We’ve just celebrated our 234th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. There’s nothing wrong with a good holiday, a little beer, one hot dog too many, and some fireworks to help it all settle in. Yes, freedom is a good thing.
FDR spoke about “four essential freedoms” on January 6, 1941, naming 1) freedom of speech and expression; 2) freedom of every person to worship in his own way; 3) freedom from want; and 4) freedom from fear — which he explained was related to a reduction of armaments and the lack of physical aggression against any other country in the world.
We’re actually doing pretty well with #1. Thanks to the Supreme Court, corporations are doing pretty well, too. Expect lots of “free speech” this coming fall, just prior to the general election. Only it won’t really be “free” — all of us will pay for it in higher prices for everything we buy.
Americans are doing pretty well with #2 as well — far better than people in most countries. I wish we were doing half as well in recognizing the freedom of people not to worship. (Well, it’s true, nobody can make us pray. But if we need to interact with certain elements of society, we can be made to feel uncomfortable if we choose that option. Try belonging to a Rotary Club! Try attending a City Council meeting!)
In regard to #3 — not so much. What FDR was referring to was “economic understanding which (sic) will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants.” Right now economists worldwide are debating the merits of stimulus vs. deficit reduction — without giving much thought to methods of reducing the deficit that are politically unpopular. As a result, people will go hungry, which usually is not consistent with “healthy.”
Freedom from fear — unfortunately not. Physical aggression — between nations, between people — continues unabated, even when it’s unnecessary, unproductive, and unpopular. Tell the Marines getting their limbs blown off in Afghanistan that they possess “freedom from fear.”
My birthday is coming up soon. If you’re thinking of getting me a present, consider the following: 1) freedom from deregulation where the potential (no, the LIKELY) result is higher profit at the expense of unnecessary loss of life (e.g. mining and oil extraction operations); 2) freedom from people who use “no taxation without representation” as an excuse to promote their actual philosophy, which is “no taxation at all”; 3) freedom from any more deaths resulting from stupid wars and government agencies that don’t do their jobs (e.g. child protective services, juvenile probation departments, etc.); and 4) freedom from rigged elections, anywhere in the world, but especially here in the good ol’ US of A.
Ronald Wolff publishes the blog Musings from Claremont, where this article first appeared. Republished with permission.