Liberty is at the heart of America. Since our nation’s conception, the maximization of individual freedom has been the driving force for our existence. It goes without saying we have not always fleshed out this epiphany of personal liberty perfectly. Perfection in any sense or incarnation is simply unattainable—at least in this life. However, what makes America great is our relentless pursuit and unwavering commitment towards the progress of individual freedom.
Right wing, left wing, Republican, Democrat, conservative, progressive—these camps and labels more often than not fail to address the crucial fulcrum where one begins to deviate from the heart of America and her bedrock principles.
Despite the label one is given or however one identifies politically, the most important metric we must evaluate of ourselves is the degree of freedom we are willing to allot to individuals. Are you generally for freedom or against it? The answer to this question is indicative of how well you are doing in keeping the promise of American freedom alive.
Individual freedom has limits. I can swing my fist freely in the air and with reckless abandon up until the point where it connects with your face. Now, we might propose legislation that would result in a fine in order to discourage this type of antisocial and dangerous behavior. We could delineate the minimum necessary radius before one can legally swing his fists in the air (this may be legislation worthy of adopting in my own household with my two preschool boys). An addendum may also be in order to limit the maximum speed one could swing his fists. But the idea of one actually finding an ordinance such as this in the land of the free and home of the brave is preposterous. Surprisingly, regulations with this same spirit of bondage are common in countries other than ours.
During our family holiday Down Under a few months ago, one of our taxi drivers shared his personal experience with one of these misguided laws. He relayed a story of how he was fined more than a hundred dollars for no other offense than driving with his arm hanging out of the window on one hot summer’s day. Anecdotal evidence be that as it may, lo and behold it was true. While absurd and obscure laws may be found on occasion here in the US, these are mostly idiosyncratic to each state, historically antiquated, and rarely, if ever, enforced. However, in other countries, ordinances aimed at micromanaging their citizenry’s mundane behavior are routinely cited and enforced at no small cost to personal liberty.
Freedom is not free. There is an inherent cost associated with allowing individuals the option to choose good or evil. Governments such as ours that are dependent upon individuals freely choosing virtue rather than vice allow for the possibility of atrocities and destruction of prodigious proportion. Even so, self-government allows for the possibility of immeasurable blessing and prosperity.
Americans’ unique preoccupation with individual freedom and our historical defense of those freedoms in our Bill of Rights is precisely why America is exceptional and will continue to be so, should we choose to err on the side of freedom as our forefathers did before us.
Again, freedom is not free—as Benjamin Franklin retorted during the Constitutional Convention, we’ve been given “A republic, if you can keep it.” We must each invest in promoting the creative power of freedom. This process of “keeping it” is a daily one, where we individually choose the good, the true, and the beautiful.