Monday, November 24, 2008

The Government and Real Freedom

Asking the government to correct our ills invariably allows it to hurt us in other ways. Government programs are like pills prescribed by a doctor which lead to dangerous side effects. These side effects themselves necessitate the consumption of other pills which themselves lead to more negative side effects. The best medication is not to need medication. People today are over-medicated and over-governed. The best government is not big-government but self-government.

What we need is freedom.

What is freedom? Freedom is simple. The creation of new government programs, regulations, taxes, amendments, and in many cases, laws, leads to an inefficient, slow moving, Godzilla-like behemoth. In Judeo-Christian thought, Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill the law. What does this mean? It means that a free man is not free to break the law but free to fulfill it in not desiring to break it. True government should govern not by making dozens of new laws but by helping its citizens not to need laws.

Freedom is sacrificial and self-giving. I remember there was a man who said that he would freely lay down his life and freely pick it up again. Furthermore, his free self-sacrifice led to the freedom of others. When the founding fathers built this nation, they created a government that existed to serve her citizens. The great Abraham Lincoln would say that the government was created for the people! Today’s “freedom” has made us more and more the slaves of the State! Just as the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, so was the government made for man not man for the government. The government needs to serve, not to be served.

Freedom is complimentarity. Why do people assume that because two things are different they must be unequal? Why can’t two things be different and equal? Can’t difference be a good thing? When I’m on a date and I compare myself to the woman I’m with I think: Different isn’t just good, it’s very good! Freedom does not lead to negative competition but to true integration. This is because of the fact that that freedom is self-giving. When one uses his freedom to look not to himself but to others, he finds himself by integrating his needs and desires with the needs and desires of his neighbors.

Freedom is real love. I mentioned in anther post that love is free, total, faithful, and fruitful. Freedom thus is a key component of true love. Freedom as real love serves as a foundation for freedom as sacrificial and complimentarity.

Freedom is self-limiting. There are things freedom cannot do. Does one who exercises his “freedom” to become a drug, sex, or alcohol addict really make himself free? Freedom is not: freedom to do X but is rather a freedom for X. Freedom is always positive. It is a positive means to a positive end. “Freedom” as our society has it (which is really license), can appear to be 1) a negative means to a positive end, or 2) a positive means to a negative end, or 3) a negative means to a negative end. Freedom always limits itself to the good because only the good leads one to his true self – and to happiness.

Freedom is unbounded. While at first glance this may seem to contradict the last point that freedom is self-limiting, it does not. By practicing true freedom in limiting one’s choices, that person becomes freer! The piano player who denies himself in playing the wrong notes and instead persists in limiting himself to the correct notes is truly enabled to become a better player and perhaps even an author of beautiful music. Correlatively, the government that limits itself enables its citizens to be freer and more themselves. More still, who really thinks millions of people should spend forty hours a week slaving at a desk in a government office building?

Freedom is communal: Those today who usually cry out for freedom usually do so because they want the “freedom” to do selfish acts. True freedom leads one to community not selfishness. Indeed, one might say that freedom is familial. The best place to learn freedom is in the family. The loss of the family would thus mean the destruction of freedom. To help the family, government needs to practice the principle of subsidiarity by which a government intrudes in the affairs of its citizens only when extreme cases necessitate its interference.

Freedom is personal. One problem with communist Russia was that it saw its citizens as only material things and not as true beings with immortal souls. When the State rules out the existence of the soul, it reduces man to a thing and takes away his freedom. The State thus sees itself as the only thing to continue after each of its citizens passes away. Thus if only the State survives death, only the State must be worshipped as man’s true God.

Freedom is what is. In other words, freedom is normal. Conversely, what we see today is really abnormal. The fact that we can look at how we are governed and see problems necessitates the existence of the ideal State by which we can judge what we see. Everyone knows nothing is perfect in this world – but they continue to look to this world for solutions. The free man looks to the next world and actively seeks to effect it in this. Some people argue that Christians are “otherworldly” or are “escapists” – only looking to their next life and careless about this life. To them I say, “Only roads that lead to important places are kept up, the roads (or bridges) to nowhere fall into disrepair. If this world leads to nowhere, as the atheist says, then there is no reason to protect it. Indeed, only the Christian can rightly love it.”

Freedom is very good but it is only good because it has many aspects of the God who created us (check out those bolded words again and see just how they reflect God!) and gave us true freedom – including the freedom to reject him forever. God is a lover who will not force himself upon us and take away our freedom by presenting himself in all his splendor. Instead he comes to us as a humble carpenter and in what appears to be a little piece of bread.

God gave you freedom – but will you use it to be truly free in him or use it to become a slave to this world?

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