardly.

Nevertheless, I was perusing a Facebook thread about the subject and found this little gem from a friend of mine:  "So if Costco comes out and says that the CEO did this because he feels it's against his religion to sell/promote this kind of "What If" revisionist history, will you cheer him on for standing up for his constitutionally protected rights and for also extending that individual right to his/her corporation?"

What I found most fascinating about that quote was the assumption that the only way to disagree with a person is to want to restrict their freedom.  Freedom of speech allows my neighbor to stand on his lawn and swear at every person that walks by.  I believe in freedom of speech, but would not "cheer him on" for exercising that right in an objectionable way.  I will also not cheer on the CEO of Costco for participating in cowardly corporate censorship, even if he were to say it was religiously motivated. (To be clear, he's made no such claim.  This was merely a hypothetical, posited by my friend.)

Which brings me to another point.  There has been a lot of talk about religious freedom of late.  But what about just plain old freedom?  It bothers me that it's just accepted that we can compel people to do all sorts of things they don't want to do, but it's completely okay as long as we carve out a little niche where they can abstain for religious reasons. COSTCO DOESN'T NEED TO DECLARE THAT IT'S AGAINST THEIR RELIGION IN ORDER TO CENSOR.  THEY CAN JUST DECLARE THAT THEY LIVE IN A CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC WITH A BILL OF RIGHTS!  (Sorry for yelling.  I just can't fathom how people think that the only important or relevant freedom is religious freedom.) They have the right to put whatever product on their shelves that they want to sell.  Their customers have a right to shop there or shop at a different store that carries products more to their liking.

Did you know that some of the Founding Fathers objected to a Bill of Rights in the Constitution.  Why do you think that is?  Were they opposed to freedom of religion? or freedom of speech? or the press?  or the right to assemble? or the right to bear arms?  No.  They were concerned that by itemizing a list, they would inevitably leave something out and it would be assumed that any right not enumerated would be assumed not to be held by the citizenry.

We live in a society today where even rights that are enumerated are violently opposed by many among us.  But can't we all just agree that freedom is a pretty darn good thing?  Can we agree that it's worth some inconvenience?  Can we agree that it's worth some extra effort find a business that chooses to provide a service for us rather than forcing them to photograph our wedding or bake us a cake against their will?  Can we agree that it's worth the inconvenience to ask our neighbors to say nice things rather than have the government force them to say what we want?  Can we agree that freedom is worth it, even if we have to buy things for ourselves (or find a different employer that chooses to buy them for us) rather than have the government force someone to buy it for us?

Probably not.  Americans are not huge fans of freedom.  One blog post won't change that.  But at least I feel a little better after ranting about it.  Thanks for reading.

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