Understand Why Freedom is Essential

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Understand Why Freedom is Essential

America is an amazing country for all kinds of reasons. We have some of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world, a booming economy, and plenty of space to live.

But we also have freedom: a single major factor that plays a big role in our cultural identity and political system. Although modern Americans enjoy more freedom than ever before, far too few of us appreciate what this means. Even fewer understand why freedom is really essential.

It’s not uncommon to hear super-political types non-ironically claim that it would be better if their political party had complete power. That’s nuts!

In our eyes, it’s important to remember now and again why freedom is essential so we can redouble our patriotism and our commitment to our great nation.

Humanity Before Liberalism

Let’s start with a basic history lesson.

For the majority of human history, which stretches back from about 4000 BC during the time of Babylon and ancient Egypt all the way to the 1700s during the Enlightenment, most people did not enjoy true freedom.

In fact, the dominant world government type was some kind of monarchy or oligarchy. In a nutshell, these political systems require that power be concentrated in the hands of one person, such as a king, queen, or Emperor, or a few people, like a rich or a governing body of Lords.

Even many of the societies that we admire today, such as ancient Rome, were not truly democratic. While Rome ostensibly practiced a kind of democracy before it became an empire, in reality, very few citizens could vote. You had to be male, a landowner, and of a certain age to vote in the Senate. This was only a very small proportion of the people who actually lived in ancient Rome.

Most people throughout history were slaves, peasants, or other commoners who did not have a say in government or how their lives turned out. Instead, they were usually born into one profession or another, such as smithing, baking, or farming. If they were lucky, they were able to have a family and live to old age. Most people were not.

All in all, humanity before the advent of liberalism – a kind of philosophical school of thought that shouldn't be confused with modern liberals or Democrats – was not great. Most of us weren't free, either from the government or from religious persecution.

Why Is America Special?

Historians like to credit ancient Greece with the development of democracy, and they’re right. Specifically, ancient Athens was the birthplace of a congregation of citizens that would vote on issues. However, like with ancient Rome, ancient Athens only afforded citizenship to a small minority of its population.

It truly wasn’t until the foundation of the United States of America that democracy became a real government for the people. Even then, it took almost 200 years for everyone in the United States to be guaranteed the right to vote. When America was first founded, only white landowning men were allowed to vote. Sounds like ancient Rome, right?

Today, everyone in America can vote so long as they are a citizen. This includes women, people who don’t own land, and people of different skin colors. That’s astoundingly different from how most humans lived throughout history.

America is truly special. It was one of the first countries to take strides like this and give regular people the ability to have a say in their government. 

That’s because America was founded by a collection of men who believed in liberalism, which was championed during the Enlightenment: a period of free thought that eventually gave rise to the idea that the best society was one run by its own people, not just a few monarchs.

The Importance of Freedom in Your Everyday Life

To truly grasp why freedom is essential, you have to really recognize the freedoms you enjoy in everyday life and consider what would happen if you didn’t have those freedoms.

Many Americans, and especially heavily politicized ones, take all of their freedoms for granted. As modern American citizens, we enjoy freedoms like:

  • The ability to vote not just for the president, but for any government representatives in our areas, including our State Representatives, Senators, and even city councilors

  • The ability to travel where we please for whatever reason. Interstate travel is not restricted for natural citizens

  • The ability to learn or train for any job we desire. We don’t have to work at a job assigned to us by the government

  • The ability to start a business, pursuing our dreams in whatever form they may take

  • The ability to save the money we earn and use it as we please

  • The ability to marry who we want regardless of religious restrictions or sex

  • The ability to run for government office. While practical restrictions do still exist, anyone in America can become the president so long as they were born here and they campaign effectively enough

But far too few of us even recognize these freedoms as we exercise them every day. It’s partially because we’re used to them. But the only way to truly appreciate these freedoms is to think about places elsewhere in the world.

Life Without Freedom

Imagine, for a moment, that you live in a place like China or Russia. Your life would quite literally be totally different.

China is a great modern example, though earlier examples like Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, and even Britain before it became a democracy are also included. In these countries, regular people face or faced severe restrictions on what they could do, who they could see, and how their lives would ultimately turn out.

In China, for example:

  • You cannot travel anywhere you please.
  • You are not allowed to vote for government representatives.
  • You cannot train for any job you desire.
  • You cannot always start a business – the application has to be approved by the government.
  • Your money is heavily taxed.
  • You are not always allowed to marry who you please.
  • You cannot necessarily run for government office.

Many of these freedom restrictions have been repeated throughout history. For example, Soviet Russia infamously forced its citizens to work certain jobs according to government quotas. If you didn’t want to be a coal miner, too bad!

This picture is very grim, but we paint it for a particular reason. Americans must learn to understand why freedom is important to prevent its erosion in our own society. Freedom isn’t something you get once and can keep forever. It’s something you fight for each and every day through the democratic process.

How is Freedom Eventually Worn Down?

Even the most democratic societies can eventually fall and turn into autocratic regimes. It happened with France during that country’s first attempt at a Republic. It was only a couple of decades into democracy when the people decided to elect Napoleon as their Emperor.

Freedom is typically worn down in a few major ways:

  • If democracy fails, people can lose faith in it and elect a powerful autocrat instead.

  • If people fail to listen to each other, they may believe that one political group or another is out to get them.

  • If a country is attacked by force, the people may turn to autocracy in an attempt to save themselves. This happened with ancient Rome when that nation was attacked by barbarians. They elected Caesar as their Emperor, and he never left the position.

But freedom is the most valuable thing that American citizens have. It must be protected at all costs.

Therefore, any patriotic American citizen must pay attention to the news and vote regularly. They should voice their concerns with new government directions and orders and try to convince their fellow citizens of their points of view.

Most American citizens don’t actually hate one another. They just don’t know how to listen to each other anymore. But if freedom is so important, we can’t afford to give up the battle for communication.

So, Why Is Freedom Essential?

Freedom is the lifeblood of the American culture. Without freedom, America would not be as rich and prosperous as it is today. We’re the best country for a reason, and that reason is freedom.

Nowhere is this seen more obviously than with business. For instance, America often attracts smart people from around the world because we offer the freedom for them to test their ideas and business, producing entirely new industries and fields of science. America has been the birthplace of aviation, automobiles, computers, and more, all because entrepreneurs flock to our country because of our freedom.

But our freedom is also essential because it’s how our families stay together. We’re a melting pot of different cultures and races. Our freedom allows everyone to intermingle and intermarry, bringing the best parts of different cultures together under the American banner.

So, why is freedom essential? Because without freedom, America simply wouldn’t be America anymore. 

Summary

The modern political era is tense and often seems grim. But you should never give up! Instead, keep demonstrating your patriotism every day by engaging with your fellow Americans, protecting freedom, and even waving an American flag on your front lawn. Be proud of your country; after all, it’s the land of the free!

 

Sources

Enlightenment Period: Thinkers & Ideas | HISTORY

Everything you need to know about human rights in China | amnesty.org

Democracy (Ancient Greece) | National Geographic 


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