Freedom’s Just Another Word …

By January 16, 2017 Uncategorized 6 Comments

“Freedom works, it always has and always will.”

This is just one of several pearls of wisdom proffered by State Senator Kyle Loveless (R-OKC) in his recent op-ed piece for The Oklahoman newspaper. Of course, the context of the Senator’s statement was the issue of educational “freedom” and school choice.

Thankfully, with the shallow thinking presented with the senator’s train of thought, it didn’t take very long to get to the caboose.

I am also appreciative of the fact the Senator chose to use the adverb “always” in his assertion. That means, for argument sake, I only need to come up with one example when freedom doesn’t work to make this statement invalid.

This is really too easy.

Here’s one, Senator: The freedom of wealthy American plantation owners to enslave thousands of Africans in the 1800’s for their personal profit doesn’t seem to have worked all that well.

Likewise, the freedom of dictators like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro to subjugate the rights of millions didn’t seem to work for people in those countries, particularly those they murdered.

The freedom of American mega-banks to issue subprime mortgages to people who they knew could not pay out of corporate greed nearly collapsed the US economy, not to mention the financial security of millions of Americans. Again, not working.

Let’s bring it closer to home, Senator.

For the past few years, you have sought legislation to strip away the freedom of Oklahoma district attorneys to seize cash and other property without charging anyone with a crime. Why are you trying to restrict their freedom?

What about the freedom of women to make choices related to their own lives and reproductive health? Why would you oppose this freedom if it always works so well.

Maybe you forgot that always and never statements are always false and never true.

Instead, maybe what you meant to write Senator Loveless was that personal freedom is generally a good thing.

I agree – generally speaking, more freedom is a good thing. But this good must always be weighed against the negatives, especially for others.

As the saying goes, your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.

For example, I doubt that the IRS would allow me to exercise my freedom to not pay my taxes this year. My boss would not permit me the freedom to work four-hour days just because it worked better for my schedule. A highway patrolman would likely laugh at me (and hand me a ticket) if I chose to assert my freedom to drive 95 mph on the turnpike. I might get shot if I broke into my neighbor’s house to exercise my freedom to borrow his big screen TV for the Super Bowl.  My freedom to walk around in my underwear is also severely limited outside the confines of my own home.

I can’t sell cigarettes to ten-year-olds, dump my garbage in the street, drink and drive, shoplift, beat up other people, yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater, or an innumerable list of other activities one might refer to as “freedoms.”

Problems related to freedom start when people exercise their freedom in ways that conflict with the freedom and well-being of others. As I have listed above, there are countless ways in which one person’s exercise of freedom can negatively impact others.

It is through this method that we as a nation have been able to ignore the fact that “freedom” would, in its completeness, be very bad for society, individuals, companies, government, human rights, and everything else.

Because you know what absolute freedom is? Anarchy.

Yep, anarchy. Complete, total freedom to do whatever-the-hell you want, at any time of day. (Or, as my dictionary words it, absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual, regarded as a political ideal.)

I get it, Senator. Framing parent educational choice around the natural human inclination to support freedom is a clever tactic. You likely picked up that strategy at the most recent ALEC boondoggle you attended last July.

I agree with my fellow blogger, Dallas Koehn, when he recently stated that we are not against the notion of parent choice (or freedom) when it comes to selecting the best education option for their children, whether that be a public school, private school, or home school.

The point of contention is whether or not public tax dollars will be used to support parents in their choices. Yes, these are not just THEIR tax dollars – they are also MY tax dollars and those of millions of other Oklahoma taxpayers.

These are taxes collected by the state to support the public good, of ALL students, and not just a few children who might be able to access your latest version of vouchers or education savings accounts (ESAs).

Another person’s freedom to select the school of their choice is justifiably limited by the larger public’s right to have an adequately funded, well-resourced, and diverse public school system.

Without getting too complicated, allow me to expand this point using a simple analogy – the fishing industry

If you leave fishermen alone, they will vigorously compete with each other to get the most lucrative catch.  Even if they’re all aware that by doing so, they will eventually deplete the entire stock of fish, rendering them all jobless, none of them have any individual incentive to stop or modify what they’re doing. 

Fishermen know that the only way to fish in a sustainable manner is if everyone complies with certain restrictions.  Thus, they would all happily support sustainable fishing in theory because it secures their long-term interests. 

However, in a condition of maximum freedom, there is no one entity that can enforce those restrictions, so they would have to be entirely voluntary.  Voluntary restrictions would be based on trust, and trust falls apart when everyone has a short-term incentive to cheat, you can’t be sure who’s cheating and who isn’t, and there isn’t any punishment for it.

Without some set of rules that reliably restricts their freedom to some degree, the fisherman are stuck in the downward spiral of perverse incentives, or a “collective action problem“, that will ultimately end in their own economic demise.  None of them actually want that outcome, but with complete unfettered freedom, each of them are powerless to stop it.

Along the same lines, if unlimited school choice comes to fruition, and there is no longer any individual incentive to support the larger system of public education, we will have created a system with a select group of “winners” and a massive population of “losers.” The “haves” will have more and the “have-nots” even less. This freedom will have created a collective-action problem that our society will be powerless to stop.

The voucher horse cannot be brought back once it has left the barn.

Your “freedom” to swing your fist just hit me in the nose.

At this point, freedom truly becomes “just another word for nothing left to lose.” And, that’s when the anarchy part comes in.

As ALWAYS, I enjoy the debate, Senator.

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