Mrs. Muiwitz, a housewife in Paris, Tennessee, here shares some of the Ideas on liberty gleaned as a participant in a recent weekend seminar conducted Foundation for Economic Education.
Do you believe in freedom? That question should be easy to answer. But it is a commitment that deserves some thought.
One aspect of freedom is the right of an individual to make choices—how he wants to live, spend his money, and the like. An integral part of this right of choice is the privilege and responsibility of accepting the results of that choice, taking the bad along with the good if we would retain the right to make decisions.
By using government aid as an "easy out" for problems that confront us, we encourage government to tax us to pay for its "helping hand." The government operates on our tax monies. What appears to be free is only an illusion. It comes immediately, or will eventually come, from your pocket and your neighbor’s pocket. When you accept government’s helping hand, you lose your freedom of choice as to the use of scarce and valuable resources. Money that you could have spent as you wished will become tax money over which you have no control.
When we accept government aid, we give up our decision making power in another way. Government does not extend its "helping hand" without making certain regulations. As we become more and more dependent on this aid, we subject ourselves to more and more regulations. We can look around and see the results of this in our everyday lives. Note, for instance, the great number of state and federal regulations applicable in such heavily subsidized areas as schooling, housing, transportation, health care, and the like.
Another aspect of freedom is the right of each person to live his life as he sees fit. Most of us feel that we should be allowed to live as we please. But how often do we consider our neighbor’s rights? All too often we defend our rights and work to pass laws that take away the rights of others. Our neighbor’s lifestyle may be contrary to our own; but if we are to maintain a free society we must tolerate our differences. Too often we are tempted to stamp out any beliefs contrary to our own. Beware. Let us remember that others may be just as anxious to stamp out our beliefs. The only way to preserve freedom is to defend each person’s right to his way of life.
Do you believe in freedom? Do you believe in freedom enough to make your own choices and take the responsibility for your deeds, and to allow your neighbor to do the same? Do you believe in freedom enough to defend a man’s right to a lifestyle that you personally feel is wrong? Those who truly understand the dimensions of freedom will realize that none of us can be free if we do not allow our neighbor his freedom.
A Mutual Concept
Freedom is destroyed between two persons to whatever extent either one uses violence or the threat of violence to impose his will or viewpoint upon the other. Regardless of who is the aggressor and who is the victim—or whether the violence is legal or illegal—freedom is still infringed.
If you have rendered me helpless by throwing me to the ground and sitting on top of me, everyone understands clearly that my freedom has been severely curtailed. But what is not generally understood is that your freedom is also curtailed as long as you must spend your time and effort to hold me down. You thereby restrict your own progress and improvement just as you do mine.
Freedom is a reciprocal relationship based on voluntary agreements and actions. This applies in all human relationships, even though they are seldom as clear and dramatic as person to person violence. The only real possibility for complete freedom for yourself as an individual is for you to refrain from initiating violence or the threat of violence against anyone else. This is the vital first step toward a condition of mutual no molestation—a step that any one of us can take as soon as he is ready.
DEAN RUSSELL, "My Freedom Depends on Yours"