All Commentary
Tuesday, August 1, 1967

I Can Be Free


Mr. Breese has taught Industrial Manage­ment at Georgia Tech and headed the De­partment of Humanities at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute in Florida. At present he is a free-lance writer.

Those of us accustomed to boast­ing, “It’s a free country!” have some disturbing facts to face.

The free country we’ve known was founded on recognition of the right of the individual to “life, liberty, and the pursuit” (not guarantee) “of happiness.” We were taught to believe in the right of every man to the prod­uct of the labor of his hands and the creativity of his mind. We respected private property and the owner’s freedom of use, subject to minimum community safe­guards. We considered govern­ment to be the “servant of the people,” with limited powers as delegated by individuals. Such, I believe, was the typical view of thoughtful Americans when I was a boy half a century ago.

But I now find little trace of these concepts in the day-to-day practices of the community. To a frightening extent, the principles upon which America was founded are giving way to the opposite principles of socialist statism. In­stead of servant, government is increasingly welcomed as master. In theory, of course, individuals still control government by means of their elected representatives. But the representatives more and more take the fact of their elec­tion as a mandate to rule and govern the people.

The picture thus printed is dark. But is it accurate? For perhaps a large majority of my fellow citizens, it is. Why, then, is my own thinking and way of life so unchanged except in minor and nonessential details? Why have I not become socialized along with the state, the social mores, and the majority of my fellows?

There seems to be only one logical answer. Somehow, I have managed to continue living as a free man because there is some­thing within me which demands it. The free life and free thought are so strong that I cannot and will not compromise either.

What does that mean? What en­titles me to make such a state­ment? Let me see if I can answer. My answers may not be yours, and they may not serve you. But they are my honest answers. They have kept me free as an individual. Perhaps they have helped some who have known me.

First of all, I have kept the habit of free thought and critical analysis. Whatever I read or hear I submit to the test of certain questions. What motives are be­hind the words? What are they intended to mean? What is their real meaning for me? I act upon the answers to these questions.

I try to place myself in posi­tions where my personal freedom is at a maximum. I have always, by instinct, I suppose, chosen those jobs which give me a max­imum of personal freedom. This, rather than financial return or prestige, has been the determining factor for me. And I have not starved as yet, or come close to it. I act upon the assumption that I am responsible for my own care and welfare. I think my fellows do not owe me a living — nor do I ask or expect them to provide for me. I try to make my own opportunities.

I do my best to stay out of debt. I don’t want anyone to hold a mortgage on me or on my ac­tions.

I believe that private enterprise can better solve any problem than can a bureaucracy, even when the problem is a public and collective one. I see many examples where this is so, but will cite only one: the massive achievements of Al­coholics Anonymous in contrast to governmental efforts at Pro­hibition.

I waste no time or effort in futile “revolts” against those things which I cannot control. I step free of these things as much as possible. As an individual, I cannot destroy the system of gov­ernment regulation of business; but I can try to avoid positions where these controls affect me. If I do not ask or accept favors of government, I need not be bound by the conditions under which these are granted.

I support by voice and vote those elements in government with which I most nearly agree. I write and speak in support of the prin­ciples of freedom. I hope to be heard, but whether or not I am heard is less important to me than the fact that I speak.

I do not resign from society. In World War II, I served as a ser­geant of the A.A.F. I would never burn a draft card. I try to live as a free man within the society of which I am a part. I believe that, in the long run, the power of ex­ample will count for something.

I want to be ready when the failure of socialism is generally recognized. When that time comes, free men will be needed. But it is not vital to me that I live tosee that day. It will come, because it must.

What is important is that I con­tinue to think as a free man and do the best I can to live by those principles in which I believe. For me, of course, there is really no other choice. I must be that which I am.

In a time of growing statism, I cannot force a return to limited government. But I can limit the power of government to control and affect me. I can refuse to compromise my principles in ex­change for a handout. I can prac­tice my beliefs in my daily living and be happy in so doing. I can think free, walk free, and be free.

 

***

First Comes Understanding

Correct action automatically follows understanding — the only route to correct action. Nothing else will serve. If this process seems hopelessly slow, there should be the sustaining faith that liberty is in harmony with truth, and with the intended design of the human social order. Truth is immortal, despite the defeats that it seems to suffer along the way. Truth has a power that is no respecter of persons, nor of the numbers of persons who may at any time be in darkness about truth. Truth has a power that can­not be touched by physical force. It is impossible to shoot a truth.

The lover of liberty will find ways to be free.

F. A. HARPER, Liberty: A Path to Its Recovery


  • Mr. Breese has taught Industrial Management at Georgia Tech and headed the Department of Humanities at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute in Florida. At present he is a free-lance writer.