Liberty: How to Spot the Fakers

I love liberty. And we all enjoy the benefits of it. As it turns out, whether or not you have a job you can still pay for all the basics even if you do find yourself struggling. And because of liberty, life is more than what you can do from your wallet: in New Zealand you have the freedom to be yourself (sometimes with the requisite courage), the freedom to decide what you want from life, and how you go about your relationships.

Liberty is behind this standard of living. How so? Well, if weren’t for all of us going about our daily business of earning more money than we spend, meeting our obligations and making choices about employment, education, health, recreation and how to live (or think) – and being free to do these things – then the provision of a $23.6 billion welfare state, a $12.4 billion education system, and a $15 billion health system would be impossible.

There’s always room for improvement, despite this being a situation in which Flight of the Conchords not only pay for the benefits of society, but also help to construct a society in which being as goofy as they are is a career path.

But here’s the crunch: everyone’s about liberty. So how do we know they mean it? Here’s a way to catch out the ones who will achieve only the opposite – those whose underlying (and usually hidden) premise contains the idea of undeserved entitlement.

It is, briefly, an entitlement that goes beyond your rights, and expands into someone else’s. And it’s also the resting pulse of big government. Thomas Jefferson (the famous President) once warned that a government big enough to give you everything was also big enough to take it away. That kind of “entitlement to control” can take not only your money, but worse, your freedom.

Having said this, I should be clear: a conflict between liberty and entitlement shouldn’t be confused with a conflict between wealth and need. Clearer still, there is a stronger case for providing better public services, and reducing demand on them, than getting rid of the lot. That is, for reducing the use of force to fix problems, and empowering the voluntary.

Thanks to those who arrived at the end of this inaugural column – it was intended as a broad introduction. If your intellectual curiosity is as strong as mine, I hope you’ll keep reading.
This article first appeared in Issue 14, 2013.
Posted 6:05pm Sunday 7th July 2013 by Guy McCallum.