It’s finally Independence Day. It’s one of the most important holidays to me, and yet has long been one of the most depressing. I’m forced to remember our nation’s history, and the realization that we hold almost no ideals originally found in the Declaration of Independence is more saddening each year. Rather than talk about how there is a problem challenging our Independence, I decided instead to talk about seven specific threats to it.
From Wikipedia: “Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory.”
Are we exercising self-government? Or are we letting our Independence slip away? Here is a list of what I believe are our biggest challenges to true self-government. These are the top 7 threats to our Independence.
7. The News Media
Freedom of the Press used to be very important to maintaining a free society. When the Press does it’s job, politicians are kept in check. The people are exposed to the necessary information to make intelligent decisions about their elected officials. However, it no longer works this way. The Press has been replaced in most part by nothing more than entertainment. It’s gotten so bad that now we have Freedom of the Fake Press just to keep the original Press in check. And if they weren’t owned by a copyright-obsessed Viacom, I’d link to some YouTube videos of them doing just that.
Fortunately, the Internet has made traditional Press obsolete. Unfortunately, not everyone knows that yet. So-called reporters still go about their lives trying to keep us entertained for 24 hours a day with trivialities and mindless bickering. They bring in ratings somehow, so that tells me that a good portion of the US still considers this stuff news. While they can and sometimes do report on stories effectively, their average is so lowered by garbage that they’re really doing more harm than good. Of course, there’s always print news…..lol.
6. Government Subsidies and Bailouts
Being free comes with some downsides. For example, sometimes you screw up. And that’s okay. There are always winners and losers. But when the government gets to choose who the winners and losers are, then that’s when Freedom loses. Why are these people entitled to bailouts and these people aren’t? Why does this industry get subsidized by the federal government and not this one? Whatever reasons given by the government, the true motive is to influence us.
Do you think anyone would consume high fructose corn syrup of their own free will? Of course not. That’s what we have sugar for. People love sugar. And if they don’t, they turn to that artificial crap. But high fructose corn syrup has become the default stand-in for sugar in almost all American food. Why? Because it’s cheaper. And it’s cheaper because the government forces us to pay for it. Our tax dollars go to subsidizing the corn industry. This makes corn and corn-products really cheap. Even without it, spending more than $1 on a glass of soda would be a Hell of a mark up. The ironic part is that now, because we’ve been herded into consuming so much high fructose corn syrup that we weigh enough to sink ships, there have been talks of imposing a “soda tax” to curb our appetite for the pseudo-sugary beverage.
Simply put, all of this is behavior control. That doesn’t sound very free.
5. Marriage Laws
Speaking of behavior control, perhaps the most successful in our history has been in regards to marriage. Marriage is not natural, as many Americans probably believe. It’s a cultural institution with a history full of sexism, racism, civil rights violations and, of course, love.
While much of this behavior control comes from society, the government has its hand in it in more ways than one. First, by even calling it marriage, they are establishing it as a sanctioned cultural norm. This reinforces society’s influence. Secondly, they provide tax incentives for marriage. This goes beyond marriage to having children as well. The US tax code is full of incentives designed to manipulate behavior. Marriage becomes a defacto step in the process of life, making it less a choice than a to-do item on your preconceived bucket list.
Then, by setting this up as the norm, they are able to blatantly attack the rights of those who would prefer to live life on their own terms. However, this is perhaps the only item on my list that I’m hopeful about. New York City recently legalized gay marriage. In general, young people are postponing marriage and many are even choosing alternatives. I think we will eventually see civil unions replace marriages in the legal system. Marriage can then again become a purely cultural thing, left to the people and churches to treat as they please.
4. Our Criminal System
Nearly 2 million people are arrested every year in this country. That is insane, not to mention costly. So much of this is drug-related. If you were truly free, you could get high if you wanted. Since I’m not a pothead myself, this isn’t going to be all about legalizing marijuana. Believe it or not, there are other problems with our criminal system. The death penalty is a great example.
So far this year, we’ve executed 25 people. That is 25 human lives that the government has given itself the right to kill (not counting wars). The very notion that the government thinks it can kill its own people is frightening. The fact we allow them to is as disturbing as it gets. The first rule of Freedom should be never, ever, under any circumstances, grant your government the right to kill its citizens. I would think that would be a no-brainer. The problem is this is treated as a moral issue rather than being about Freedom. Justice! An eye for an eye! These people deserve it. Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think anyone should be entitled to decide that I deserve to die. It isn’t about morality or justice. It’s about Freedom and it’s about Power. If you want Freedom, then you should never give anyone the power to kill you.
And don’t even get me started on the Patriot Act.
3. The Patriot Act
This is no surprise, and not just because of the transition from the last item. No, I’m sure every single American is at least smarter than a 5th grader enough to know that the Patriot Act is the exact opposite of Freedom. As if the assault on our liberty wasn’t enough, it has to go and have “Patriot” right in the name, adding insult to injury. This law grants the government the right to bypass pretty much all of the Bill of Rights if it chooses to think you’re a terrorist. Combine this with the right to kill its citizens and you have a government capable of silencing any and all of its citizens.
2. Personal Debt
Hey, wait a minute! This is just the free market, right? The government isn’t involved here.
Oh, you. Remember how I mentioned the IRS has behavior control implemented in the tax code? Well, it turns out incentives to buy a house and go to school are included in that. Sure, perhaps society is to blame, but the government is doing their job to enable us. Thanks to a little bit of behavior control, we stampede into personal debt, you know, for the tax savings. And as it turns out, the lending industry is hardly a free market. There are government regulations and subsidies involved here too.
You know how indentured servants were sort of like slaves? Well, we’re sort of like indentured servants. We owe a lot of money, and because of that, we now have to work it off for the rest of our lives. We don’t have a choice in the matter. After all, we can’t shirk our personal responsibilities. We have to do the right thing. Normally, I’d agree with that, but since our personal debt is in fact due to insidious manipulation by banks through the help of our government, it becomes an issue.
The government backs (at the expense of taxpayers) education and home loans (see Sallie Mae and Freddie Mac). Now, this allows lenders to give us large quantities of money with little risk to them. If we don’t pay, the government does. Student loans can’t be escaped through bankruptcy, by the way. So, when you finally get out of school, you have no choice but to find a job that can cover your bills. And you need somewhere to live. Better buy a house. Now, you’re in a good amount of debt, but it’s manageable. It only costs you two thirds of your paycheck each month for the next 30 years of your life or so. If someone defaults, no problem. The government pays off the loan. Then a debt collection agency is hired to get the money from you. It usually happens that the collection agency is also owned by the original lender. Remember, they already got their money from the government. Now, the government hires them to collect on the loan which was originally theirs. They charge you a fee of at least 20% and also take a commission (out of the government’s chunk) of also more than 20%. Oh, and the government was kind enough to give them the right to garnish your wages if you don’t pay. And since whatever the price of education is, you can pay for it through loans, tuition costs keep rising.
Your debt serves as the chains keeping you in place, rowing away in the galley of our economy (which is sinking, by the way).
1. The Pledge of Allegiance
All that was pretty scary stuff, but none would be possible without the simple indoctrination that is our Pledge of Allegiance. Sure, it seems non-threatening. After all, it’s patriotic. Just like the Patriot Act! It teaches us that things that are superficially patriotic are good. Again, like the Patriot Act! So, where’s the harm?
Under God aside, the idea of pledging allegiance to this nation is exactly counter to the ideas that founded it. We’re a nation birthed by a revolution. Independence means that we are self-governed. The government should be pledging allegiance to us, not the other way around. That is why we fought our revolution. Anyone who reads the Declaration of Independence should understand that the government is to be subservient to its people. It is, after all, a government for the people.
We have forgotten this. That is why these other threats to our independence exist. If we remembered that we control our government, we wouldn’t let it choose who wins and loses, who lives and dies.
If we need our school children to recite something, I would suggest this excerpt from the Declaration of Independence:
Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government
We once held the power. I don’t know how to get it back, but then I grew up reciting the Pledge. Perhaps a future generation can have a shot at figuring it out.