How Freedom Actually Works

Recently I came across a graphic online that had two images side by side.  One was a picture of birth control pills, and the other was the constitution.  Underneath it were the words “Which is More Important?  Free Birth Control or Freedom?”  It occurs to me that many people in this country are confused as to how freedom actually works, so I thought I should quickly let them know so that they can then join the public discourse in an informed and helpful manner.

Freedom does not mean you get to do whatever you want.  When kids say to each other “It’s a free country!” to rationalize doing whatever they want, that is because they are children and do not understand what “It’s a free country” actually means.  To be clear, everyone has the freedom to do whatever they want.  And everything you do has consequences.  You are perfectly free to go climb a water tower and start shooting at pedestrians.  Just know that it will not end well for you.  You are free to skip work repeatedly, free to insult your friends and family, free to eat Big Macs three times a day, and free to drive your car into your neighbor’s living room.  You have that power.  But I would not suggest it.

When we say we live in a free country, it means that our government grants us certain freedoms.  In other words, there is stuff that you can do that will not land you in jail.  It doesn’t mean that what you do has no consequences, it just means that the government is not concerned with you doing those things.  For instance, we have everyone’s favorite freedom, the freedom of speech.  Freedom of speech means that the government cannot throw you in jail for saying stuff (and even that has limits).  It doesn’t mean that you can call someone a slut and prostitute on a nationally broadcast program and expect nothing to happen.  You will not go to jail for this, but you might lose your advertisers, and you might get fired.  Your boss has freedom too.  The freedom to fire your nasty self if you say things on the air that they don’t like.

And that brings me to another distinction that I think you should know about.  There are two kinds of freedoms.  The freedom TO and the freedom FROM.  To be quite honest, most of our freedoms here are the second kind.  What we have in this country is the freedom from government persecution, should we choose to do all sorts of stuff that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights says we can do.  These freedoms are our rights.  What are our rights?  Well, we have all sorts of rights, like the right to vote, the right to a fair trial, the right to public assembly, and somewhere along the way we got the right to not be discriminated against.  This maybe falls into the freedom category.  We have the freedom from discrimination.

This brings me back to that graphic I mentioned earlier.  The question on everyone’s minds is whether or not employers should be able to not provide certain medical coverage for some people if it conflicts with their personal beliefs.  This has nothing to do with the Constitution.  I have personally studied the Constitution.  I’ll have you know that in middle school I memorized the entire preamble, so I probably know as much or more than the average American about the Constitution.  Here’s the deal.  Employers are not required to offer health care to their employees.  There is no law that says they have to do that.  If they don’t want to provide birth control (or whatever else) to their employees, they have options.  This is a free country after all.  Sure, in order to stay competitive in today’s thriving job market they may feel that they have no choice but to offer benefits, but hey, try bumping up everyone’s salary by 20% and telling them to go find their own insurance.  You’d probably save money, and everyone would get a little more “freedom.”

The freedom that employers do not have is the freedom to discriminate.  They cannot deny services to people based on race, nor can they deny services to people based on gender, or a whole host of other qualities.  In the end, this particular issue is one of gender and morality, and not one of freedom.  No one is trying to stop covering Viagra.  Instead they attack Planned Parenthood, cut off funding for mammograms, and try to keep birth control out of the hands of the women that need it.  If condoms required a prescription, would they cut that funding as well?

We live in very divided times, but one thing I know for sure is that we have the freedom from religious persecution in this country, and that includes persecution by evangelical Christians.  No one is going to force you to use birth control, but if you want to take medical coverage away from some people, you have to take it away from everyone.  Picking and choosing who gets what coverage is  called discrimination, and in this country that is a freedom that you do not have.  We are only free from the government, not from each other.

Posted in Freedom, Politics, Rant.

One Comment

  1. I love coming to your site and reading your posts. They are funny and entertaining. But, this post, although not a comedy one, has to be one of your best. Your writing style is so clear and graceful that it is a joy to read.

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