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What Would a Free Society Actually Look Like?

It is a common occurrence at sporting events. Someone is singing the U.S. national anthem — “The Star-Spangled Banner” — and when he gets to the last line of the first verse (although the song has four verses, the first verse is the only one that is ever sung), the crowd starts cheering and shouting after the singer utters the phrase “the land of the free.” Most of those same people have an equally high regard for the country song by Lee Greenwood, “God Bless the U.S.A.,” and especially the beginning of the chorus that says, “And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.” Greenwood has sung the song at Republican and conservative political events. In churches on the Sunday before Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day, the patriotic song “America” (“My country, ’tis of thee”) is often sung. It speaks of America as the “sweet land of liberty” and the “land of the noble free.” It speaks of the “ring” of freedom, “sweet freedom’s song,” and “freedom’s holy light.”

American freedom

To suggest that America is not free, not as free as other countries, or not as free as the majority of Americans believe is anathema. To imply that government at all levels in America is becoming more and more intrusive, authoritarian, and dangerous is unconscionable. To even hint that America is a nanny state or a police state is all but treasonous.

Of course Americans are free, say the people cheering and shouting at sporting events and singing along with Lee Greenwood at concerts. Americans can travel freely across the country. Americans are free to choose from among fifty varieties of salad dressing at the grocery store, a hundred types of wine at the liquor store, a thousand television channels in their living rooms, and a seemingly limitless assortment of songs on the Internet to download to their phones. Americans are free to attend the church of their choice or no church at all. Americans have the right to vote. Americans are free to eat at the restaurant of their choice. Americans are free to marry, divorce, or cohabitate. Americans are free to buy, sell, change jobs, move, or start a business. Of course Americans are free!

When compared with the citizens of countries such as North Korea, Sudan, Myanmar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, Americans do appear to be absolutely free in every respect. But there are 190 other countries in the world. America could be the freest country in the world and still not be absolutely free. The truth is, Americans live in a relatively free society when compared with people in many other countries. The American people are relatively free when compared with people in Thailand, Egypt, India, Argentina, Indonesia, and Pakistan. But when we begin to add other countries into the mix, the freedom in the United States doesn’t look so rosy.

The Fraser Institute’s latest edition of Economic Freedom of the World “measures the degree to which the policies and institutions of countries are supportive of economic freedom” based on 42 data points used to measure the degree of economic freedom in five broad areas: personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to enter markets and compete, and security of the person and privately owned property. The United States comes in sixth place, after Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Ireland. The United States returned to the top 10 in 2016 only after an absence of several years…[ ]

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Posted by alberto

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