Federal Government Viewed as a Threat to Freedom

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The Cato Institute article below shows a majority of Americans now view the federal government as a threat to their individual freedom. This is not surprising as the relationship between government spending and individual freedom has always been an inverse one. In other words, as government spending increases, individual freedom and liberty decreases.

While many in “older” generations understand the connection between excessive government spending and freedom, fewer in “younger” generations have a solid grasp on this concept. I say this because young people frequently clamor for more individual freedom while embracing higher government spending from big government politicians. Maturing young adults want to be their "own dog" yet they lean toward a governing philosophy which restricts their ability to make their own choices in life. Let’s explore this a little more in depth.

We all know that maturing youths want more freedom. They want to make some of their own decisions and emerge from the shadow of their parents and other authority figures. Teens want and enjoy the freedom of staying out later, hanging out with their friends. Many experience an extra burst of freedom when they are old enough, and responsible enough, to drive an automobile. It is the nature of teens and young adults to nudge their parents in the direction of greater freedom.

Even greater freedom comes to those teens and young adults who are fortunate enough to find jobs. Jobs provide revenue, allowing maturing individuals the discretion to make more of their own decisions. For example, revenue provides them with the ability to go see a movie, buy a pair of shoes, or perhaps a new video game. The job-holder has the ability to decide what to do with his/her earnings. It is clear that revenue from a job provides the young adult with more freedom. What is also clear is that taxation takes away freedom from the young adult, as well as every other working American. When government takes individual earnings it also takes individual freedom. Taxation takes the freedom to see a movie, or buy a pair of shoes or video game, and forces the individual to choose between buying a stick of sugar-free chewing gum and a 12 ounce can of diet pop.

While young Americans want more freedom, most haven’t made the connection that out-of-control government spending erodes their freedom. After all, government debt incurred today will be paid for by a loss of freedom in the future.

This conclusion that young Americans have not established the connection between government spending and a loss of freedom is based upon the observation that few young people are up in arms about the growth of government spending. Yes, they want more freedom along with the ability to exert their own individuality, yet few are willing to stand up against the biggest threat to their freedom –EVER EXPANDING GOVERNMENT SPENDING.

Hopefully our younger generations soon realize that out-of-control spending interferes mightily with their desire for more freedom to choose what is best for them as they mature.  We need their voices aligned with ours! Without controlling spending, young adults will soon see they have emerged from the shadow of their parents, only to be engulfed by the shadow of their brother – BIG BROTHER.

Is Government a Threat to Our Freedom?

My book Libertarianism: A Primer, published in 1997, begins with this paragraph:

In 1995 Gallup pollsters found that 39 percent of Americans said that “the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.”  Pollsters couldn’t believe it, so they tried again, taking out the word “immediate.”  This time 52 percent of Americans agreed.

Well, the Pew Research Center has been polling on a similar question, and they’ve just found the highest number ever. They ask a slightly different question – “Do you think the federal government threatens your own personal rights and freedoms, or not?” – and of course pollsters’ methods and samples may vary. Pew’s numbers seem to have been somewhat lower than Gallup’s over the past two decades. But today they report:

Pew Poll on Threat to Rights

As Barack Obama begins his second term in office, trust in the federal government remains mired near a historic low, while frustration with government remains high. And for the first time, a majority of the public says that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 9-13 among 1,502 adults, finds that 53% think that the federal government threatens their own personal rights and freedoms while 43% disagree.

Gallup’s polling found that the level of fear had fallen dramatically in the early 2000s, as did Pew, but that by late 2011 it had risen back to 49 percent. Gallup also, alas, reports a partisan divide in answers to the question:

Americans’ sense that the federal government poses an immediate threat to individuals’ rights and freedoms is also at a new high, 49%, since Gallup began asking the question using this wording in 2003. This view is much more pronounced among Republicans (61%) and independents (57%) than among Democrats (28%), although when George W. Bush was president, Democrats and independents were more likely than Republicans to view government as a threat.

Dan Mitchell noted that divide back in 2010 and suggested that, with a Republican administration spending us into bankruptcy and a Democratic administration continuing the wars and the Patriot Act, partisans ought to start recognizing the threats from their own respective parties. Indeed.

The bottom line, though, is that when a government is viewed as a threat to “your own personal rights and freedoms” by a majority of its citizens, it should probably take a critical look at its policies.

 

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