Friday, June 5, 2015

Freedom

What is freedom?  Who is free and who not?

I think that when we think of freedom we must first think of what it means to be without it.  We must think first of freedom from foreign domination: Nazi domination, Soviet domination, pre-Revolutionary British domination.  After that, we must think of forms of physical incarceration: prison, official governmental coercion (house arrest, parole), or even non-governmental confinement (kidnapping).

When you think of freedom or the lack thereof, today’s doctrinaire Republicans would like you to think of taxation and regulations.  As if the WalMart worker with a $20,000 gross income and an effective tax rate of just 5% (take-home = $19,000) is somehow more free than the CEO with a $50,000,000 pay check and a “punishing” effective tax rate of 90% (take-home = $5,000,000).  Or as though it is an offense against your right to make an honest living to be responsible for cleaning up the river that your corporation used as a waste dump, or to have to pay the extra buck to keep from fouling it in the first place.

Anyone who has ever had to endure the ravages of a major disease knows that freedom means free to think other thoughts than “I am going to die.”  Anyone who has escaped a bad marriage and has had a final judgment from the Divorce Court as to the division of the marital property knows what freedom means.  And anyone burdened with impossible debt knows what freedom is not.  I could go on, couldn’t I?  But I think you get the point.

But in the meantime, doctrinaire Republicans want you to think of punishing tax rates on millionaires and costly regulations on business practices whenever you fear for the loss of “freedom.”  And they want you to make things easier on this oppressed class of Americans, the oh-so oppressed top 1%.  And the awful thing is: many Americans are swayed by their logic and hold them up as exemplary leaders.

Note: Readers of my book and readers of my blog may be forgiven for thinking that I really favor Democrats, as I spend much less time savaging them than I do savaging Republicans.  Here are my reasons for that (accurate observation).  If I knew what Democrats stood for, I’d have more to write about, but I think that they have forgotten what they stand for for nearly 40 years.  Often they act like Republican Lite, so when I preach against the Republicans I preach against the Democrats at the same time.  When they have seemed to stand for something, I have weighed in against them often enough.  My book savages Obamacare and you can read a blog on the subject right here.  But the Republicans have become very accomplished at selling utterly unreasonable ideas* (a higher tax rate on millionaires is “punishing success”) to the American public, and that is why you will see me attack them much more often than Democrats.

*  The fact is that there IS a philosophical principle at the core of Republican ideology, but they dare not call it what it is for fear of their very lives.  It is what is called “social Darwinism,” "survival of the fittest," "the law of the jungle," "every man for himself," if you can’t make it in this economy you starve to death and good riddance.  Over time, in theory, it makes for a stronger and a better species at the cost of immense suffering by the masses who are not fit to survive in this dog-eat-dog world.  Are we willing to pay the price?  I think not.  Are YOU willing to pay the price?  Are you so sure that YOU would be among the survivors in a world such as that?  But is the only alternative to this cruel but efficient world for the strong to support the weak until the weak so outnumber the strong that it is no longer sustainable?  No.  A middle way must be found as both extremes are deadly.