Freedom comes with consequences. Consequences flow from your freely made decisions as well as from the decisions of others. Freedom is purest in the form of individual liberty. The central aspect of liberty is that as human beings under God, we cannot be morally subject to the oppression of government. But, God’s gift of the natural law does not come without obligation. The autonomy we have been given over our lives means that we must acknowledge the vital role our individual responsibility and our virtue plays. Unfortunately, in our society not everyone is willing to acknowledge their responsibility to act accountably and in accordance with virtue and not everyone accepts the responsibility that accompanies personal independence.
People say, do, act, and believe in ways with which we don’t agree and, in some cases, find morally abhorrent. That’s the result of upholding the right to unfettered choices (choices of course that don’t result in physical harm). But the benefits of freedom far outweigh the consequences and the founders knew this, which is why they enriched in our constitution God’s gift of individual liberty and created our republic. Freedom brings unlimited potential, it naturally compels morality and good-will, it fosters equal opportunity, and provides comfort in the knowledge that our own decisions guide our lives.
Benjamin Franklin wisely said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” This fundamental prerequisite to a free society is lost on many Americans. Freedom is not freedom if it comes with excessive caveats, regulations, or exceptions in the name of comfort, convenience, and subjective safety concerns. Every seemingly small infringement on our individual liberty places us farther from the ideal of a free society. Suppressing speech on the basis of a vague “hate” standard, forcing business owners to provide their services, and putting massive restrictions on Second Amendment rights are not characteristics of freedom.
Acceptance of how others conduct their individual liberty is not the criteria for allowing such liberty. The great thing about a free society is that it’s elastic. The culture, the narrative, consumerism, flow of human capital, and support from the populace are what drive change. Not the government. Effects of freedom are at the whims of the virtues and decisions of the people. If a business owner won’t cater their services to someone because of their religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, hair color, height, or whatever the case may be, the individual liberty of the people will speak. We don’t need the government to regulate that business owner in order for him or her to face societal justice. The natural course of free decisions will run them out of business. We are each allowed the freedom to combat the consequences of liberty. Do not let the government limit us because regulation is never exclusive to one situation or group of people.
Understanding how freedom works is the key to keeping it. Being able to identify the price of living in a free nation leads to a cohesive society that respects autonomy and an individual’s right to live how they choose. Is everyone going to get along? No. Are we going to dislike certain aspects of people’s actions and thoughts? Of course. But, upholding the individual liberty of others allows us to keep our own. If we start breaking down the fabric of liberty in the pursuit of the misguided notion that it will bring equal outcome, fair treatment, and justice we will live in an oppressive society where our level of freedom is determined by bureaucrats in the Washington D.C. bubble. A false sense of security is never worth putting limitations on our life and liberty.
Freedom thrives on virtue and virtue thrives on freedom. There is something scary about the human heart when it is stripped of virtue. That’s what government control does. Instead of relying on individuals and communities to utilize their liberty to help the least of us, we’re seeing a shift in American’s attitudes in support of a larger role for government to relieve us of this duty. Forced charity is not charity. We eliminate the need for virtue when we throw the responsibility for taking care of your fellow man to a federal power. We become cold to the idea of giving because we know a centralized institution is “taking care of it.” We become disconnected with the least of us. Why does the United States lead the world in charitable donations and individual contributions of aid? Because we have the freedom to choose to do so. Individual liberty gives us a reason to act on our own free-will and capitalize on our morality.
Before we throw away individual liberty with calls for limitations on speech, business, acting on personal convictions, and advocating for larger government intervention, we need to understand that these demands have consequences. Consequences that far exceed the negative impact of any consequence of freedom. As Americans, we have control over whether or not we keep our freedom. Individual liberty is a gift, that once given up, is nearly impossible to get back. We need to appreciate that the privilege of freedom you possess is because of an ideal handed to us by the men and women who sacrificed for it. When we fight for freedom, we fight for the consequences.
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