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Has the True Definition of “Liberty” Become Anachronistic?

Forgetting our nation's legacy

“Slavery” is defined as: the state of being a slave; the practice or system of owning slaves; a condition compared to that of a slave in respect of exhausting labor or restricted freedom; excessive dependence on or devotion to something; slavery to tradition.

“Liberty” is defined as: the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views; the power or scope to act as one pleases.

[NOTE: The above definitions provide an exact point of reference for the discussion that is to follow.]

Do most Americans currently live in a state of slavery? ... or rather in a state of liberty?

These words have polar opposite meanings; which are seldom viewed or used within their defined context, lending to the equivocation as to exactly what these words truly mean; and, thus, whether—as individuals or as a people—we are slaves or free human beings.

When examining the definition of the word “slavery” (in a purely literal sense), the words or phrases “restricted freedom,” “excessive dependence,” “devotion to something,” and “slavery to tradition” imply that a state of human enslavement can assume various degrees and forms.

For example, religious, political and patriotic beliefs feature uses and habits best described as devotional or traditional; which can readily adopt expressions of [perceived] near flawlessness; leaving one with a strong subjective attachment -- often producing a mind set defined by those very ideals. To be more precise, such commitments are suggestive of a state of “acquired dependency.”

Expressed another way, acquired dependence is to acquiesce to authority borne from ideas and traditions; which psychologically suborn one’s consent to become partially enslaved by a system.

Given the generation-to-generation metastasizing of the bureaucratic institutions that comprise and provide social assistance at every level of government, it would be most unreasonable to deny that an inordinate number of Americans—to one degree or another—are economically dependent upon city, county, state or federal assistance.

Living within a social construct that provides such assistance, however, there is also much to be expected of the recipient. To be legally qualified for economic relief, the beneficiary must conform to the laws, rules or regulations specifically applicable to their situation. To continue to receive aid, one is behaviorally constrained; limited in the freedom and power to act as they otherwise might.

This is not a state of liberty.

This is a state of being unwittingly deceived; a state that, at most, should be temporary; but which has evolved into a generation-to-generation social entitlement. This is a system that removes all incentive for a life of independence and autonomy; and which, in the most egregious fashion and in the most forged of circumstances, kills our greatest attribute: the human spirit.

The sophistry of the political class know no bounds. They would have us believe that the magnanimity of welfare programs are of benefit to society; when—in their infinite arrogance and ignorance—they have transformed prospective contributors to the socioeconomic well-being of the nation ... into perennially entrapped wards of the state.

This is a state where liberty has been voluntarily—albeit, by means of deception—surrendered to an ever-expanding state of authority. Depending the circumstances, however, such authority can also be arbitrary, cruel and excessive. (See the two videos to follow)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IGZOGmsQc4 (4:03 min; mom, daughter and a swat team) 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=04MNf1YdNxI (3:44 min; the children’s lemonade stand saga)

Witness the excessive and oppressive response of government. In either case—as stated by a male voice in the audio of the lemonade saga—there was no victim, and thus, there was no crime. In fact, there were victims: Mom, daughter and the sellers of lemonade all suffered the indignity of being told they could not do what they believed to be in their own best interest -- actions that would have cost nothing to no one.

The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views; the power or scope to act as one pleases ... should be the essential and most closely guarded precept(s) of our human existence.

As a people and as a nation, have we given up on the idea of individual liberty?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Craig Maxwell November 08, 2012 at 07:02 PM
"Given up" might be a bit of an exaggeration, Vince. But we have allowed them to be terribly compromised. Tocqueville anticipated this tendency of of democratic peoples with incredible accuracy, and his portrayal of the "soft despotism" we would likely succumb to is still the best: "Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?...
Craig Maxwell November 08, 2012 at 07:03 PM
...Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits. After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd."
Vincent Wallgren, Jr. November 08, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Great post, Craig. ... And, yes, "given up" is probably too severe; but it sure feels like far too many Americans have given in to the "soft despotism" (love that phrase) as described by Tocqueville.
Craig Maxwell November 08, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Thanks, Vince. And for another great post, too. In any case, one thing's for sure: in electing Barack Obama, we have taken a giant stride toward the condition both you and Tocqueville describe so well. We have no one but ourselves to blame.
Scott H. Kidwell November 08, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Thanks Vince.
dragonslayer November 09, 2012 at 09:07 PM
So if I collect my Social Security pension at 62 I am want for liberty? Shackled to the bureucratic Stalinist despots marching in unison with the forces of evil?? I'd say that Social Security secures liberty for the a lot of older people. The alternative being the tyranny of poverty for some. I think you forget that the Constitution is there to "promote the general welfare." And that such can be accomplished without the subjugation of the collective soul. We benefit as a society by providing a program like this. To argue otherwise is nothing more than hyperbole.
Things I Learned November 09, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Hyperbole is defined.
Kevin George November 09, 2012 at 09:39 PM
DS, the problem with the "promote the general welfare" phrase is hat it can be construed to mean anything. Just as the founding fathers didn't know about 2live crew when they wrote the First amendment or about AK47s when they wrote the Second amendment , they didn't realize that the "promote the general welfare" would be one day be used to provide cradle to grave care,OR an electorate that would seek it.
dragonslayer November 09, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Spoken like a true strict constructionist.
Vincent Wallgren, Jr. November 09, 2012 at 11:56 PM
DS: In Carter vs Carter Coal Co., 298 U.S. (1936), the Supreme Court ruled: "The proposition, often advanced and as often discredited, that the power of the federal government inherently extends to purposes affecting the Nation as a whole with which the states severally cannot deal or cannot adequately deal, and the related notion that Congress, entirely apart from those powers delegated by the Constitution, may enact laws to promote the general welfare, have never been accepted but always definitely rejected by this court. Mr. Justice Story, as early as 1816, [298 U.S. 238, 292] laid down the cardinal rule, which has ever since been followed-that the general government 'can claim no powers which are not granted to it by the constitution, and the powers actually granted, must be such as are expressly given, or given by necessary implication.'" Being all things to all people from cradle to grave has been tried -- and was a miserable failure. Insofar as many of our nation's policies inexplicably mirror the precepts set forth in that failed experiment, the cost—in terms of our national debt and unfunded liabilities—is but a pittance when compared to the loss of far too many of our peoples' dignity, ingenuity and can-do spirit.
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