A scene in the film classic The Grand Illusion is shot in a bistro and includes a sign that reads, "Alcohol kills slowly, but who's in a hurry." We might use that quip as a metaphor for the incremental manner in which the grotesque expansion of the federal government in the past half a century has insidiously worked its way into every corner of our lives.
It's not merely the arrogant assumption that government can make wiser decisions, or that it's an expensive quid pro quo that only grows over time, but rather, that it slowly hollows out a place in our collective civic core and leaches the lifeblood of our Republic--freedom. In an unprecedented report issued earlier this year by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, professors William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens provide a state-by-state analysis titled Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom.
The except below from the Executive Summary explains the scope and content of their report:
This study improves on prior attempts to score economic freedom for American states in three primary ways: (1) in includes measures of social and personal freedoms such as peaceable citizens' rights to education their own children, own and carry firearms, and be free from unreasonable search and seizure; (2) in includes far more variables, even on economic policies alone, than prior studies, and there are no missing data on any variable; and (3) it uses new, more accurate measurements of key variables, particularly state fiscal policies.
For many, this might seem like a quaint look at a problem of minimal magnitude. But that view only has validity when glimpsed through the prism of modern culture, where rights and obligations have been slowly eroded by a lifeless bureaucracy at every level of government. It's our tectonic adaptation to these encroachments that is arguably the most hostile aspect of their hegemonic designs, because, with the passing of each year our recollection of civic life sans a Leviathan government presence becomes more vague. That renders the deepening penetration of government into our lives ever more plausible, and we become progressively more susceptible to larger doses.
Delving more deeply into this vile development we find something even more profound: When decisions are pre-emptively made for us, from the lack of choice in K-12 education to the stranglehold taxation has on us, our choices are not only restricted, but our failure factor is restricted. Indeed, beyond power acquisition and retention, the left's dream of mortal happiness at the hands of government focuses on the elimination of risk and the redaction of consequences.
Those, in turn, blunt motivation and inhibit our ability to learn by failure. In contemporary civic parlance, no one should be allowed to fail and no one should be held accountable for mistakes. Yet, that pounding in your chest when make a significant mistake is a kind of life marker, a moment indelibly stained with a lesson we'll carry which provides a vital, self-correcting mechanism. It also creates the kind of resolve and resilience so crucial to charting a trajectory of professional success and personal happiness.
So, as you review the report, don't merely think about the discrete implications of the loss of freedom, but rather, how it leads to a more cossetted civilization, one where challenges are handicapped and adverse outcomes mitigated. It's that creeping sense that we're ignorantly creating a civic and cultural landscape less robust than the last, where collectivism predicated on a liberal agenda has replaced individualism and accountability, that is most disturbing.
The early indications of the Obama administration, as well as our invertebrate Congress, provides convincing evidence that freedom is slowly moving from endangerment to obsolescence.