Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Excessive Liberty

Beneath these two issues - treatment of the mentally ill and gun control - lies a deeper one: Where does one draw the line between freedom and anarchy in a democratic society? According to Yale law professor Paul Gewirtz, "Our various legal rules, taken together, may be producing a society in which liberty is bordering on disorder." The libertarian tendency is deeply American, going back all the way to the Whiskey Rebellion. But it must be balanced against a civilized society's need for behavioral constraints, agreed upon by the consent of the governed. If the Arizona shootings point in any direction, it is toward reassessing the excessive liberties we've granted ourselves in recent years.
Klein, Joe."Arms and the Unbalanced." Time 24 January 2011: 25.
The concept of liberty often means the freedom from despotic government, control, interference, obligation, restriction, confinement and restraint. It is a theory that has deep meaning in the United States forming a significant chunk of the foundation of the nation. There are few things people cherish more in this country. We love the liberty to speak our minds, choose our destinies, and keep our stuff. Infringement on any of our liberties is bound to attract negative attention from all sides of the political spectrum. William Wallace's "FREEDOM!" resonates with many of us as if George Washington screamed the same thing at Yorktown.

And yet it is with our great love of liberty that we have found ourselves in a moral morass. As much as we do not want any entanglements in our personal lives from the government, we have seen the potential danger to unrestrained choice. Our liberties have become the stumbling blocks to safety, sanity and well-being. Certainly the great majority of people can conduct themselves in a manner worthy of liberty. However, for the percentage that cannot...have we set ourselves up for failure in society? Is it possible that we might be hurting ourselves by allowing liberty to run unchecked? Of course no reasonable person would argue for Orwell's Big Brother to take control of our mess. However, as a collective group, perhaps the citizens of this country could develop a better system of checks & balances on our own freedom of choice.

It is said less is more. In the case of our liberties, perhaps choosing to give up some might be the answer to gaining more for our beloved land of freedom.