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My Idiotic Concept of Freedom

July 17, 2011
Roscoe, N.Y.

Recently I met someone who, upon learning that I lived in New York, promptly told me about a study that concluded that New York was the "least free state" in the country.

Obviously I found this quite disturbing, and I immediately considered moving to a much freer state like New Hampshire or South Dakota, but then I started thinking some more. Perhaps I'm simply being naive, but as a resident of New York City (during most of the year, anyway), I find that we New Yorkers have an enormous amount of freedom to grow, to learn, and to fulfill ourselves by contributing to (in John Stuart Mill's words) "the permanent interests of man as a progressive being."

Consider museums, for example. As a New Yorker I have the freedom to go to many different types of museums and galleries, starting at the top with the monumental Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History. New Yorkers begin going to these museums as children, and never stop. Many cities don't even have a museum of natural history (although I must admit that New York City is definitely missing a museum of "creation science").

Or consider libraries. No one comes close to the New York City library system. Peppered around the city are numerous local libraries, but the system also includes four interconnected research libraries. Most people in other cities and states don't even know what a research library is!

New Yorkers have an enormous amount of freedom to pursue culture interests. We are home to a major opera company, a major symphony orchestra, two major ballet companies, a concert hall that is synonymous with fine music ("How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"), and an unfathomable number of smaller musical and performance ensembles and venues. If that's not your thing, New Yorkers also have the freedom to check out a multitude of jazz and rock clubs throughout the city.

New York City has many, many movie theaters, not only to see current releases, but also sample more unusual fare, such as movie theaters devoted to cinema classics and independent films. Aside from university towns, many places in the United States don't even have theaters that show movies with subtitles.

The freedom to see live theater is also very much a part of New York City. The area known as "Broadway" is most famous, of course, but if you'd rather avoid the big shows for quirkier fare, there is also "Off Broadway" and "Off Off Broadway."

To many Americans, the freedom to watch sports is important. New York City and its surrounding areas have numerous sports teams and venues in which to see them. I am told that Madison Square Garden is the most famous arena in the world, but I suspect Yankee Stadium ranks up there as well.

New York is also a strong contender in the freedom to learn, with several major colleges and universities, many of them also providing continuing education facilities for adults. New York City has several major newspapers, which is many more than most large cities these days, and a bunch of smaller newspapers and periodicals.

New York City also provides what is perhaps the crowning glory of the free-enterprise system: the freedom to shop. People visit New York City just for the shopping. New York City still has a bunch of independent bookstores, and one of the most famous used-book stores in the world (Strand Books).

Many people like to combine the freedom to shop with the freedom to eat, and the city has many restaurants worth exploring. The freedom to simply "hang out" is also provided, with numerous public spaces including what is widely regarded as the largest urban park in the world.

The freedom to travel is also important, and New York City has an extensive public transportation system. One exceptionally unusual aspect of New York City's subway system is that it operates 24 hours a day, giving New Yorkers the freedom to travel regardless of such arbitrary criteria as the position of the Sun.

New York City also provides an enormous amount of freedom to travel outside the city, including three major airports, a large Amtrak train hub, at least two extensive commuter rail systems (Long Island Railroad and Metro North) and numerous busses.

Outsiders might suspect that New York City ranks a little low regarding places of worship, but one source indicates that New York City has over 6000 churches, 1000 synagogues, and 100 mosques. The churches include St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Church of St John the Divine.

As one of the most ethnically diverse places on the globe, New York City also provides the freedom to interact with people who come from all over the world. New York City is one of the primary places where the future of America begins.

When a place is ranked as the "least free state" in the country, it might be assumed that its inhabitants live in mortal fear of the government. But that's not my experience. What New Yorkers seem to fear most of all is not the government, but landlords, banks, insurance companies, and health-care providers.

Still, I was obviously missing something. If New York had indeed been ranked the "least free state" in the country, I was probably just not bright enough to conceptualize freedom in the correct and modern manner. So I checked the web site of the organization that determines this incontrovertible ranking to see what the problem was.

I must admit that this site clearly revealed me to be a complete moron. I was thinking about things like museums, and libraries, and concert halls, but I was ignoring the really important stuff, such as firearms; drug, alcohol, and tobacco laws; and taxes. To be sure, New Yorkers don't have the freedom to shoot their guns in a bar, drink a can of beer while driving a pickup truck, marry a 12-year old, or urinate in public places, and I suppose we suffer grievously for these horrible restrictions on our freedoms.

It also became obvious that this entire study and ranking is done from a Libertarian perspective, and there I must confess a basic inability to think on such exalted planes. But I assume it must be correct because Libertarians are very intelligent people, as they never tire of reminding us.


You're a smart guy and a great author. But those last 2 paragraphs show pretty clearly you're also a typical liberal elitist douche. Some of us enjoy shooting guns, drinking beer, and smoking. (In any combination you choose.) And just because you'd rather go stare at a splatter of paint on a wall doesn't make your lifestyle any more valid or legitimate than mine.

— Josh Einstein, Sun, 17 Jul 2011 12:57:17 -0400

New York State and City have plenty of bars, and they're allowed to stay open until 4:00 AM, which I believe is much later than most other jurisdictions. (I've read that when that restriction was legislated, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia said that anybody who couldn't get drunk by 4:00 AM wasn't really trying.) I don't think anybody has ever claimed about the paucity of drinking establishments in New York City, or the number of A.A. meetings.

We tend to get a little toucy about guns in the city because the population density is quite high, and stray bullets have a tendency to hit people. But hunting, etc, occurs in much of the rest of the state. I spend my summers in a town that calls itself "Trout Town, USA." — Charles

Hey Charles:

Fun piece.

There's one big problem with all the NYC freedoms you enumerate. Exceptions aside (libraries, churches, "free" museum nights, parks, etc.) these "freedoms" all cost money to enjoy.

Lately, NYC has been morphing into an ever-more-expensive, shiny playground for the very rich -- a playground where too many NYC natives can no longer afford the freedoms you describe.

— EJ Maffei, Sun, 17 Jul 2011 13:43:59 -0400

Yep, and we definitely need more public funding to help out. I'm sure the people who use the city as a platform to make lots of money wouldn't mind if higher taxes helped pay for many of the city's amenities. — Charles

Understood but look at those two closing paragraphs. To imply that libertarians and conservatives want to shoot guns in bars, drink and drive, and impregnate children, you are just making your side look like the stereotypical NYC/SF fart sniffer.

I'm from NJ, #49 on that list so I'm familiar with draconian gun laws and smoking bans. I'd still take NJ over living anywhere in another country, but to me freedom is about much more than being able to see a broadway show. And there's nothing wrong with pointing out which states have the most regulations and restrictions on personal freedom in that sense.

— Josh Einstein, Sun, 17 Jul 2011 13:56:21 -0400

I'm not sure how long ago it was, but I once read a series of funny articles by the late Molly Ivens about the intense opposition in the state of Texas to a law that would have prohibited a man who she called "Bubba" from drinking a beer while driving his pickup truck. Apparently this was a well-established tradition in Texas. It's not something I made up.

Recently I've seen news items about laws in various states that allow guns to be brought into bars. I know these laws don't specifically allow the guns to be discharged in the bars, but anyone who's ever been in a bar won't find that eventuality hard to imagine.

Apparently I am a little out-of-date concerning marriage age in various states. Apparently only Massachusetts now allows 12-year old girls to get married with parental and judicial consent. But in many other states (including New York), the minimum age is 13 or 14. I don't consider that to be "freedom." I consider marriage at the age of 12, 13, 14, 15, or 16 to be a violation of freedom.

It is well known that a core Libertarian value is the freedom to pollute public air, earth, and water. In the final clause of the sentence you cite, I used a metaphor to make pollution seem like an exercise of individual freedom.

I have no problem with a study that attempts to identify the states with the most regulation, or the states that prohibit smoking in the most public places, or the states with the lowest taxes. But this study is called "Freedom in the 50 States" and says quite bluntly "New York is by far the least free state in the Union." The person who wrote that sentence has a mindset that is simply bizarre. — Charles

> to me freedom is about much more than being able to see a broadway show

Exactly! That's why that particular item is only one among many. The wide range of opportunities is what qualifies as freedom.

Certainly attending some Broadway shows is just slightly more tolerable than waterboarding. But I recently saw a wonderful production of Oscar Wilde's Importance of Being Earnest from a balcony seat, and my freedom to see and enjoy that play would have been greatly diminished by people sitting next to me smoking — as was once allowed in theaters in a long-ago time that now seems like the Dark Ages.

Restricting smoking in public places might seem like a violation of freedom to some people; to me it's simple progress. — Charles

The freedoms you list are nice and all but like you said, there is constant fear of the banks, health care and other establishments.

I wonder what do you think about the Venus Project? If it looks like communism, look a little closer. There are also a few youtube interviews with the man behind the project that are really worth watching.

— Viktor, Sun, 17 Jul 2011 14:23:50 -0400

@the first poster. no one is saying that your "way of life" isn't valid. Mercatus, however, is saying that NY is some kind of heathen waste land that prevents people from pursuing happiness and success. While they are saying this on their web site, NY is host and home to the richest most successful people in every field. So much wealth is generated in NY that, through democratic means, there is nothing wrong with New Yorkers deciding that the people who benefit the most should contribute a measure back.

As someone who doesn't live in New York I may not agree, but it's also none of my stupid redneck business.

I grew up in rural Texas. I now live in a major city on the east coast. The problem is that people keep thinking that there is one ideology that works everywhere. There just isn't. No one is saying that the people of rural texas shouldn't own guns. There is a pretty good case to be made that in NY, DC, Baltimore, or Philly that its just a bad idea. For instance, I saw a post on a BMore news website last week about a child struck by a bullet that had been fired into the air in another part of town. So, I'm not sure that the people of BMore would be stripping you of your freedom to say that you shouldn't carry a weapon in their town. After all, when the Texas Rangers would show up in a small town in the old days the first thing they would do is disarm everyone. Look it up, buttercup.

As to Mr. Petzold being an elitist...he's pretty effing elite, bro. The douchebag part? You are the one calling people names in a blog post comment...But then I haven't met a conservative IN YEARS that wasn't angry for no good reason and rude to top it off.


— JoshuaT, Sun, 17 Jul 2011 14:25:36 -0400

To me it comes down to this:

Who has more freedom? The guy who goes to the museum and wants to smoke a cigarette but isn't allowed? Or the guy who's allowed to smoke in the museum, but there's no museum to go to? — Charles

Certainly the word "freedom" is tossed around much more than is commonly healthy for a single word.

From what I can gather from this study's summary on New York, New York will be awarded more freedom points next year because we now have marriage equality, which is something I'm in favor of as well.

But not everyone agrees. According to this morning's New York Times, in 2004 Michele Bachmann indicated that marriage equalify for Minnesota would mean an "immediate loss of civil liberties for five million Minnesotans." Let's follow the logic:

    In our public schools, whether they want to or not, they'll be forced to start teaching that same-sex marriage is equal, that it is normal and that children should try it.

I'm sure we can all agree with Mrs. Bachmann that children should not be forced to try same-sex marriage. — Charles

"Who has more freedom? The guy who goes to the museum and wants to smoke a cigarette but isn't allowed? Or the guy who's allowed to smoke in the museum, but there's no museum to go to?" - that's an extremely strange dichotomy, like what is better - to be healthy or or to be rich? Of course - both!

Why not to follow original definition of freedom - you can do anything you want. Since "you", in fact, means anyone - that brings us to logical conclusion that your "anything" is naturally limited by freedom of other people.

And that's it, very simple.

And, by this definition ban of smoking in all bars is of course limitation of freedom. If you think non-smoking bar makes sense - open one and be a millionaire (if enough people think as you do).

Having guns openly on the street might be limitation or might be not. It depends on how other people consider open gun carrying. In some places they are cool with that, in other places they become afraid to walk freely on the streets.

Ability to attend a lot of museums is not about freedom at all. It's convenience, privilege, luck, whatever. Thinking otherwise would bring us to conclusion that Cairo may be the most free city in the world (provided you like ancient artifacts).

— Oleg, Sun, 17 Jul 2011 21:49:55 -0400

> Why not to follow original definition of freedom - you can do anything you want.

Because that's a facile and worthless definition of freedom. Can we really conceive of freedom if there is nothing to read? No music to listen to? No art to experience? Freedom is nothing if not the ability to learn new things, to have new experiences, to grow as a human being, and to fulfill one's longterm goals in life.

It's not freedom to become addicted to nicotine to the point where one needs to smoke in public places. That's not freedom. That's slavery to a drug. — Charles

Why should the 'original' definition of freedom be "freedom to do anything you want"?

A dog is 'free' to do anything it wants: it can attack any other dog it wants, it can eat last night's partiers' vomit off the pavement, and it can urinate and defecate either outdoors or indoors, to name but three 'freedoms' enjoyed by our canine friends, but why would a human being want to be free to do these things?

Human society works quite simply when people treat others as they would like to be treated themselves. This is what makes us different from other animals, isn't it? If everyone lived by this simple tenet, you wouldn't need (many) laws, 'commandments', religious superstitions, jails, or even maybe wars.

So, drink, smoke, take drugs, and have rampant sex with anyone of any gender you like, as long as it doesn't harm others. You can even go to museums, concerts and libraries too, if you have the time or energy after all the drug-taking and fornicating.

(Dismounts utopian soapbox)

— Philip, Mon, 18 Jul 2011 06:38:50 -0400

I have no right to join in this discussion as I'm from the UK and currently live in Spain but I came across this link moments after reading this post:

Does this have anything to add?

The question mark is because from my perspective this entire blog post and its discussion is way beyond anything I understand. It seems so alien to me that I am convinced that this difference is real and probably important in some way.

mike.james, Mon, 18 Jul 2011 08:30:17 -0400

Right. In the U.S. several disparate regulatory responsibilities are handled by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (otherwise known as the ATF).

There's a very good reason why tobacco is included in this agency. If tobacco came entirely under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the FDA would have no choice but to ban it entirely as an extremely dangerous drug, and that is politically unrealistic. The FDA has some regulatory control over tobacco products but pretty much restricted to labeling and advertisement. — Charles

It sounds like you're arguing that having the opportunity to enjoy culture or participate in consumerism is the definition of freedom. That doesn't sound correct to me.

When federal or state bureaucracies restrict one party in favor of another, that is by definition a loss of freedom. NY is under attack right now because it has extended freedom to same sex couples to get married and I think that's in part why this post exists.

Arguing that because NYC provides choices of culture or where to spend your money is a very flimsy defense against it being labeled as "the least free state." Here "least free" means in terms of what we commonly believe entitled to us by the Constitution - whether it is what is written or what we've come to believe.

After reading this blog post I haven't been given any reason to believe that NY (or by extension NYC since that is the focus of this writing) is anything other than "least free." In fact before reading this I had no idea such a label existed but clearly its some invented term by some wing nut organization.

Charles Feduke, Mon, 18 Jul 2011 09:59:05 -0400

> NY is under attack right now because it has extended freedom to same sex couples to get married and I think that's in part why this post exists.

Under attack by whom? Both I and the "Freedom in the 50 States" study are in favor of marriage equality. That's one point on which we agree, so that's not at issue here.

Let me pose a question to clarify my argument: Do illiterate people have the same freedoms as people who can read and write? In a narrow view where freedom is violated if "federal or state bureaucracies restrict one party in favor of another", illiterate people and literate people are equally free, because the government doesn't inherently restrict the rights of people who are illiterate.

In my view, illiterate people are missing out on an enormous amount of reading material that has the power to enrich their lives. Hence they are less free to educate themselves, to improve themselves, to fulfill themselves, to become better people than they are.

Everything else follows from that. — Charles

"Everything else follows from that"

But what precedes it?

You are clearly favoring an equality of outcome/opportunity ("positive liberty") view of freedom as against an "individual liberty" view. The distasteful mockery of your original post aside, you haven't said why.

The answer to the question of why begins in your conception of the nature and purpose of government. On this question I mostly side with Locke as described in his 2nd Treatise--leading me to hold to the concept of Individual Rights as my primary political principle. What about you? What is your conception of the nature and purpose of government?

Every(political)thing else follows from that.

Chris McKenzie, Mon, 18 Jul 2011 11:34:05 -0400

Remember the slogan of the US Army? "Be all you can be"?

I don't think you should have to join the Army to be all you can be, and I think we as a civilized society have determined that our mutual effort as realized through the government can help people be all they can be. To that end, we as a society have determined that everyone should get a decent education regardless of social standing or income. I'd like to see that same principle applied to health care. I'd also like to see much more extensive public funding of the arts. These to me are the three pillars of allowing people to be all they can be.

Generally I find myself in alignment with John Stuart Mill's reformulation of utilitarianism as regards personal liberty. However, the brutalities of unrestricted capitalism can also diminish personal freedom and hence must be offset with a pro-active government. — Charles

"Because that's a facile and worthless definition of freedom." - says who? But in any case - you are free to postulate any other definition - and let's see what is followed from yours.

"Can we really conceive of freedom if there is nothing to read? No music to listen to? No art to experience?"

Again - how exactly allowing people to smoke in bars prevents you enjoing classical music? Why you continue to use this dichotomy?

"It's not freedom to become addicted to nicotine to the point where one needs to smoke in public places." - Ironically - you still can smoke in public places. Where you cannot smoke is the private place called bar, where people are invited by its owner exactly to consume legal norcotics and socialise.

— Oleg, Mon, 18 Jul 2011 11:35:48 -0400

In New York City, you can smoke in a private place (your home) but you cannot smoke in a public place (for example, a park).

A bar is considered to be a public place, and rightfully so. The bar operates under state and city laws, and it would not exist without the political and economic structure provided by the federal, state, and city government. The owner of a bar cannot restrict entrance to the bar based on race, religion, or gender. It is a public place. — Charles

I am from DC. We are not even considered from the point of having freedom of any kind even though we have museums, theatres and even The Library. And you are complaining :)

— Alex, Mon, 18 Jul 2011 12:47:19 -0400

"A bar is considered to be a public place, and rightfully so." - I would not argue with that because apparently without fundamental agreement on what freedom is everything else is just consequences of that differnce.

In you system of belief you can define ANY bulding in your city as public on the basis that it "would not exist without the political and economic structure provided by ..." - and that would be indeed perfectly logical step.

Also it would be perfectly logical step in that system to ban any music except for approved classical masterpieces because it is a real freedom opposed to wasting precious human life time listening to music junk (and this is not a sarcasm - I honestly consider modern music to be mostly junk).

I just ask you to (privately) postulate your own definition and test it, honestly, against real or imaginative outcome (both that you consider positive or negative) asking yourself - does this definition allow us to prohibit this outcome?

>From my view I don't see how the definition I mentioned prevents you to listen classical music and enjoy smoke-free bars or parks.

— Oleg, Mon, 18 Jul 2011 13:46:23 -0400

Living in the Chicago area - I agree with Charles.

One thing - I'd like to add about the tobacco issue. In addition to working as a software consultant - I'm a professional trombonist. I worked in the clubs for decades as a non-smoker taking deep breaths of cigarette polutted smoking until the City of Chicago and subsequently the State of Illinois banned smoking in bars.

I feel I'm more free. Smokers are perfectly free to step out of the club and smoke as many cigarettes, cigars and pipe. I'm free to breath clean air as I play my trombone.

Many smoker friends of mine prefer it. Freedom is in the eye of the beholder.

— Daniel Sniderman, Mon, 18 Jul 2011 13:48:19 -0400

Great, Daniel, thank you! "...I'm more free. Smokers are perfectly free..." - that's exactly "my" definition is all about. Your freedom is equal to bar's customer's freedom.

If you both *have to* be in the same place you *have to* harmonize your interests.

As for me - the ideal solution would be requirement for bar to decide if it allows to smoke or not. You would be free to play only on non-smoking bars and cigar lovers could attend only smoking places (or trade his urge for great music of yours).

I don't see why we always have to fight until one side wins.

— Oleg, Mon, 18 Jul 2011 14:35:16 -0400

"As a New Yorker I have the freedom to go to many different types of museums and galleries, starting at the top with" a Sikh turban? Didn't some Sikhs have problems when insufficiently educated people confused them with Muslims?

"100 mosques" of which 0 are allowed near Ground Zero, right? Can you imagine Poland forbidding Christian churches near infamous parts of Auschwitz?

In countries that were communist and/or dictatorships, I experienced "the crowning glory of the free-enterprise system: the freedom to shop."

Fortunately you and I still live in countries where different people have the freedom to define the word freedom differently.

You have the freedom to decide which readers you will grant privilege to post comments. That is, except when your freedom was taken away by an ISP that you had stopped dealing with. Your former ISP had freedom, except when governments take away theirs.

— partly free, Mon, 18 Jul 2011 23:11:22 -0400

The great art & culture amenities of NYC are benefits rather than freedoms. Great benefits, to be sure; and they do promote inner freedom of an individual. But such benefits may or may not exist in free countries as well as police states. Trivial as it sounds, one could enjoy a lot of Beethoven and Wagner under the Hitler gang, and perhaps experience moments of ultimate freedom and happiness during some concerts. But the loss of political freedom is proportional to prosaic things like the number of govt. orders and prohibitions, the amount of govt.-confiscated earnings and property, the degree to which people's lives are reshaped by the govt. against their will, etc.

My favorite recent example of NYC problems in the area of freedom is the short-term rental ban. That's far beyond any gun-control discussion already!

— Mike, Tue, 19 Jul 2011 22:57:59 -0400

> Trivial as it sounds, one could enjoy a lot of Beethoven and Wagner under the Hitler gang

But at the same time, books were being burned, "decadent" art and music was suppressed, opposition newspapers and periodicals were banned, and whole sections of the population were being systematically massacred.

Let's look at the other extreme: You can be living entirely off the grid — hundred of miles from the nearest neighbor, post office, or police station — growing as much marijuana as you can stuff in your four-foot bong, chugging your own moonshine, and masturbating on your front porch, and undoubtedly feel incredibly free. But really, where's the personal growth? And isn't personal growth the whole point of freedom?

The last thing I want to do is get into some kind of "my state is better than yours" debate, but let's briefly visit New Hampshire, the state that ranks highest in freedom by this study. Nobody denies that New Hampshire is quite a "free" state in many ways. They tell us so right on their license plates. And I'm sure many people enjoy living wihout interference from neighbors or government.

But prior to the Internet,, and NetFlix, what exactly did people do there? We are told from the Visit New Hampshire web site

that "New Hampshire has dozens of museums" Dozens? In the entire state? The pickings are similarly slim for music, theater, etc. On this page:

we learn that "The Portsmouth Sympohny Orchestra presents 3 performances annually." I'm sure those three performances are excellent, but still....

Certainly, we are not free from problems in New York. There is of necessity a great deal of structure in environments with very high population density. But although the summer weather might be oppressive, and the high costs of stuff might be oppressive, and the sheer number of people might be oppressive, the government is not. — Charles

P.S. A "short-term rental ban"? Do you mean on renting apartments? You might try looking for a sub-let instead.

The first side to bring up Hitler loses.

— Josh, Wed, 20 Jul 2011 17:25:41 -0400

> The first side to bring up XYZ loses.

Is that a theorem or an axiom, Josh? Or a judgement criterion?

I personally do value personal growth way above any external freedom. One can grow as an individual in a solitary confinement, or degrade in total leeway. If those were the only two options, I'd take the former (hope, at least, that I would); growth under better conditions is almost a dream life. But still, just not ready for a logical shortcut by which if I have what I value most in this world, then my society has the most of freedom.

— Mike, Wed, 20 Jul 2011 20:50:19 -0400

"But prior to the Internet,, and NetFlix, what exactly did people do there?" [in New Hampshire]

Some made compilers, if I recall correctly. I think that's where DEC's TLE group was.

They probably bought phonograph records and subscribed to magazines.

Some of them might have helped feed you. How many farms are there in New York City?

— partly free, Wed, 20 Jul 2011 22:57:15 -0400

New York State has lots of farms. — Charles

I'm sure I'm not the only non-American who is baffled by the obsession with "freedom" evidenced both by the website Charles links to, and in American politics and popular culture in general.

All of us fortunate enough to live in western democracies are grateful for the freedoms we enjoy and should of course be vigilant to protect them, but the idea that one's own nation somehow owns a monopoly on the concept, or that it is something under constant and immediate peril, seems to be a uniquely American conceit.

— Tragomaskhalos, Mon, 8 Aug 2011 12:56:50 -0400

You describe wealth, not freedom. Freedom made that wealth possible, but they are not the same thing. Having that wealth may in fact distract you from the loss of your freedom.

— Bob, Tue, 20 Sep 2011 09:52:32 -0400

And freedom is... what? The ability to buy tax-free cigarettes? — Charles

Interesting enough. I think freedom of the individual ends where the freedom negatively impacts others. In the case of smoking the freedom to smoke inside a building ends as it causes cancer in others that are not smoking. If somebody has all freedom then somebody else (or the rest) in that society will lose some of it...

— Tim, Fri, 7 Oct 2011 16:01:05 -0400

I am Swiss so my view of freedom is very different from yours. For example, the majority of Swiss keep a fully automatic weapon at home as a member of the largest standing citizen militia on the planet (home robberies are almost non-existent). Despite being based in the center of the most violent continent on earth over the past 500 years, the heavily armed Swiss have avoided invasion or any armed conflict for nearly 500 years - since 1515 to be precise. It's called peace through strength - it works.

Human freedom comes from decentralizing power from the few to the many (e.g. an armed citizenry). Moreover, ask the average Swiss, and most have no clue who their current president is, nor do they care. The country is divided into 26 cantons or states. The power resides locally. Don't like your laws or government? Then move 10KM and it changes. That's freedom.

Over the past century, the U.S. and the rest of Europe have slowly concentrated power in the hands of elitist tax & spend bureaucrats in Brussels and D.C. The debt crisis in the EU & US are a direct result of this reckless concentration of power, which will result in tremendous human suffering over the next years, and far less freedom.

— Martin, Sat, 5 Nov 2011 18:08:00 -0400

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