Thursday, July 10, 2008

Benefits of a Free Society

Lately, it seems, people have nothing but animosity towards the United States. This hatred does not end, however, at our country's borders. Everyday citizens complain about how expensive things are, but they tend to forget what freedoms they have. Elaborating on the ideas of my fellow blogger, Americans are spoiled, and take their freedoms for granted. If you ever feel like you need to brush up on your Constitutional freedoms, breeze through the Bill of Rights and see how many you remembered. But if you are looking for another way to remember your freedoms, here is a short list of things we have (or do not have, comparably) that other countries' citizens do not:

1. Conscription- The United States for several decades carried a policy of a military draft. First instituted during the Civil War, the policy was discontinued in 1973 under growing pressure from young people and outrage against the Vietnam War. In the map of the world shown above, the color red denotes countries that have mandatory military service, while blue shows countries that do not. Note that the red states include Germany, Greece, and Russia. While the ratio of draft countries to non-draft countries is approximately 1:1, we are one of the lucky nations where the choice exists to enter the military or not.

2. Capitalism- The United States has for its entire existence been a free-market society. Every United States citizen owns the right to buy and sell almost anything with limited government interference. We are one of the extremely few countries to employ such an economic system. While other nations may be capitalists, the United States and a handful of other countries can truly call themselves hands-off, economically. Now, I will be the first to tell you that I have absolutely no economic knowledge, nor do I feel the faintest desire to obtain any. But I find myself intelligent enough to identify those nations where the people are economically free, and the United States tops that list.

3. Freedom of Speech- It wasn't long ago that somebody in the United States could be arrested for speaking out against the government. However, after the ratification of the aforementioned Bill of Rights, with one exception (the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, but we never really cared for John Adams anyway) citizens are free to speak their minds. Remember the phrase, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?" If a common link exists among all freedoms, this is it. The freedom of speech is elemental to a free society. The right to criticize the government is exploited countless times every day, but often is overlooked as a privilege, and taken for granted as part of the "American Way." In Nazi Germany, free speech was only free if it followed Nazi proclamations. In China, there is no such right, and merely thinking about fracturing that law can get one thrown in jail. Too often, people exercise free speech without remembering the billions of people in the world that do not have it, and at the same time forgetting what it cost to obtain it.

I admit that this list is very modest, and that it could go on forever if I wanted to enumerate every freedom we have. But I think I have made my point. The next time you want to denounce the Iraq War, be thankful that you are not forced to fight it. The next time you spend $80 to fill your gas tank, think of how expensive that gas was to someone who lost their life in pursuit of it. And the next time you and your friends engage in a little government-bashing, just stop for a moment and remember how lucky you are to hold that right. After all, it could be worse. Imagine communist China: A poor farmer is underpaid for his crops, forced to fight for the military, and cannot even criticize the government that treats him so poorly. Now that I think about it, $4.30 is pretty cheap, isn't it?

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