Freedom in America: Paradise Lost

America was once the freest nation in the history of the world and set the standard for others countries to follow. It has since lost much of the freedom for which the founding cultures sacrificed their lives, fortunes and sacred honor and now America can no longer make this claim.

Evidence of this decline is objectively displayed in the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation’s 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, available at http://www.heritage.org/index/, in which America is ranked tenth behind Denmark out of 177 ranked countries. The index measures ten benchmarks of economic freedom that it defines as the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property.[1]

Tenth out of 177 countries may not seem that bad, yet for a country founded on freedom, whose national anthem proclaims it to be the “land of the free and the home of the brave”, and whose foreign policy boasts about spreading freedom around the world, such a ranking is not only embarrassing it makes America hypocritical.

The numbers are even more revealing when one drills down into the specifics. America has remained between 75 and 81% free in overall ranking since 1995 when data was first collected for the index. It has also remained above the world average in Business Freedom, Trade Freedom, Investment Freedom, Financial Freedom, Property Freedom, Freedom from Corruption, and Labor Freedom.

Until 2013, it has remained above the world average in Monetary Freedom as well. It, however, has been below the world average in Fiscal Freedom since 1998 and with the exception of 2000 and 2001 it has been below the world average in Government Spending since 1995 when they first started the index.

The Heritage Foundation defines Fiscal Freedom as “a measure of the tax burden imposed by government. It includes both the direct tax burden in terms of the top tax rates on individual and corporate incomes and the overall amount of tax revenue as a percentage of GDP.”

Government Spending, according to the Heritage Foundation “considers the level of government expenditures as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) [where] Government expenditures, including consumption and transfers, account for the entire score.”

It is no coincidence that America, who has put the pursuit of profit above many other priorities including founding principles, morals and values, is now ranked 47.8% in the world in Government Spending. This means America spends far more than most other countries, which equates to approximately 13.3% more than the world average. This average includes countries like North Korea, Iran, Haiti, Turkmenistan and Burma (Myanmar), which except for North Korea all have maintained less government spending than the world average since 1995 and also currently have less tax burdens than the world average.

In the Index of Economic Freedom, both Government Spending and Fiscal Freedom benchmarks fall under the broad category of Limited Government and it was a limited national government that best defined the freedom the founding cultures established in America.[2]

When the national government exceeds its authority granted in the US Constitution by first reaching directly into the pockets of citizens[3] then paying for things not found in the Constitution like education, government funded research, individual or special welfare, or the interference in the sovereignty of other nations, then Americans are no longer free.

This is no coincidence, because there are consequences for one’s behavior and when America self-righteously puts the love of money before State sovereignty, foreign sovereignty, and many other founding principles it will lose what it values most. The September 11th terrorists seem to have understood what most Americans still do not. They attacked and destroyed the towers erected to the God America worships.

What the terrorists did was wrong, without any excuse and they must be held accountable for their actions. Additionally, further terrorist attempts must be thwarted, but America must also pull the log out its own eye.

Evidence of America’s worship of money is seen in eminent domain cases in which the court rules on the side of the state when the state defines the “public good” as usage of property that will provide more tax revenue. It is also seen when America invades or otherwise interferes with other countries to protect America’s national interests where “America’s national interests” are synonymous with its economic interests. Much of America’s interference with other nations has to do with the acquisition of cheap resources so that Americans can continue to have a higher standard of living.

America is a great nation, but that does not mean everything it does is great and we need to get our domestic house in order to stabilize our economy, create an environment conducive to business growth and have credibility when offering recommendations to other countries on how they could better run their affairs. Ironically, restoring traditional morals, values and constitutional original intent will achieve these goals whereas focusing strictly on economic goals will not.

It is time to put the genie back in the bottle and hold our elected and appointed officials to the original intent of the Constitution even when we individually do not agree with what it says. This is important, because the Constitution is a legal contract worked out in a compromise on how the “united States”[4] would interact with each other and other nations into perpetuity.

If any one of us deems it unnecessary to uphold “the supreme Law of the Land” for something about which we do not agree, then this opens the door for others to do the same for things for which we might agree and find valuable. When that happens the Constitution is no longer “the supreme Law of the Land” and is completely arbitrary in which the rule of the majority or the majority on the Supreme Court gets to decide what laws to uphold and which ones to ignore. This, coincidently, has already taken place.

America should be the freest nation in the world, but shamefully it is not. In addition to extremely high government spending and taxes, Americans can add the loss of freedom of privacy to their list. It is impossible to fly on a commercial aircraft without virtually getting stripped searched going into an airport and now our phone calls and emails are being stored by the national government. Potentially the government could pass ex post facto laws and use the stored communications to identify “dissidents” according to their new laws. It would not take much for an already overgrown, authoritative and intrusive government to make this switch.

The solution is easy; restore the limited government our nation agreed upon in the Constitution. This means only allow our national government to spend money on that which is specifically listed in the Constitution, because not all laws are necessary[5] but most of the laws passed by Congress are unconstitutional.


[1] For a detailed description of the index and how countries are ranked see http://www.heritage.org/index/

[2] American Founding Principles, Freedom in America: Our Cultural Heritage, May 22, 2013.

[3] American Founding Principles, Constitutional Taxation, December 11, 2012.

[4] See Declaration of Independence

[5] American Founding Principles, Are all Laws Necessary?, January 14, 2013.

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