Next week is America’s 236th birthday. It is time for cookouts, parades and fireworks. We will salute the red, white and blue here in “the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
But do Americans really value freedom? Most of us give lip service to it. We say that we like our ability to choose what we want to buy, go where we want to go and do anything we want within reason. But I am convinced that most Americans today, despite our verbal professions, do not truly believe in freedom.
History would suggest that most people down through the ages have lived under social arrangements characterized by strong and pervasive governmental control over their lives with a corresponding loss of freedom. A study of the past reveals that feudalism, monarchies, dictatorships, and communistic, socialistic and fascist governments have been more common than truly free nations. There is an ongoing drift towards such systems.
In America, this tendency to ensure the good life by expecting government to supply our needs and wants is growing. Are we moving toward a welfare state promising cradle-to-grave security, believing that government can solve most financial and social problems?
We spend tax dollars for housing, higher education, health care, our old age, even for our daily bread. Many people expect more and more money for subsidized housing and millions more for food stamps. The number of citizens on the “food stamp” program has expanded to include 46 million Americans as of 2011.
Social Security and Medicare are huge programs with almost all of us tied into the system. Sadly, some, mostly younger Americans, will receive little or no benefit if these programs collapse. It does not appear that we have the political will to save them.
Our system also includes corporate and financial welfare. Bailouts and handouts for banks, car companies (in order to preserve UAW benefits), oil companies, green energy companies, small business and many other enterprises are substantial. All of this means more and more government intervention in the economy.
This is not the nation envisioned by early generations of Americans who fled Europe and other parts of the world during our first 300 years, starting in 1607. They came to make a better life for themselves based on sacrifice, hard work and freedom. They would be dumbfounded to see the mess we have created today.
Every system of liberalism, progressivism, statism or socialism is based to one degree or another on force. Citizens are compelled to support a government that creates dependency and weakens the character of its people. This empowers political leaders and bureaucrats to play “god” over the lives of others.
Such leaders value their role, believing themselves to be noble and compassionate. This compassion, of course, is funded via the tax system. It is easy to help the poor using someone else’s money. But a measure of freedom is lost and, more importantly, the supposed compassion to help the needy, while well-intentioned, is doing more harm than good.
Free enterprise on the other hand is a moral system that encourages work, creativity and industry. This idea envisioned by the early immigrants to our shores and our founders is the reason America has been the greatest nation in the history of mankind. Our foundation was built on freedom, allowing each individual to follow their path to life, liberty and their own pursuit of happiness.
I have been blessed and energized recently reading Arthur Brooks’ newest book, “The Road to Freedom.” I highly recommend it to anyone who truly loves freedom and needs help understanding the reasons for our current problems. Brooks, head of the American Enterprise Institute, lives in Maryland. In future columns, I will contrast the moral and spiritual benefits of our free enterprise system with the burdensome and nearly bankrupt welfare state we are moving toward. Solutions are possible if we have the will and character to embrace and support them.
George Michael, who lives in Williamsport, is a former principal of Grace Academy. His email address is email@example.com.