Guest Commentary / October 13, 2021

The Sad Truth About Freedom and Countries Like the United States

We are no longer focusing on freedoms but limitations. We have turned the whole system on its head.

By Larry Craig

I am writing this a few hours after I learned that Jon Gruden, a head coach of a professional football team, resigned his position after The New York Times dug through his past and found private emails from years ago in which he spoke crudely and disparagingly about certain protected peoples in our society.

I was wondering if Gruden would now be allowed to get a job somewhere else, or would his remarks from years ago bar him from any meaningful employment in the future? Would any apology be considered truly remorseful and acceptable, considering he’s only doing it after all this was made public? Did he really even mean it?

But this article isn’t really about Gruden, but about freedom, and the risks that are inherent in it, and whether they are worth it.

It is a fact in life that not everybody will like everybody else. It can be for any of a myriad of reasons. A lot of the time we don’t even know the reasons. We don’t usually stop to think about it. It can be their personality, their appearance, their eating habits, their general attitude, or it can be something really important, like their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

When our country was founded, it was based on inalienable rights, things you could do without the government’s permission, interference, or regulation. Now, rights in our country are not focused on things you can do but on things you can’t do and things that we are to do for you.

So before, the government was focused on things you can do — freedom. Now it is focused on things you can’t do, meaning the government must now compel other people to do things for you. I don’t mean things like robbing, stealing, assaulting, or killing people. I mean hurting people’s feelings.

When our country was founded, the Founders debated whether to include a list of inalienable rights to the Constitution. They finally agreed to and did so through amendments to it. They were concerned that people would think that these rights came from the government rather than from God.

None of these rights compelled anybody to do anything for anybody else. A few compelled the government to do certain things.

The Declaration of Independence states that governments exist to secure these inalienable rights given to us by God. Now government exists to see that everybody gets what their new rights are, things that the government, meaning everybody else, has to provide for them.

You now have rights to things. And other people are compelled to give them to you. Either things that cost money, payable through our taxes, or intangible things like not being offended Now we have speech monitors to make sure you say nothing inappropriate, as judged by the crowd, social media, and certain loud voices in our society that we are supposed to listen to. Anything you have said or done privately at any time in your life can be made public and held against you in the court of public opinion. And other brazen acts of offending people are enforced by the courts and the law.

Changes in countries, especially those like ours where we make laws to govern us, change slowly. We see a problem, and we make a law to prevent that from happening again. But over time, like planting trees, we have changed the entire landscape of our nation.

I agree that people should be nice to each other. I don’t think that this is something that must be compelled by the government or public pressure, such that people lose their jobs over it. People may act more cautiously, but they still won’t like you, and we shouldn’t compel them to act like they do.

Sure, the world is a better place when people are kind to each other, care for each other, and respect each other. The problem is that these are not things that any law will produce. Forbidding people to say disparaging things to or about other people can limit the disparaging things that people say to or about other people, but it also limits a lot of other things people will want to say as well.

When we have society or the government policing people’s speech, such that their jobs, livelihoods, and reputations are at stake, then we are allowing a tyranny as stifling as any dictatorship.

Yes, I know that we are not allowed to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater if there is no fire. But that extreme example is now used to justify limits all across the spectrum. We are no longer focusing on freedoms but limitations. We have turned the whole system on its head.

The Founders knew that with freedom comes responsibility. If the people did not have a moral code to willingly want to do what is right and fair and kind, they would have needed a large government to closely monitor the people. They believed a moral education was imperative, so they promoted the use of the Bible in all their schools to teach love for other people and a high moral code.

Our modern emphasis on rights as things that the government must provide for people and things that are intangible like words and feelings is contrary to the entire spirit and intent of our nation’s founding.

How can I be so sure?

Since our government assumed responsibility for taking care of everybody, it has found there isn’t enough money in the country to do all that. It is driving the country deeper and deeper into debt, merely paying the interest on the debt yet continually borrowing more.

I submit that the United States is the freest country in the world, and part of that freedom is the freedom to say wrong things, inappropriate things, bad things even, as long as you don’t do bad things to other people, like robbing, stealing, killing, etc.

When we put our focus on what people say more than on what they do, we are making a petty tyrant dictatorship such that people become afraid to say anything important anymore.

And that is not how you want to run a country. And that’s certainly not the United States of America.

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