"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must undergo the fatigue of supporting it." — Thomas Paine
In relation to population, Common Sense, written by Thomas Paine, had the largest circulation of any book in American history. It set the tone for the United States Declaration of Independence, arguing that all men are created equal six months before the principal author, Thomas Jefferson, wrote in the explanation of the colonies' decision to separate. It was adopted on July 4, 1776.
The above quote, which I shared across my social networks during the long weekend, elicited an interesting response from my friend Chris Stadler, who asked if the concept of freedom I was referencing had changed over the last 234 years. Many people today, even those who are uncertain of which country the United States declared its independence from, believe it to mean freedom from responsibilities. Specifically, the right not to worry.
Flipping The Definition Of Freedom.
Flipping the definitions of freedom and security is relatively easy to do. And to escape the trappings of politics, let's consider the zoo, which is a park or institution where animals are kept, bred, and exhibited.
By the definition of some, these animals must be the most free on earth. All of their meals are provided, fairly distributed based upon the energy they require. All of their health care is free, with regular preventative care. All of their decisions are made for them, ranging from what to eat to when they sleep to what they play with for the enjoyment of passersby.
They want for nothing, these animals. No predators can harm them. And nowadays, most live longer.
However, most zoologists admit that while they can provide a good and caring quality of life for the animals, one can only guess whether or not any particular animal would be happier in the wild or not. By most measures, it depends on the animal.
And with that in mind, for the purposes of this thought experiment, imagine if some of the animals could let us know. And let's say, a certain percentage of these animals told us that they would, indeed, prefer a harsher risk for the thrill of the hunt or the run. The zookeeper might be faced with a curious choice.
If specific animals are responsible for the revenue generated by the zoo, should they be let go and all the remaining animals forced to get by with less? Or, do they have an obligation to stay for the good of the community they were born into or adopted by? And since whatever rare attributes they possess are vital to the collective good, are theyrequired to accept the quality of life chosen for them, which by a different sort of parameters offers them more freedom, not less, despite the burden of captivity?
Indeed, under the flipped freedom thinking, the obligatory model holds. It did in 1776 too.
Leading Up To Independence.
Americans tend to learn about the American Revolution from the perspective of Americans. It makes sense, but there is a succession of steps that lead up to disenfranchisement of the people, with most of those problems related to policy.
Great Britain wasn't necessarily trying to be cruel to the Americas, at first. It had borrowed heavily to finance the Seven Years War (called the French and Indian War in the Americas), and doubled its national debt.
Since all countries must eventually address liabilities, Great Britain began levying more taxes to pay for the debt. To collect these taxes, the government had to create and expand bureaucracies, which required additional taxes to support it.
The new bureaucracies, afforded more power by Parliament, did what they do best. They increased regulations, which inflamed the increasing tax and debt problems. And, as justification, viewed the increasing taxes and regulations as just, given the obligation of its citizens to share in the costs associated with its decisions, perhaps bad ones.
The end result, from the perspective of the various colonies, was a central government encroaching on the prosperity and autonomy of the various colonial charters and the citizens who resided there. However, that did not matter to the central government, which felt it had sufficient power and authority to bind the colonial states to its will.
Many of us know what happened next. It led to the writing of the Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress, a document written two years prior to the Declaration of Independence but much lesser known in that it was an attempt to reconcile increasing taxation and central authority.
The similarities of our current course are startling, with one exception. A greater percentage of people elect to live in a zoo. And there seems to be an increasing number of people inclined to round up the rest who prefer to run loose. It's for their own good, naturally.