Personal Freedom, the Public Good, and a Blue Barn
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Personal Freedom, the Public Good, and a Blue Barn • Posted: Mar 25, 2012 13:01:00Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Don't know about you, but weariness is settling in over much of the nation regarding GOP politics. The problem is that there is no real discussion going on. There is only parroted talking points and the throwing of barbs. Real world problems don't get solved by putting your hands over your ears and yelling louder and meaner. Real solutions to real problems require a full nuanced accounting of actual facts, not oversimplified sensationalized one or two dimensional encapsulations. Even the most uneducated, simple-minded, already made up their mind voters amongst us are looking for something more in their candidates than grandiose hand-waving and parroted wishful thinking.

Take the issue of national health reform. Does the enacted legislation literally mean the "beginning of the end for personal freedom in this country" as candidate Santorum would have us believe? And what exactly does he mean by "personal freedom"?

The most commonly held understanding of "freedom" is that it involves choice. In fact, the first 8 amendments to the U.S. Constitution enumerate numerous areas wherein citizens of the U.S. have both right of choice and freedom of choice. Further, the ninth and tenth amendments reserve rights and powers not specifically granted to the government to either the states or the people themselves. But, that said, the Constitution does state that its purpose is "to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity". It does that by providing a framework by which citizens select representatives, judges, and executives they hope will carry on meaningful discussion and take substantive action on behalf of the people in pursuit of all goals set out in the Constitution. All final decisions are made by vote. Majority rules, unless overturned by judicial review finding such a decision inconsistent with goals, rights, and powers prescribed by the Constitution.

Clearly, legislation enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Obama was enacted by majority vote after years of discussion, just as the Constitution prescribes. All voices were heard, all interests attended to. Compromise was hashed out and a majority in both houses voted to enact. Even so, some believe the law oversteps Constitutionally granted government authority in its effort to "promote general welfare". Does it? We shall see in coming weeks as both sides of the issue argue their point of views before the Supreme Court. But it hardly seems the case that the law represents the "end of personal freedom in this country". Nowhere in this law are the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the first 8 amendments abolished. The law does not establish or prohibit the practice of religion, inhibit freedom of speech or assembly, or deny petitions of redress. Nor, does it abridge right to trial or right to bear arms or require the quartering of soldiers in time of peace or abolish freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.

What the law does do is try to ensure that all citizens have access to affordable health care, something clearly in line with the Constitutional goals of promoting justice, domestic tranquility, and general welfare. It calls our attention to something called "the public good". In order to satisfy all of the goals of the Constitution, balance must be achieved between maintaining and strengthening the union, protecting it from harm, ensuring personal freedoms, and promoting the general welfare. That balance would be "the public good". Hopefully, "the public good" can be achieved within the workings of government and citizen participation as prescribed by the Constitution. So far, that system has not failed us, though one does begin to wonder when GOP proponents begin to cover their ears, stamp their feet, and monotonously repeat single minded demands with ever increasing volume.

On private land, one may paint their own barn in most any color they choose. Most choose red or white, green or brown, or even black in tobacco states. But, at least one has chosen blue. State and local laws dictate how and where such an edifice may be constructed, but the owner decides the color. Health and safety laws dictate many of the ways that barn may be used. Stabling healthy farm animals is allowed. Curing contraband and the propagation of disease are not. One has freedom, but one does not have freedom to do whatever one wants. The public good must be accounted for. Being a citizen with rights and freedoms guaranteed by the institutions and outcry of fellow citizens requires one behave responsibly with respect to the processes and decisions, rights and freedoms of those fellow citizens. Obstinate disengagement can frustrate the workings of the system, but it also puts in jeopardy all the rights and freedoms one enjoys by virtue of that system continuing to function, things like roads and bridges, sewer and water, fire and police protection, safe and healthful food, electricity, Internet, phone service, braodcast radio and TV, and schools. No individual with Bible and arsenal of guns will ever be as safe and protected, or as free with as many choices, as under the umbrella of union with their fellow citizens. Collectively we thrive. Individually we fall pathetically.

May the choices you make remind you of the benefits you enjoy.

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
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