Perspectives on Liberty

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It
pains me to read the news, lately.

It
seems like all I ever hear are reports of governments committing
atrocities against autonomy and free will. It's just like a car
wreck. I don't want to look, but there it is — and I simply can't
tear myself away.

The
United States government is growing more ugly and militaristic
than I ever dreamed possible. I suppose one should never underestimate
a democratic regime.
We are entangled in a pointless killing spree in Iraq, based on
falsehoods and ambiguous rhetoric. I am sickened by the blasé
newscasts of unfathomable death and destruction, and by the irony
of the pundits and spinsters babbling about how "they hate
us because we're free." Worse yet is the knowledge that it
won't end anytime soon, and that the carnage of this war doesn't
even compare to that of wars previously fought. It's hard to think
of words to describe the way these things make me feel.

These
ventures must be paid for, and not just in casualties
and collateral
damage
. Politicians are saddling us with the debts
incurred by irresponsible government spending. "Us" refers
to the elderly, the middle-aged, the young, those not yet old enough
to vote, and even those yet unborn. No thanks to the Leviathan welfare-warfare
state, it is now possible for an American child to enter this world
already "owing" thousands of dollars in debt that is not
even his own.

Ah,
dollars.
Our economy is a house of cards which threatens to collapse the
minute foreign lenders realize that our money is paper and backed
by nothing but empty promises and imperialistic whims. It may not
happen today or tomorrow, but when it does we will feel it as surely
as a ton of bricks.

We
must worry about being felt
up
at airports and carted off to Gitmo
if we object. Those of us who carry weapons for self-defense are
branded by state law enforcers, academics,
and the media
as dangerous lunatics.

Nanny-statists
wish to legislate and regulate what we may put into our bodies:
foods, medicines, and substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and other
drugs. We pay for expensive and futile government propaganda
meant to instruct us which foods and substances are healthy
and which are doubleplusungood.

Everything
and everyone are to be feared. Terrorists are everywhere. A crisis
looms around every corner. Government is, of course, the only solution.

Such
news fills me with an overpowering sense of despair. I like to consider
myself an activist. I discuss issues which I consider important
with my peers. I write. I invest time and money in causes that I
believe may help preserve shreds of my liberty and that of others.
But I am not naïve enough to think that my actions alone can
bring about any appreciable change. I know others who share my concerns.
But those of us who understand and deeply value freedom in its truest
sense — and are willing to fight for its advancement — seem altogether
few and far between.

Alone
with these thoughts, I feel demoralized and helpless. But I have
reached an important realization:

Even
libertarians sometimes succumb to the "sky is falling"
mentality that we readily denounce in others. In the face of those
who would rob us of the very liberties which make us human, we must
bear in mind all of the astounding things which freely acting people
have done and made.

For
one, the life
expectancy
in developed countries like the US keeps rising.
This statistic is usually cited as an example of prosperity and
developing medical technologies, but I would also argue that people
are not just living longer but better lives. New pharmaceuticals,
diagnostics, medical devices and treatments are allowing us to combat
diseases earlier and more effectively. Our quality of life constantly
improves as medicine innovates. Scientists are exploring physics,
chemistry, biology, mathematics, astronomy, geology, and a host
of other disciplines to make mind-boggling discoveries
about our world.

Transportation
is affordable and ubiquitous. Most people in America own cars and
use them daily to commute to jobs they might otherwise be unable
to access. We can fuel them relatively cheaply, and fuel efficiency
continually improves. Corporations are introducing vehicles which
can run on a plethora
of fuel sources, from gasoline and diesel to vegetable oil, natural
gas, electric power, and hydrogen fuel cells. We ride airplanes
which can bring us across the globe in a matter of hours at an affordable
cost. We have high-speed
trains. We have all kinds of maritime vehicles from cruise ships
to sailboats. Soon, we will probably be able to take leisure
trips into space
.

And
as for leisure, we have more free time than ever before. Devices
that organize our schedules and complete tasks for us afford us
more time. We can increase productivity and spend more time on leisure
activities. Time
is money
, as we all know. The prevalence of entertainment such
as video games, television, movies, music, art in American society
demonstrates that we no longer must devote all of our energies to
mere subsistence. We can live a little.

We
are also growing – rather, our waistlines are growing. While the
government seizes every available opportunity to rail against the
obesity epidemic (and to introduce more
anti-fat legislation), the fact is that we are fat because we have
an abundance of food choices, and we can afford to endulge.
For most of us, our weightiest concern is trying to stay slim and
not where to find our next meal. Many see this as a positive
thing.

It's
easier than ever for us to communicate with each other. Many Americans
choose to carry cell phones and PDA's, a wide range of which are
available. We can access the Internet wirelessly. Global trade is
aided by the vast communications
network, and it's possible to effortlessly keep
in touch
with family and friends across huge expanses of physical
distance. We instantaneously fire off emails — for some of us, hundreds
a day — to recipients scattered around the world. People from every
corner of the earth are growing increasingly literate. Knowing several
languages has become tantamount to success in international business.
The Internet allows communities
of people to come together and discuss topics of common interest,
to meet, and to network.
Combined with shipping technologies, it allows people from all over
the world to trade with each
other. It shatters
physical and cultural barriers.

These
marvels and dozens more are the product of simply allowing humans
to act as they naturally desire — to pursue their own interests
and to engage in voluntary transactions.

My
intent is by no means to ignore or downplay the egregious attempts
of the political classes to erode our property rights, free speech,
free choices, and free will. I simply wish to remember a fact which
is often overlooked. Despite the actions of the despots, we still
have a cornucopia of achievements to appreciate and to enjoy. If
I'm reiterating what others have said,
so be it. Capitalism's bounties can't be touted enough.

Above
all, there is something you and I possess that no government can
corrupt: a primal human spirit that embraces liberty. This essence
is vital for combating the world's cruelties and injustices. Positive
things and experiences in life merely impel us to continue discussing,
dissenting, and advocating for liberty in the most fundamental sense
of the word.

We
must remember to maintain a sense of perspective, despite the Chicken
Littles of the media and the chicken hawks of the government. Sometimes
we may struggle with a sense of imminent doom. But ugliness in the
world begs us to be mindful of beauty. Freedom has yielded remarkable
things — and they simply provide more reasons for champions of liberty
to keep fighting.

January
21, 2005

Stephanie
R. Murphy [send her
mail
] studies Biochemistry at the University of Massachusetts
at Amherst. She is a member of LifeSharers
Organ Donation Network
.

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