Thursday, February 23, 2017

Freedom Is Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose

The title of this post was taken from a popular song.  It provides an interesting twist on the meaning of freedom.  For example, a homeless person has a certain kind of freedom that most of us would not want.  Homeless people lack the freedom to purchase many essential consumer goods because they don't have the means to purchase them.  On the other hand, they have the kind of freedom that conservatives have been selling to the public forever.  Freedom is one of the most abused words in the English language.  Paul Ryan, is the conservative speaker of the house who plays a key role in determining tax policy and federal spending policies.  His tweet about Obamacare, quoted below, is a good example of how conservatives abuse the concept of freedom:

"Freedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need.  Obamacare is Washington telling you what to buy regardless of your need."
Ryan did not have to go very far to learn about how to abuse the concept of freedom.  Milton Friedman wrote a book called "Freedom To Choose" that became very popular during the Cold War when the war of ideas was between the market system and Communism.  Since we generally believe that freedom is a good thing its usually a good idea to attribute it to what you want to sell, and to deny it to something you want to criticize.  That of course is what Ryan did with his tweet.

There are two ways of dealing with Ryan's abuse of the concept of freedom.  One might ask why Ryan wants to use the concept to attack Obamacare.  It is a very complex bill and there may have been a better way to make healthcare more available.  That is not why Ryan opposes it.  The bill includes a tax on individuals with very high incomes so that individuals with low incomes can afford to purchase it.  That violates a basic tenet of Republican policy that Ryan has consistently promoted.  That is, lowering taxes for the super rich.  Its much easier to sell us on the idea of greater freedom than it is to sell tax cuts for the super rich.  Of course, it is also consistent with the Republican fetish for claiming that Washington is the center of evil in the universe.  One wonders why Ryan chose to work in Washington.

The other way of approaching Ryan's abuse of the concept of freedom is ask whether it is a good idea for government to make healthcare affordable for the millions of low income citizens who would otherwise be denied access to healthcare.  Unlike Ryan, many citizens favor providing basic needs like healthcare to citizens who don't have the means to purchase healthcare.  One could also ask whether government programs like Medicare and Social Security should be repealed because citizens are forced by Washington to pay into those programs.  Ryan doesn't like those programs either and he has proposed a variety of ways to change them.  He has faced stiff opposition to the changes that he has proposed because most Americans like them.  Its been easier for Republican's to attack Obamacare for a variety of reasons.  First among them, is the extensive effort that they have put into demonizing President Obama.  That began when Republicans changed the name of the bill from the Affordable Care Act to Obamacare.

The bottom line is that one should always be wary about politicians who abuse the concept of freedom.  Every law written by Congress take away some of our freedom.  We should always consider the merits of government policies and avoid false advertisers who abuse the concept of freedom for their own purposes. Its an especially good idea to think very carefully about the common abuse of the concept of freedom. 

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