- At 47, I lament how today's America is far
less free than the country of my youth. Replacing it is not a 1984ish
totalitarian dictatorship, but what Alexis de Tocqueville called the "soft
tyranny" of what Mark Levin sees as a 21st century "nanny
state." We so feared a Stalin or Hitler that we ignored endless assaults
on our liberty by idealistic home-grown statists and the seductive narcotic
of ever more government goodies buying our acquiescence. What makes Americans'
surrender to statism so shameful is that we freely chose this course in
direct contravention of our founding principles.
- Nowhere have we seen such an accelerating atrophy of
our freedom as in K-12 public schools, where recent decades have witnessed
far more books banned, and not some print version of Debbie Does Dallas.
No, literary classics like J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and
Mark Twain's Huck Finn are verboten -- required reading in those
decadent days of my '70s high school. But educrats with the backbone of
a large worm now avoid anything controversial.
- Students have far less choice of classes in high school,
and often teachers can't make their own lessons since they must teach the
test so schools can make "adequate yearly progress." Only
about 40 percent of my college students say they ever discussed any controversial
issues in high school. My high school classes reveled in such debate.
- Similarly, so many high schools have become gated, closed
campuses. Mine was wide open. "Zero tolerance" for drugs and
violence policies punish students carrying aspirin, cough drops, and Tweety-Bird
key chains. Now diligent do-gooders want to ban school Coke machines as
well. And to think at my high school we could even smoke!
- Today political correctness constipates free speech at
many schools (as well as in much of the public and private sectors), and
hysterical sexual harassment policies suspend children for hugging a classmate.
If you had predicted all this to my 1980 senior high class, we'd have laughed
that you'd smoked some mighty bad dope to conjure up such an Orwellian
- Young folks' freedom has been lost off campus as well.
The drinking age has of course been raised, and now there's a host of teen
driving restrictions I never had to obey.
- But we've all lost so much liberty. Look how
government's neurotic nannies have restricted us with a host of seatbelt,
child seat, and helmet laws. Likewise, so many cities and states ban smoking
even in private restaurants and bars. A WWII vet can't even light
up in his own bar.
- So many laws have eroded our Second Amendment gun rights
that, as P.J. O'Rourke notes, if Massachusetts had the same gun
laws in 1775 that it has now, we'd all be Canadians.
- Even political campaign speech is constricted. The Obama
administration argued at the U.S. Supreme Court that the McCain-Feingold
Act can ban books about ongoing election campaigns. Yet Justice
Hugo Black warned that: "The freedoms of speech, press, petition,
and assembly guaranteed by the First Amendment must be accorded to
the ideas we hate, or sooner or later they will be denied to the ideas
we cherish. "
- Almost half of all U.S. income is taxed today,
which means we've lost about half our economic freedom. With record government
spending and soaring debt, we're set to lose a lot more. And to think the
Boston Tea Party was waged over a three-cent-a-pound tax on tea.
- Government regulations on business cost us well over
$1 trillion a year in higher consumer prices, and there are exactly 26,911
government words policing the sale of a head of cabbage.
- In recent years, obsessive-compulsive environmental regulations
halted a Massachusetts town from using fireworks on Independence
Day since an "endangered" bird's nest was found near it. News
flash: on July 4, we celebrate independencefrom a tyrannical government.
Yet George III never taxed, regulated, or policed us remotely
as much as Washington , D.C.does today. U.S. House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi says "Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to
- Everywhere rules and paperwork mushroom as nit-picking
bureaucrats grow in numbers and power. As a buddy bemoaned, the increasingly
shrill message of the establishment is "Sit down and shut up."
No wonder so many Americans feel frustrated and impotent.
- Why has our liberty eroded so badly? Statist public schools
have long taught that equality (of results) and "social justice"
trump freedom since liberty is the handmaiden of "selfish" individualists
harming "the community." As we've grown affluent, there's more
desire to protect everyone from risk, and our burgeoning welfare state
demands ever more of our economic liberty. Plus, as societies get more
secular, they become more socialist (see Western Europe ).
- We also have endless media-savvy professional grievance
groups contending that every erosion of freedom is imperative for our safety.
But, as Justice Louis Brandeis warned: "Experience teaches us to be
most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are
beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of
their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk
in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."
- Jefferson warned that "The price of liberty
is eternal vigilance." I pray Americans never forget that we are
the heirs to the most libertarian, God-fearing revolutionaries in history.