Land of the Free, Home of the Slave

America is such a wonderfully free country that I thoroughly understand why the Bush administration, like the Clinton administration before it, is so eager to take our freedoms and spread them across the globe. Without the U.S. government, backwards peoples will have to labor on in their own delusions, never understanding what true liberty is all about.

I am so free. If I want to paint my house, or build a deck out back, or install a new air-conditioning system, I am free to call the building inspector and get his approval first. If I want to put a new toilet in the bathroom, I am free to buy only the low-flow toilets the government approves. I am free to buy a property near the beach, provided the government Coastal Commission approves whatever I want to do with that property. That approval might take decades, and the final thing that I build will be what the commissioners want there, not what I want, but I am free nonetheless.

I know I am free because this is America. And America is a free country — the best one in the whole darned world. If you don’t like our freedoms, you should move somewhere else.

Any other questions?

Unlike those pathetic souls in other less-free and non-free countries, I am free to open my own business, provided I pay my employees the minimum salary demanded by the government, and give them overtime in the exact proportion stated by the government, and offer them breaks that conform exactly to the standards set by government. I can operate my business in complete freedom, provided that I meet every one of the hundreds of pages of air-quality standards promulgated by the state and federal governments.

I am free to offer my employees any benefits I choose, provided they are ones approved by the government. I am free to operate my building in compliance with all the building codes and standards defined by the government. I am free to place a sign on that business provided it conforms to the city’s sign ordinance. I am free to hire a lawyer to defend against the government’s charges that I discriminate because I have fewer minority employees than the government says I should have. I am free to pay a $100,000 fine if I complain that a male employee suddenly is showing up in dresses.

I am free to have exactly the same number of parking spaces the government says I should have, and to follow the specific standards the government established when it gave me a conditional-use permit. True freedom always has conditions. I am free to vote in elections, provided that the ethnic balance of those elected conforms to the dictates of the Justice Department. I am free to invest money in the stock market provided I don’t take advice from anyone who knows any real information about the stock. If I do, I am free to spend several years behind bars. I am free to pay half my earnings in taxes. You know what they say, taxes are what we pay for a civilized society. Civilized and free. What more could a person ask for?

I am free to get to work on government-built and managed roads, in a car that meets government safety and pollution standards. I am free to pay hundreds of dollars a year in car taxes and gas taxes. I am free to borrow money from a bank to pay these taxes provided that the lender meets every government code and offers special terms to those people the government says should get special terms. I am free to send my children to the government-run schools, where they are taught whatever the government wants them to learn. I am free to raise them exactly as the government demands, or watch child protective services take them from me and give them to a foster parent.

I am free to get on an airplane and fly anywhere I want in this free country, provided that I let a government employee search my stuff and even my person. I am free to tell the federal government exactly how much I earn and let agents audit me and take me off to jail if I fail to tell them every source of income.

I am free to take any drug I need or please provided it is sold by a pharmacist or a drug store. I am free to work in any sort of profession, provided that I gain the proper government-granted licenses. If I work in manufacturing, I am free to give a union a lot of money or am free to find another job. I am free to hand over my property and take a pittance in return for it when the government uses eminent domain on behalf of a politically well-connected developer.

I am free to have a dog provided I buy him a government-issued license. I am not free to own a ferret, although in truth I hate those nasty little critters and don’t really want one. I am free to let a police officer search my car for any reason. I am free to let federal agents search my property, tap my phone lines, look at my library records.

I am free to live my life in total freedom provided that all my choices are approved by government, all my earnings are taxed by government, and all my moves are subject to close examination by government. No wonder the Iraqi people are so eager for their American overseers to show them how this freedom thing is done.

Steven Greenhut (send him mail) is a senior editorial writer and columnist for the Orange County Register.

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