Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Freedom, Real and Imagined

From an article by Joseph Sobran, titled National Socialism Comes to America:

"Americans are still permitted to do a great many things, though not as many things as their ancestors could take for granted. Fine. But permission isn’t freedom. The privilege of a subject isn’t the right of a free man. If you can own only what the government permits you to own, then in essence the government owns you. We no longer tell the state what our rights are; it tells us.

Such is the servitude Americans are now accustomed to under an increasingly bureaucratic state. Permission, often in the form of legal licensing, is the residue of the old freedom; but we’re supposed to think that this is still “the land of the free,” and that we owe our freedom to the state, its laws, and especially its wars. The more the state grows — that is, the more it fulfills the character of national socialism — the freer we’re told we are."

These past several weeks, while I wasn't posting on the blog, I've been thinking about the American bureaucratic state and comparing it to the Socialist Yugoslavia of my youth. Back then, people had a distrust of government born out of many failed promises, and decades of experience with "gaming" the bureaucratic system to provide themselves and their relatives the services (monopolized by the state, and therefore both unreliable and shabby) they needed. We understood we were better of than Soviet client-states and even the USSR itself, but few fully realized the reason for that was a higher degree of economic liberty. To further complicate things, much of our "prosperity" was a result of easy credit, fueled by IMF and World Bank loans.

Now I look at the country where I've lived for almost 10 years, and I see the same state-supremacist thinking I grew up with in Socialism, the same credit boondoggles that preceded my country's downfall, the same bureaucratic incompetence that we used to joke about, then circumvent (something not easily achieved here). Add to that the gargantuan military, the National Security state, and a dictatorial Emperor - um, President, yes - and a population 10 times that of Yugoslavia in 1991, and the problems that killed my country are that much more amplified in this one.

But hey, people believe they are free - even though that word has lost all its meaning for them long ago. If you're completely oblivious to something, you can't really miss it when it disappears, right?

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