Yes, folks, I’m back with a special second post for Independence Day. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I truly enjoy Independence Day. It’s one of my favorite holidays, both for the fun celebrations and for the deeper meaning. It’s a time to celebrate freedom, but it’s also a time to reflect on what freedom means.
My friend Clint, in his post takes some time to tease out the tension that exists between freedom and government authority in that most iconic of American settings, the Old West and by extension, the post-apocalyptic frontier of his story. It got me thinking about what freedom really means for us as Americans.
We have been hearing the word “freedom” a lot lately. There’s a debate in this nation about what freedom means. Folks on the other end of the political spectrum from me tend to characterize freedom as the absence of government authority from the lives of the populace. We hear the cries that any instance of government intervention in the marketplace is an attack on freedom. There is a tendency to place the government in opposition to the people. When that is the view, it allows things like taxation and regulation to be characterized as government run amok. When such a characterization is successful, the result is that government is diminished.
I disagree with this characterization of government. In fact, I think that it can be and has been destructive to our nation. I think it has been used, particularly over the last thirty years in service to those people and institutions in possession of the kind of political and economic power that government has historically countered in defense of everyday individuals.
You see, at it’s best, American governance is not conceived as a system separate from the people, but one of, by and for the people. In America, we are the government. When the government imposes a tax or a regulation, it is not some separate entity. It is us. It is the decision of he people that we elect and empower to make decisions for us regarding the issues that impact us collectively. I don’t see freedom as the absence of government. I see it as the act and tradition of self-governance. I see it as our ability, through our elected representatives and our constitutional system to define our common interests and to act to protect and further those interests. It’s more complex, complicated, and messy than a simple anti-government stance, but it is also calls us to a more active, a more robust sense of citizenship and community. It makes us more than a collection of individuals, though individuals we are. It makes us into one nation.
E pluribus unum. Out of many one.