You may have perhaps heard this rhetoric: “the government has become too intrusive in our life”, “our freedom is tyrannically suppressed”, “ our choices in what we want to do, to eat, to sell or buy have been so much regulated”, “our privacy and rights are being so much restricted”, or “the government has too much power.” Although the narrative has been around us for years, it became so resounding after the 2008 economic meltdown as the Obama administration was trying to introduce new regulations in what is referred to as free market.
Of course, it is understood that any attempt to regulate free market, which is regarded as the freedom to take risk and eventually to make profit without the interference of political powers (government), could only infuriate all anti-governmentalists who lie in wait of whoever wants to mess with their freedom.
One even wrote: “Freedom according to the principles of our founding fathers is the belief that people are free by nature and possess inherent rights. The use each of us makes of these rights will naturally differ, and the outcomes of those choices will naturally differ too. The choice remains ours, that’s why the government should have limited powers.” But no one has definitively come forward to specify how much power the government should have and how much freedom people need. Rationally, for the purpose of building a civilized society that can inspire respect around the world, such demarcation lines are very critical because a government with limitless power is tyranny, and people with limitless freedom is anarchy.
It is true that our freedom, as spelled out by our founding fathers, aligns quite well with the concept of free market. But, at no time was the intent of our founding fathers to bless those who misuse their freedom against others, nor was their intent to prevent the government from controlling ill-inspired free choices that jeopardize the security and well-being of the multitude. President Roosevelt once said:” The government is us, you and I. We are the government. The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety first instead of duty first, the love of soft living and the get-rich-quick theory of life.
In fact, everyone chases prosperity, but no one is allowed to get it through irresponsible or unfair free choices. Unless we pretend to ignore, the most conspicuous features of the government are :establishing order and faireness, controlling and restricting the behaviors of people when they go against legal and moral obligations, extracting and sometimes directing economic resources and making sure rules are followed by everyone indistinctively, enforcing rules and laws (which cannot be possible without control), and converging citizens’ dissimilar social and personal behaviors and beliefs into one common set of rules and codes of conducts. As such, free will is simple a delusion because since our childhood until we die, we face a litany or norms, rules, laws and “social conventions” that do not allow us to do whatever we want.
The 2008 economic crisis has been a warning sign against the misconception of our freedom. If we do not learn from that lesson, our freedom will lead us straight into a “free doom”: a place where complex social issues, political irrationalities, uncontrolled greed and obstructionism will regrettably challenge American prosperity and leadership.
The challenge U.S. society faces today is not negligible. But the great threat that would bring our society down will come from within; from a dangerous misconception of our freedom, which we have transformed into license: the wrongful right to do whatever we want without the interference of the government, regardless of how much it is illegal and immoral, and how much it hurts others.
This is a clear manifestation of postmodernists who reject all grand theories and traditions; they reject religious morality and secular authority, they want a world without norms, rules and laws so that they become the law and rules by virtue of their economic, political and social power.