The Risk Of Liberty
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Every law has a good reason. Every tiptoe toward tyranny can be justified.
How Playing It Safe Leads To Tyranny
All of these laws, we are told, are for our good. The government will always pass more and more laws in the interest of keeping us safe. It is a difficult case to argue against, until it reaches the point where the people can hardly even move without worrying about breaking some law. Here in America, we aren't there yet...but there are areas where we are getting close.
The City of New York is probably the ultimate example right now of the ridiculousness of big government safety consciousness leading directly to tyranny. As these things always do, it started small: a local ordinance banning people from smoking in certain areas, say, because we don't want non-smokers to run the risk of getting lung cancer due to second-hand smoke. Then a law banning the use of trans-fats in foods, because we don't want people to run the risk of negative health effects. Then it moves on: banning the sale of large sodas due to the risk of obesity. Banning restaurants from placing salt shakers on their tables to avoid the risk of people taking in too much sodium. Further expanding smoking laws to restrict people from smoking even in their own homes.
Before you know it, eating junk food is no longer merely a poor decision, or even an occasional treat. Over time, it becomes an act of defiance. How long will it take before eating a Twinkie in New York City will be an act of civil disobedience (if it isn't already)? It reaches the ultimate ridiculousness when a young girl can get the morning after pill over the counter, but buying a Big Gulp at the 7-11 is against the law.
Our government spends so much time and energy trying to keep people safe; they rarely, if ever, pause to consider the effects that their laws and regulations have on our nation, and the future of our freedoms.
The ongoing debate over gun control is a great example of this. "If it only saves one life," they tell us, "it will be worth it." But there are larger considerations at stake here. If citizens of the United States retain the right to keep and bear arms, there are risks. We always live with the risk that a criminal or an unstable individual will commit some vile deed. But if the people are denied their right to keep and bear arms, then it is only a matter of time until other rights are denied, as well. This is no abstract theory; it has played out time and time again throughout history. It is not the Constitution that keeps politicians in check. The Law will always be insufficient people when it can be changed on a despot's whim - and by this I am not calling President Obama a tyrant...it doesn't have to be the current president. It doesn't matter whether it happens under this president, or the next, or the one after that, or the one after that. This is why the Second Amendment has no expiration date. Tyrants and despots have long been known for higher body counts than any mentally unstable mass shooter.
If it will save even one million lives, then surely it is worth it.
This is the problem with the creeping incrementalism of the Nanny State. Every law has a good reason. Every tiptoe toward tyranny can be justified. But over time, as one step follows another, the excuses and the reasons fail to hold up under the weight of the freedoms sacrificed each and every time for the greater good.
The assumption our modern society has fallen into is that the government is the arbiter of some kind of collective public safety - the righter of all wrongs, the protector from any and all problems that may come our way. Lose your job? Get a check from the government...and if enough people lose their jobs, don't worry: the politicians will turn what was meant to be an insurance program into just another government handout. Don't make enough money? Don't worry: there's WIC and EBT and food stamps and welfare and disability. Let the government keep you afloat.
Coffee too hot? Maybe you should sue.
McDonald's didn't give you your chicken McNuggets? Call 911 and report them to the authorities. So many of the absurd stories we read in the news are a direct result of people's abdication of personal responsibility, as they turn toward our massive, inefficient, monolithic government, calling on politicians and bureaucrats to solve their problems for them.
The politicians and the bureaucrats are all too willing to respond to those calls, always increasing their power and control over our society. And while their power and control increases, we see the rights and freedoms of the people slipping away - sometimes in small ways, sometimes more swiftly, but always slipping away.
Liberty is risky business; there are no guarantees in a free society. When freedom is in play, some people will win, some will lose. Some will succeed, others will fail. Even in a socialist utopia, this will still hold true; the difference is that the winners will be the politicians in power, and everyone else will lose. Freedom may be risky, but it gives the people the ability to succeed, to provide for their families, and to defend themselves and their families in ways that no government will ever be able to replace. That is why it is so important to see the creeping incrementalism of modern tyranny as it tiptoes up behind us, and to put a stop to it before it is too late.
Robert Cleveland, Senior Conservative Editor: Robert Cleveland is the IT Director for a document management services company. When he isn't working on computers and scanners, he's spending time with his wife and kids, or writing about just how jacked-up Washington politics is. He is a strong believer that hard work and freedom are what make America the greatest nation on the planet, and it is of the utmost importance that we never lose those values. Robert's other writing can be found at his blog, more...)