The Reality of a Free Society
Greg Ordy, June 1999
We have lost sight of what it means to live in a so-called free society. A free society is not necessarily a safe society. In fact, a motivated person in a free society can do great harm and damage. That's a consequence of having so much freedom. There is freedom to do good. Freedom to do evil. A free society may very well have people that are mean and selfish. Cruel and spiteful. Rich and poor. Good and bad. A free society is exactly what the name implies, the freedom to take an extremely wide range of actions. This is true and valuable diversity.
The correct restraint mechanism within a free society is the common moral code shared by the members of the society.
A person does not rob a convenience store because there are security cameras. They do not rob the store because their fingerprints are on file with the government. They do not rob the store because all guns have been taken off of the street. They choose to not rob the store because their own internal moral code does not allow them to do it, even though it might be incredibly easy.
Let's not be blind. Some percentage of society will chose to exercise there freedom and cross lines of action that society as a whole has determined to be unacceptable. They become criminals, and are removed from society in order to serve the dual purposes of protecting society and giving the criminal the incentive to stop engaging in further criminal acts.
This is the correct organization of a free society. The individual lives in a world with a broad range of choices and opportunities. A wide range of risks and rewards. Success and failure. They are restrained from crossing a wide number of lines by their own moral code. When they leave the restaurant they choose to take a single mint as opposed to a handful not because there is a law against it, but because they understand that it is the right thing to do. Only at the extreme does the government step in, and using laws directly developed out of the moral code, arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate citizens. This is done only in response to an explicit action.
We have strayed very far from this ideal that we once more closely followed.
Over the last few decades, the common moral code has been trashed. Historically, moral codes have often been associated with religion. Religion has been under attack. We have all been told that religion and state simply must not be mixed, even though this is an incorrect interpretation of the Constitution. State, that is government, has been on the rise. Into education, and health care, and retirement, and thousands of previously private matters and institutions. Don't be fooled. Where government goes, religion must, out of necessity, be removed, and that will remove moral codes. While it is possible to develop perfectly fine moral codes in the absence of religion, sadly they are under attack as well. This is because the liberal has the false notion that there are only two types of acts - legal, and illegal. This is too simple of a system. In a free society, acts that are legal are well-separated from acts that are illegal by the buffer of moral restraint. It may be a gray area, but it is of critical importance.
Citizens can fully experiment with certain behavior, both good and bad, without become criminals. It is the role of society in general to encourage better behavior, in accordance with the moral code. Government should get involved only as a last resort, when a line is clearly crossed. In other words, government should be used for dealing with committed crimes, not preventing crimes. The moral code alone prevents crime. This is the only solution that preserves freedom while dealing with crime.
With the decline in the importance of the moral code, crime has indeed risen. As in so many other areas, government has stepped in to try to fix the problem. As in most all other cases, it is the incorrect solution to the problem. It has failed, and will continue to fail. In this case, we have an explosion in the number of crimes, laws, and criminals. It is no coincidence that we are especially shocked by brutal crimes committed by children. The young are especially at risk to commit criminal acts when denied a moral code. Without a moral code, and with little fear or understand of punishment, there is simply no practical restraint on behavior. Let me further suggest that Ritalin and Prozac are not solutions for children, either.
As government steps in to prevent crime, we all lose freedom. In order to prevent crime, government has no choice but to make illegal actions that might lead to crime. After all, what else is the definition of prevention? Another technique to prevent crime is to demand registration and licensing in order to control who might be in a position to commit certain crimes. Again, the result is the loss of freedom for the innocent, as well as the future criminal.
In the end, we will trade away our precious freedom for the promise of safety. The promise will not be delivered. Again, government is the wrong institution and solution for a problem.
Copyright (c) 2000, Greg Ordy
Back to my Politics Page
Sunday, March 09, 2003 11:34 AM
Back to my Home Page