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Freedom vs. Fairness

Stress has been high these last few days – I’m preparing a PR event for work, and I was stupid enough to give out my own cell number as the RSVP line. Which means I’ve been inundated with phone calls, and I haven’t been able to breathe. The event is on Friday, which means the calls end on Friday, too, hopefully.

I anxiously await the arrival of freedom.

Which leads me to our topic today, boys and girls, which is the aforementioned freedom thingie. Whereas tolerance is overrated, freedom is vastly underrated. And a large chunk of the electorate neither knows nor cares what it is.

Let’s begin with the basic assumption at the root of our nation’s founding. Freedom is an inherent right, one granted by God, not government. When government gets in the way, it’s time to get a new government. I’m not as poetic as Thomas Jefferson, but I think the paraphrase is accurate.

Every minute of every day, you have the freedom to make choices. For instance, right now I’m choosing to write a blog entry instead of ANSWERING THAT DAMN PHONE… which is, of course, ringing even as we speak. However, by choosing to do this, I have also chosen the consequences – I’m going to have to clear out my voicemail again – I only have eighteen messages before it fills up – and this will likely add to the stress of my day. Of course, I could blow off the phone calls entirely, which would likely mean I lose my job. But I chose those consequences when I took the job. I also like the consequence of getting paid, and this seemed to be the best course of action I was free to take to get the big bucks.

So as much as I moan and whine about how much things suck at the moment – STOP RINGING, PHONE! – I chose this. I was free to do so, and I did it. I would like to be starring on American Idol instead, or playing James Bond in the next 007 movie, or collecting endorsement deals for my eight Olympic gold medals, but those choices aren’t available to me. I’m too old and too lousy to be on American Idol; too ugly and unknown to be James Bond; too flabby and bong free to be Michael Phelps. Freedom and opportunity are not necessarily the same thing.

Or, to put it another way, freedom doesn’t make life fair.

As a nation, we keep thinking fairness and freedom are the same thing. They’re not. They’re antithetical. In order to make your life just as nifty as someone else’s, government yanks away some of their freedom to provide you with fairness. So Obama’s stimulus plan gives “tax rebates” to people who don’t pay taxes. He’s putting us a trillion more dollars in debt to “stimulate the economy” at the expense of your freedom. Every resource the government confiscates to fuel its activity is a resource you’re no longer free to manage.

Nobody seems to think of it in these terms anymore.

Instead, they point out all the great things the government is doing with your money. And how unfair it is that rich people make so much and poor people get so little, and what are you, heartless? Many even invoke religious principles to justify the encroachment of government on your liberty. After all, Christ gave to the poor, didn’t he? Aren’t we supposed to do what Christ does?

I read a letter to the editor to this effect in the Deseret News yesterday. “As an LDS member who often votes Democratic,” the guy says, “I do so because I believe those with much have a mandate to help those with little.” As a guy who never votes Democratic, I can’t agree with this more. Yet the Democrats – and way too many Republicans – refuse to allow me the freedom to help others. They take my resources and distribute them as they see fit, and they do so at the point of a gun. I am not free to resist, unless I want to go to jail for tax evasion. I don’t get to choose how the money is spent, and I have less money of my own to direct to the people and programs I believe in. How is that fulfilling Christ’s mission? When did Christ confiscate someone else’s property against their will?

People prefer fairness because fairness is tidy and neat. Freedom is messy. Freedom means people can be jerks and spend their money on season tickets to minor league hockey games instead of giving it to the food bank. Freedom means people who look like Brad Pitt will get Oscar nominations and people who look like Stallion Cornell can only write catty, jealous blog comments about it. Freedom means disappointment and frustration when things don’t go as you planned, which is more often than not. It’s no wonder, then, that people want to trade in freedom for fairness.

Folks, I’m telling you, it’s not a good deal.

All over the world, people have made the exchange, and the standard of living for everyone has gone down as a result. I’d rather make fifty grand a year and have my neighbor make a hundred than have both of us make twenty-five. I don’t think someone else’s success limits my freedom. I do think that a government that piles on the debt is putting me in bondage with the best of intentions. That’s something it has no right to do.

In the course of writing this, I’ve gotten twelve new voicemail messages. Shoot me now.

Tolerance is Overrated
Freedom v Fairness II: This time, it's personal!

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