Archive for freedom
This essay is by Reverend Edmund Opitz, author of The Libertarian Theology of Freedom and Religion and Capitalism: Allies, Not Enemies, and is adapted from a seminar lecture delivered as a member of the staff of the Foundation for Economic Education. It was published in the November 1966 issue of The Freeman. Read more from the Edmund Opitz Archive.
Freedom today has what might be called a good press; everyone speaks well of freedom. It is in the same category as motherhood, Sandy Koufax, and pure water. Nobody will admit that he is "agin" freedom. In modern times there has been a booming market for the Four Freedoms, and for Freedom Now. There is a vocal Free Speech Movement on college campuses. We celebrate freedom of the press and condemn censorship; we cherish religious liberty and hail academic freedom. The mood of our time is favorably disposed toward every freedom except one, and that outcast freedom is Freedom of Economic Enterprise.
Economic freedom suffers attrition from within and attacks from without. Individual businessmen often seek to evade market mandates, and intellectuals do not want people to have complete latitude for their peaceful economic transactions. This is how Professor Milton Friedman views the problem: "It has often seemed to me that the two greatest enemies of the free market are businessmen and intellectuals, for opposite reasons. The businessman is always in favor of free enterprise—for everybody else; he is always opposed to it for himself. The intellectual is quite different; he is always in favor of free enterprise for himself, always opposed to it for everybody else. The businessman wants his special tariff or his special governmental commission to interfere with free enterprise, in the name, of course, of free enterprise. The intellectual, too, wants such commissions to control the rapacious man. But he is against the idea of any interference with his academic freedom, or his freedom to teach what he wants and direct his research as he wants — which is simply free enterprise as applied to him."¹
I wish to focus first on economic freedom and demonstrate that maintaining the integrity of the free market is essential to the preservation of every other liberty. Later I shall deal with some of the things on which the free market depends.
Tags: economics, Edmund Opitz, free society, freedom, law
Hillsdale College in Michigan hosts Mises Lectures in free-market economics and houses the library of Mises in the Ludwig von Mises Room in its Mossey Library. But being a neocon outfit, it also has on the campus statues of Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill.
This dichotomy is also evident in the college’s monthly newsletter, Imprimus. The newsletter regularly features articles on the Constitution, limited government, and the free market. However, it just as frequently features articles that uphold Ronald Reagan, foreign wars, and an interventionist foreign policy. Imprimus sure has come a long way since Lew Rockwell served as its inaugural editor.
The most recent issue (April 2013) contains an article by R. R. Reno – the editor of First Things magazine – titled "Religion and Public Life in America" – that was adapted from a speech he delivered on February 20, 2013, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Bonita Springs, Florida.
In his speech/article, Reno slanders libertarianism. Here is the complete context:
A recent book by University of Chicago professor of philosophy and law Brian Leiter outlines what I believe will become the theoretical consensus that does away with religious liberty in spirit if not in letter. "There is no principled reason," he writes, "for legal or constitutional regimes to single out religion for protection." Leiter describes religious belief as a uniquely bad combination of moral fervor and mental blindness, serving no public good that justifies special protection. More significantly – and this is Leiter’s main thesis – it is patently unfair to afford religion such protection. Why should a Catholic or a Baptist have a special right while Peter Singer, a committed utilitarian, does not? Evoking the principle of fairness, Leiter argues that everybody’s conscience should be accorded the same legal protections. Thus he proposes to replace religious liberty with a plenary "liberty of conscience."
Leiter’s argument is libertarian. He wants to get the government out of the business of deciding whose conscience is worth protecting. This mentality seems to expand freedom, but that’s an illusion. In practice it will lead to diminished freedom, as is always the case with any thoroughgoing libertarianism.
So, according to Reno, a thoroughgoing libertarianism will diminish freedom. This is the most preposterous falsehood about libertarianism I have ever heard out of the mouth of a conservative. And it is strange that Reno would slander libertarianism based on the argument of Leiter, a leftist who is sympathetic to Marxism.
In a libertarian society; that is, a free society, government (the antithesis of freedom) is strictly limited, a real free market exists, property rights are supreme, and individual liberty abounds.
Libertarianism embraces financial freedom. Instead of the government confiscating a portion of everyone’s income and redistributing it in the form of grants and welfare, paying the bloated salaries of government bureaucrats, maintaining an empire of troops and bases, and spending billions on numerous boondoggles and pork barrel projects, Americans keep the fruits of their labors and save, spend, or support charitable causes as they deem best.
Libertarianism embraces educational freedom. This means no Pell Grants, student loans, vouchers, research grants, teacher-education requirements, teacher-certification standards, Title IX mandates, free and reduced school-lunch programs, Head Start funding, bilingual-education mandates, forced busing to achieve racial desegregation, diversity mandates, standardized-testing requirements, special-education mandates, math and science initiatives, directives such as the No Child Left Behind Act, restrictions on homeschooling, regulation of private schools, and, of course, no federal Department of Education.
Libertarianism embraces medical freedom. This doesn’t means just repealing Obamacare, but also the elimination of Medicare, Medicaid, FDA, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, SCHIP, government vaccination programs and mandates, government grants for medical research, medical-licensing laws, government funding of clinical trials, government HIV/AIDS-prevention initiatives, government nutrition guidelines, restrictions on organ sales, restrictions on the sale of medical devices, government regulation of medical schools, government medical records mandates, regulation of alternative medicine, federal laboratories, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, special privileges for the AMA and Big Pharma, and all laws and regulations related to drugs, health insurance, hospitals, physicians, and medical care.
Libertarianism embraces economic freedom. Instead of abandoning free-market principles in order to save the free-market system, as George W. Bush once said, libertarianism espouses a real free market based on the principle of laissez faire. This means no price-gouging laws, ticket-scalping laws, minimum-wage laws, anti-trust laws, interest-rate caps, SEC, FCC, FTC, Commerce Department, price-discrimination laws, restrictions on advertising, predatory-pricing laws, anti-dumping laws, special privileges for unions, corporate welfare, or restrictions on any business conducted between willing buyers and sellers.
Libertarianism embraces gun freedom. This means no government background-check system, waiting periods, government required gun-free zones, licensing of gun dealers, gun-owner databases, gun licensing, concealed weapons laws, government limits on gun purchases, government mandated trigger locks, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, National Firearms Act, Gun Control Act, Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Gun Free School Zones Act, bans on certain types of weapons, magazines, or ammunition, or regulation of gun sales, gun purchases, gun shows, gun storage procedures, ammunition, magazine capacities, gun calibers, or gun barrel lengths.
Libertarianism embraces personal freedom. Want to travel to Cuba or any other country? Go right ahead. Want to grow, sell, or use marijuana? Go right ahead. Want to discriminate based on religion, race, age, height, weight, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ethnicity, or color? Go right ahead. Want to drive without a seat belt? Go right ahead. Want to ride a bike or motorcycle without a helmet? Go right ahead. Want to fill in a "wetland" on your property? Go right ahead. Want to drink raw milk? Go right ahead. Want to purchase a beer on a Sunday morning? Go right ahead. Want to permit smoking anywhere in your bar or restaurant? Go right ahead. Want to play blackjack with your friends for money in your own home? Go right ahead. Want to purchase Sudafed without restriction? Go right ahead. In the words of the great Leonard Read, anything that’s peaceful. In a free society, consenting adults have the fundamental right to do anything that’s peaceful as long as they don’t aggress against someone else’s person or property while they do it.
In short, libertarianism embraces real freedom, not the false freedom of conservatism. Most conservatives never met a federal program they didn’t like as long as it furthered their agenda. We know what the conservative idea of limited government is: a government limited to a government controlled by conservatives. We experienced it for over four years under George W. Bush and a congressional majority of conservative Republicans. And what did that get us? It got us two senseless foreign wars, the destruction of civil liberties, a doubled national debt, the TSA, and the monstrous Department of Homeland Security.
For the libertarian, freedom is not the absence of morality, the rule of law, or tradition; it is the absence of government paternalism. Libertarianism is the absence of the ability of puritanical busybodies, nanny-statists, and government bureaucrats to make it their business to mind everyone else’s business.
It is a conservatism like that espoused by Reno and the Republicans that has contributed to this country becoming more and more every day a fascist police state. It is a conservatism like that espoused by Reno and the Republicans that diminishes freedom.
Originally published on LewRockwell.com on May 23, 2013.
Tags: freedom, libertarianism, politics, republicans
Is it okay to kill? I don’t mean a bug in your house, a snake in your garage, or a deer in the woods. Deer tastes good; you may not know if that snake in your garage is poisonous; and bugs are home invaders.
I mean is it okay to kill a man, a human being, a person? Again, I don’t mean someone trying to kill you, rob your business, rape your wife, harm your children, or break into your house. Killing someone might be perfectly justified in those circumstances if it involves defense against aggression.
Specifically, is it okay to kill someone who has not threatened or committed violence or aggression against you, your family, your friends, your neighborhood, anyone you know, or any American you don’t know? Read More→
Tags: aggression, ethics, freedom, militarism, military, self-defense, violence, war
By Rev. Edmund Opitz, author of The Libertarian Theology of Freedom and Religion and Capitalism: Allies, Not Enemies. This essay was originally published in the July 1973 issue of The Freeman. Read more in the Edmund Opitz Archive.
The colonists had won a war and, desiring to set up a republican form of government, they installed a Constitution designed to limit the public authority and thus maximize personal liberty.
Now that they were free, what did these early Americans do with their newly won liberty? For one thing, they worked. They had to provide their own food, clothing and shelter, so work was a necessity of survival. Moreover, these people remembered the poverty endured by their ancestors in Europe and how life was demeaned thereby. Now that these Americans were free to enjoy the fruits of their toil they became more productive, and with the gradual increase of wealth came a new sense of human dignity which accompanies modest economic success. The Puritan Ethic was sound when it endorsed work, thrift and frugality. This ethic fitted in well with the burgeoning interest in the new science of economics, masterfully set forth in 1776 by Adam Smith. It is significant that more than twenty five hundred copies of Wealth of Nations were sold in this country within five years of its appearance. Obviously, the book addressed itself to a real need.
Economic activity is fundamental to human existence. A Robinson Crusoe could get along without politicking, but if he did not work he would die of hunger and exposure. Emerging from economic activity are the concepts of rights to property and claims to service around which many political battles are fought. Economics, on the surface, deals with prices, production, and the operations of the market as determined by the buying habits of every one of us. In reality, however, economics is concerned with the conservation and stewardship of the earth’s scarce goods; human energy, time, material resources and natural forces. Read More→
Tags: economics, Edmund Opitz, freedom, history, religion
Most people live lives of quiet desperation, Henry David Thoreau told us. If there was truth in that observation, in the pleasant, spacious old New England of Thoreau’s day, how much more truth is packed into those words in these melancholy days! Events have gotten out of hand and the world lurches into chaos.
Things have fallen apart faster than any of us would have dared predict, and we are seized by pangs of guilt and self-doubt. So many promising experiments have gone sour, from the New Freedom of Woodrow Wilson to the latest ukase of the present administration. The statesmen of this era talked peace and sought to outlaw war, but they let the twentieth century break down into the bloodiest period of all the twenty-five hundred years of warfare studied by Pitirim Sorokin. “We live,” wrote this great scholar, “in an age unique for the unrestrained use of brute force in international relations.”
The threat of protracted international conflict is bad enough, but there is also the well-founded fear of domestic violence and crime. And even if we are lucky enough to escape actual robbery, we know that inflation is steadily draining our wealth. We’ve seen the race issue go from integration to Black Nationalism; we’ve witnessed the emergence of the sex and drug cult, the rise of astrology, witchcraft and voodooism; V.D. has reached epidemic proportions among the young; and then there is abortion, homosexuality, the campus crisis, the environmental crisis, the inner crisis in man himself. For is it not true, as Yeats says in a famous poem, that “The wicked act with dreadful intensity, while the good lack all conviction.”
Tags: culture, Edmund Opitz, free society, freedom, ideology, philosophy