American Elephants

Losing Your Liberty, a Little Here, a Little There. by The Elephant's Child
June 23, 2009, 2:37 am
Filed under: Capitalism, Freedom, Law, Politics, The Constitution

The onrush of news and the sheer volume of information is debilitating. We have to read, listen, sort and think about the the news that is presented to us and decide what is important and what is not.  Much is not, but how will we know?

Just the normal flow of information gives us an astounding amount of sorting, organizing, prioritizing, compartmentalizing, discarding and ignoring before we even get to the understanding part. And this may be in addition to a separate flow of information and decision making in our work.

We are pretty remarkable processors, but we get no real training in how to do this.  We are easy prey for manipulated language and pretty pictures, and suckers for a sad story.  We are easily persuaded by what seems to be authoritative without any idea of what constitutes authority and from whence it comes.

We all process this flow differently.  Some people follow war news closely, while others abhor violence.  Some people care about the latest doings of Brangelina and some people don’t.  We each have our filters.

Our personal filters come from what our mothers told us, something we read at the doctors office, a favorite movie, our friends’ opinions, the history books we read and a teacher we had in high school.  We act on whims and fancied self-interest, and studiously avoid original thought.

So now we have protests in Iran and the Ayatollahs are responding with violence.  We have a war in Afghanistan, and one winding up in Iraq.  The North Koreans are trying to spread WMD around to make some money, and we are trailing them with the USS John McCain and may ask them to stop and let us check out what they have in their hold.

The Obama administration is attempting to pass a completely unnecessary cap-and-trade bill, by Friday, to prevent global warming in an earth that has been cooling for several years.  At the same time they are nationalizing America’s auto industry, voiding bankruptcy laws and deciding what kind of cars the industry may make.  They are pouring money into the economy in the vain hope that something will stop the swift climb of the unemployment rate.

Although the financial industry did not cause the housing meltdown, vast new regulations are planned, for it is much more desirable to blame the problems on an absence of regulation (which Congress is happy to supply) rather than an oversupply of misguided regulation (which makes them look bad).

Then there is the drive to take over our health care, promoted by an array of phony statistics, buttressed by fantasy promises, with an enormous cost that nobody knows how to pay for.

How do we process all of that?  Some will just want to avoid thinking about it at all.  Each problem is complex and the solutions that are suggested are far more complicated. There are statistics to be understood and trade-offs, and many of the facts presented are not factual.  To understand, we need to study and there is no time, no time.  Which is surely the strategy for the rush.  Everything must be passed quickly before the glow of the first hundred days fades completely.

But this is how liberty is lost, slyly, when we are not paying attention.  Liberty is a rare element, easily lost and maintained only with attentive effort by the individual human spirit. We have been lucky, we Americans, that there have always been some who will stand up to be counted when freedom is at risk.

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficient…The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.
Justice Louis Brandeis

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