Democracy versus Freedom and a Rant on Personal Responsibility

Brain Dump

As we approach the 2008 Presidential election our democracy “appears” stronger than ever. The electorate is engaged and people of all races and machinations are debating issues, tuning into debates, and showing up to vote.

The problem, however, is that at the same time that our democracy seems to be gaining momentum, the prospect of achieving a free and just “society” continues to dwindle. Unless the electorate reverses a course that was set in motion 70 years ago, we will continue to witness the inverse relationship between the strength of U.S. democracy and freedom for years to come.

The problem is simple: The electorate has formed strong and sometimes educated opinions without the benefit of objectivity and reason, and they have the power to turn their opinions into law thanks to the democratic process. Individuals who are against freedom (without realizing it) make up the majority, and they will continue to bastardize our democracy by imposing their personal morals on the populous. The result will be a gradual decline in innovation and achievement as our nation approaches a state of collective impotence. This will not happen overnight and I don’t mean to imply that the “end is near,” but the foundation is being laid and this election will be pivotal. For example, at the same time that Democrats tout Universal/Socialized health care, less students are going to med school because after the high taxes, high insurance costs, and the increased footprint of government in health care – the prospect of becoming a doctor is becoming less and less attractive.

If you judge modern Democrats and Republicans by their actions – they are the same. They believe that government has an important role to play in our daily lives, and that government institutions have the right to require private citizens to accept responsibility for the health and happiness of their neighbors under threat of force and jail time. The Republicans have been co-opted by the religious movement – who believe in collective morals, while the Democrats have strong foundations in the liberal movement – who also believe in collective morals. The former wants to integrate religion into our lives, while the latter wants to force those who have more value in society to play Jesus to those of lesser value – as if it were their responsibility.

Here is an extreme example: The matter of the U.S. government providing free health care to poor children. Most voters would support the statement that “society has a responsibility to provide healthcare to poor children.” To disagree with that statement would be highly controversial and would evoke a visceral response from many people. Put visceral reactions aside for a second, however, and consider the statement objectively. First of all – consider who “society” is. In reality it is not a monolithic entity – it’s you and me. The statement really is, “You (I) have a responsibility to provide health care to poor children.” Then consider the word “responsibility,” which is defined as “duty,” and the word “provide,” which in this case means to “pay for.” Finally, change “poor children” to other people’s children, because, well, that’s what they are. Objectively speaking, the statement really is, “I have a duty to pay for health care for other people’s children.” Now, if you can make that statement and if you feel such a duty to pay the bill for someone else’s child, I would indeed expect you to pull out your wallet. What I would not expect you to do is support a law requiring that I do so too, under threat of jail time, regardless of whether or not I feel the same PERSONAL duty that you do. I should not be forced to pay the bill for other people’s children if I don’t want to. You, collectively, have no moral right to place demands on me.

As generally moral and decent individuals many feel a duty to help those who are less fortunate than we are. Many reason that a country as rich and prosperous as the United States ought to “give back.” The distinction, however, is that the country (the state) is not a moral entity. The state does not innovate and create the businesses that drive our economy… they simply tax the people who do and redistribute their money. When you decide that your morals should be imposed upon others, however virtuous, it is not the country (as an entity) that is forced to pay, it is the people that fund the country. If an individual has earned their money fairly, what moral right do you have to force that individual to fund policies and programs that you, personally, deem morally justifiable? The answer is that you don’t. Even if an individual has $50 trillion dollars – when you put your hand in her pocket and steal a buck in order to buy a sandwich for someone else’s starving child, you are still stealing. If you want to feed that child – feed him yourself. In this way, many Democrats are extreme hypocrites. On one hand they criticize conservatives for wanting to impose their moral values on all of us (no abortion, religion in public places) while fighting for similar objectives themselves (institutionalizing charity and enforcing it through the IRS).

Government has been co-opted, paradoxically, by the many for the benefit of the few. Indeed it is a perverted illusion that many refer to as altruism. By contrast, the proper role of government is to maintain order, to provide a court system, to defend our borders, and to stay out of our lives. If government did not pay for poor children to receive healthcare, I guarantee you that you and I would see to it that they receive proper care because I would feel a personal desire to do so, and you may as well. Alternatively, the very idea that you would force me to do so by threat of force (using the State as your proxy) is tantamount to you denying the one thing that should be more important to us than anything else: freedom. According to my value system it is morally wrong to deny another individual freedom, and by definition things that are morally wrong are evil. By extension, forcing me to pay for healthcare for other people’s children, even if they are poor, is evil.

Democrats and Republicans, inclusive but not exclusive to Obama and McCain, all want me to pay for poor children to receive healthcare. They also want me to pay for a lot of other things that pull on our collective heart strings. When I listen to Obama speak, and when I judge his words objectively and reasonably, free of emotion, I do not hear an inspiring individual. I hear a reflection of evil. Pure evil. This evil does not necessarily emit from the speaker, as the job of a politician in a democratic society is simply to get elected, it comes from his audience. I hear a man buoyed by supporters who want to impose their arbitrary morals on me and on all of us. Republicans are no better. President Bush spent more money than any Democrat on non-military spending and tried to sully the line between church and state, and neither he, nor his party, are heroes worthy of reverence. Surprisingly, both parties operate from seemingly identical principles.

People want to deny the fundamental principles of economics but those desires conflict with historic realities. The free market is responsible for the greatest innovations that this world has to offer, and the redistribution of wealth that both political parties support undermines the free market, and by extension our progress as a “society.” As a compassionate individual I want to help people and make a positive difference in people’s lives, but that is my job, not the job of my government.

By voting for Obama, and by voting for McCain, individuals are voting for the evil principles they espouse: namely that the majority has the right to impose their personal morals on society (you and us). On one hand, people should be encouraged not to be evil. On the other hand, an obvious question would be – what’s the alternative?

Sadly I cannot offer an expedient solution to this problem. There is not a single candidate I know of we can vote for, or an action we can take, that would immediately solve the issues presented on these pages. The problem is a systemic one that finds its genesis at the very foundation of our society. Society is torn between capitalism and compassion, as if the two are mutually exclusive. We’re taught from a young age that knowledge is power, and we pursue knowledge throughout our younger years in order to transfer it into a vocation that will provide the means for our long-term happiness. In this way, individual responsibility is promoted as a means to a greater end. If you work hard you will make money, which will enable you to start and provide for your family (and sometimes society), and/or to experience modern luxuries ranging from healthcare to disease-free whores. These concepts are distorted, however, because capitalism is not simply a means to a greater end – it is the end. The added complications of religion and spirituality serve to bring us further from a proper understanding of what capitalism really is – or at least what it really should be. Capitalism should not be a means to an end, and it should not exist in a category that is separate and distinct from spirituality. CAPITALISM IS SPIRTUALITY. History has shown us that unbridled laissez –faire capitalism is the only model under which all individuals can live freely, and can thrive – if they choose – or flounder – if they are weak. I did not sign a piece of paper when I entered this world to subjugate my talents and abilities, however they measure, for the benefit of others. If I decide that I want to live my life in such a way as to allow others to ride on my shoulders – I should be able to – but I should NOT be forced to, and I should be encouraged NOT to. Individuals are at their best when they are motivated to achieve the pinnacle of their potential in an honest and forthright manner, but American society encourages people to do just enough in order to buy the goods and services that supposedly buy them happiness. As many have become painfully aware – money does not buy happiness, but I would argue that it has the potential to become a measure of happiness to the extent that it can be attributed to the achievements of those who posses it. To that end, and with those conditions, MONEY IS HAPPINESS.

Can capitalism exist without democracy? I don’t have the motivation to explore the answer to that question at this time but for the time being I am interested in exploring how our democracy can be utilized in order to foster a truer form of capitalism in the United States.

Turn your focus to the three pillars of our society: The “education” system, the media, and various institutions of faith, religion, and spirituality. In each case information that is not necessarily factual in nature is presented as being factual in nature by individuals that receive the benefit of implied trust: Teachers, Pundits, and men of G-d. In the end, we have imperfect, often un-evolved individuals helping our children to form the principles that will guide their lives and parents who SHOULD be concerned by this instead focus on their average and unproductive lives. Just as you would not permit a garbage-man to perform open-heart surgery on your children, you should not allow a 23 year-old bimbo to help your child formulate the very principles that will guide their lives, and by extension impact all of our lives and the future of our country.

As a society we are smart enough to do many things but not smart enough to do all of the important things – at least not yet. Solving the problems raised above would require an intellectually motivated, and eventually an intellectually dynamic, populous. It would require collective maturity and a revolution of sorts. A transition from a dramatic focus on menial issues, to a fervent dedication to self-understanding, reason, and objectivity. I do believe in revolutions and I do believe that a revolution such as this are possible although I don’t know what steps might lead to it. As we approach our next election I am also aware that revolutions are not always for the better, and I hope that the momentum we’ve witnessed over the past 70 years will not culminate in an eventual revolution of government-imposed altruism.

A better alternative would be a revolution that throws away the concepts of selflessness and altruism that recognizes the inherent value and potential of each human being to keep bringing us forward. Children who are encouraged, empowered, and well-educated strive to reach higher goals than those who are allowed to slide through life without the benefits of good parenting, mentorship, self-esteem, and a solid education. There are mentally handicapped people in this world who fully support themselves financially and who are happier for it, just as there are very intelligent people in this world who come from wealthy families and achieve nothing in their lives – to the point where they would do society a favor by ceasing to exist. The revolution would occur when each of us strives to reach our full potential; motivated by a desire to create. This is not the job of government, and realistically it will not occur unless parents take responsibility for the children they have created, and unless we all take responsibility for ourselves. The parents must create the demand for better schools, better mentorship, and better learning both at home and away from home. They must become better parents as well, and they must demand accountability for their tax dollars by participating in school boards, local government, or by putting their children into better schools. They must stop worrying about other children in their community, and our country, and around the world, and instead focus on the lives they have created. As for the rest of us “adults” – we need to stop thanking others for our achievements and blaming ourselves for our failures. We need to become real adults – individuals who are dedicated to growth and introspection and setting/achieving higher and higher goals.

Revolutions are bottom-up phenomena’s and we are all on the front lines. If you really want to save the world and be a good person stop worrying about everyone else and focus on yourself. Despite whatever illusions you are the most important person in your world.

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2 Comments

  1. Ian
    Posted March 11, 2008 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    Bravo! great rant! you really brought me back to the center man and i appriciate it.

  2. Tom Crozier
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 4:45 am | Permalink

    I’m copying and pasting your essay into a facebook note, if that’s all right with you. I’ll give you the credit for it. Shoot me an email if you’d like me to take it down and I’ll do so promptly. Keep up the good thinking; I’m lovin it.


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