A response to “Would/do we live in a free society?”

Brandon’s recent post, referenced in the title, spawned this response by WHB, originally posted on Pandas That Won’t Screw To Save Their Species, which the author has graciously agreed to be reposted here:

Essentially [Brandon’s] point is… if the government begins to dictate what sort of products we can buy (here, environmentally safer products) then somehow our actual liberties are damaged… First–and this is a minor point–claims about slippery slopes are boring (dumb? silly?). One could use the slippery slope argument at any point and time and in every case it is equally a waste of time: if you make drugs illegal then what’s to say you can’t make caffeine illegal?!?
That said, the most important claim I’d like to discuss is this:

All of this begs the question: thanks to legislation, we may live in a “healthy” society, a well-adjusted society, a clean and environmentally-conscious society, a smoke-free society, but (and I hate this question, because it’s cliche, and because it involves a matter of degree and nearly endless haggling over definition) but would we live in a free society?

Yes, it is a cliche. To make the claim that consumer choice amounts to actual liberty and freewill is absurd and remarkably materialist (what happened to good ole conservative storing up your treasures in heaven?). Consumer choice has nothing to do with existence or experience. If all lightbulb companies except compact flour. companies failed and all you could “choose” was CFC’s would you be any less “free”? No. This is where extreme capitalism and socialists go hand and hand–they believe that economics can be good/bad.
Consumer choices have nothing to do with existence/experience/life/liberty/pursuit of happiness (except the version starring Will Smith).
Let’s look at health care. Currently, our health care is privatized except for a portion of the market, which is governmental and acts as a “safety net.” Proponents argue (this is the short version) that this provides an effective amount of innovation (apparently scientists stop working if people aren’t competing to pay them billions) and that costs become manageable because of competition. (This latter part is silly, because apparently no one wants to compete to give us affordable health care despite the fact that we’re very healthy.)
But, let’s go back to ye olde “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” idea. If the poor (or even just not well-off) in America do not have the same access to decent health care, then apparently my (and theirs’) life is not as guaranteed as the rich. Pursuit of happiness has been replaced by the pursuit of luxury and cut the previous two entries off the list entirely.
On the other hand, does government health care affect freedom (freedom being the topic of this post)? Yes. As Obama deftly noted this week if the government acts to cut costs, it starts having to make moral decisions: do we pay for quality of life surgery for those who are going to die in 9 months? That, mes amis, is choice. That is a choice that is directly related to one’s existence and freedom. Obama recognized the danger of such choices and deferred–it is not the responsibility of the government to make those types of moral choices. Ironically, it is the conservatives (most often) who, whilst decrying the socialists’ economic shackles of choice (cigarettes cost HOW MUCH?) who in these instances want to make the government remove individual moral choices.
And so? Let’s stop pretending that somehow a consumer market is good. Let’s stop pretending that liberty has anything to do with consumer choices. Let’s get rid of Freedom Fries altogether.

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1 Comment

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One response to “A response to “Would/do we live in a free society?”

  1. blraatikka

    I don’t know if I follow your last paragraph too well, but you bring up a fine point here and in the comments of the previous post. You say that “I still don’t have any clue why the government (democratically elected) is somehow less interested in good than the free market (big-ass companies).” Indeed, one could say that I shouldn’t bemoan how activist the government is, because it is democratically elected, and technically accountable to the will of the people– which is oriented toward the good. Yet, I could argue that the free market is even more responsive to popular will than the government could be. But as I write this, I wonder if that’s besides the point. Oh well, it made more sense to me earlier today.
    You say “[t]o make the claim that consumer choice amounts to actual liberty and freewill is absurd and remarkably materialist.” First, I’m not sure one would have to be materialistic to believe that at all, although the materialist would certainly believe it. But just because freedom allows for materialism doesn’t make that freedom materialistic. And second and more importantly, if economic liberty is not comprised of being able to buy what market demand will support, and being able to produce what will meet market demand, what exactly would economic freedom consist of? That’s what I can’t wrap my head around– maybe I’m missing something big though.

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