Freedom in the USA: fact or fiction?

What is socio-political freedom? Is the USA really the land of the free? If so in what sense? Are we more or less free than we were 200 years ago? Are some segments of the population more free than others? How does freedom in the USA stack up when compared to other nations? Do any other countries have freedoms that we lack here? How free would utopia be? Is it possible for us to achieve more freedom? If so, how?

Before any of those questions can be asked, must first answer the question: Whose freedom to do what?

Of course, that makes the questions more complicated. But it also makes them answerable. “Freedom,” by itself out in space, with no qualifiers, is a word without meaning.

“What is freedom” is a more basic question than yours. “What is socio-political freedom?” is a less general but still more basic than your question. By asking if the USA was the land of the free I already implied who’s freedom is in question. Did you not understand that or are you trying to sound clever? Freedom may be freedom to do or feedom from. For example, freedom from slavery, a freedom that I take to be evidence that we are more free than we were 200 years ago. So consideration whether “freedom from” without “freedom to” is truely freedom is germain to the subject. I agree that the word “freedom” undefined is ambiguous. It is a favorite buzz word of demagogues like George W. Bush which is one of the reasons I brought the subject up.

All right, but it’s also easily answered. Freedom is the ability to do what one wants to do, or to prevent what one wants to prevent.

Socio-political freedom is the ability to do what one wants to do without interference by someone else. The “political” part implies that potentially the most limiting “someone else” is the state.

No, because there is more than one American. The whole point of asking “who’s freedom” is that one person’s freedom always conflicts with anothers when both want to do contradictory things. For an obvious example, one person’s freedom to own slaves conflicts with another’s freedom from slavery. There are many other examples besides that one, of course.

Indeed. But demagogues are able to do this only because they leave “who’s freedom to do what” unanswered, except in their own minds. And the word is abused in the same way by free-market libertarians as well.

of course slavery “to the group” is freedom

orwell is smiling

-Imp

I agree with your definitions of freedom and socio-political freedom. However, I would add freedom of thought to the definition of freedom. Your question “who’s freedom?” was implied iin my original question, “Are some segments of the population more free than others?”

I did not raise the questions for idle theorizing. The question of freedom is crucial during these times when the war in Iraq is justified on the grounds that it is to preserve freedom and yet constitutionally guaranteed freedoms are compromised by the so-called Patriot Act.

The USA has made progress toward freedom in period since it became a nation over 200 years ago IMHO. Although the political establishment nearly succeeded in exterminating native Americans, they couldn’t get rid of the black population, so they had to accomodate them to some extent. Freedom of speech has been extended. Women received the right to vote. Workers have won some rights. Still there is a constant battle between those seeking to gain freedom and those who dominate with the power of force. What additinal freedoms should be granted if any? Who should receive these freedom and how can they attain them?

OK, can’t argue with that. There are implications for the flow of information in that concept.

Maybe, but “who’s freedom” is only half the question. “To do what?” is also important. If I were a factory owner, my freedom from having to implement sound workplace safety procedures would interfere with my workers’ freedom from danger in the workplace but not with their freedom of speech. Freedoms only sometimes conflict.

You have to remember that this is a philosophy discussion board. Few of us consider theorizing “idle.” Certainly I do not. And this is probably not the best place to issue a call to arms. The culture here is such that people reading a polemic are less likely to say “Yeah! Right on!” than to start defining terms, questioning assumptions, and exploring where the thought lines will lead us. I did that, and I’m with you 100% of the way when it comes to the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, and other nasty manifestations of the bogus “war on terror.”

Freedom as I personally feel it is (freedom to do as you please, save the case this freedom infringes on others same freedom, and freedom to obtain the means of life (food, water, housing supplies, etc.) without interference or restriction) does not fully exist in a statist, capitalist, authoritarian nation like the United States.

No, I do not feel we are freer than we were 200 years ago.

The wealthy and rich are “freer” than the majority.

To obtain more freedom, I propose a social, political, and economic evolution towards libertarian socialism

At this point what would it do, though? You have to remember that despite the pleasant looking paradigm – you still have to get there.

We have a nation of people who, for the most part, have been pharma drugged and media date raped into a complete and total apathy or some crazed fucked up shit. A social libertarian state at this point in time would only make matters worse and probably turn back into the same thing we have now, which is a complete and total dictatorship.

To obtain more freedom, on any of the levels listed in this thread but most importantly of thought, is done through the acquisition of ideas. If the ideas you’re absorbing on a daily basis are not changing the way you feel perhaps it is time to switch to some more relatively unorthodox or otherwise different.

Navigator–I am not advocating “taking up arms” at this time. But I think action is necessary if we agree that freedom is desirable, achievable and lacking in the status quo.

Gobbo–I did introduce freedom of thought for discussion albeit not in the first posting. Another freedom not mentioned so far is the freedom to influence government. I think freedom of thought is necessary but not sufficient. When institutionalized this freedom is called democracy.

Rejected Theory–I offered a few historic facts to support my view that the country is freer that you did not find convincing. I am interested in knowing what ideas and facts are behind your conclusion that the U.S. is not freer than it was 200 years ago.

I was using the phrase “call to arms” metaphorically, to mean “call to action.” A philosophy discussion board isn’t the best place in the world to do that.

Felix,

A freedom of knowledge -is- the freedom to affect the gov’t. It’s inherent… and that’s why there is an info war going on now, as it has been since the onset of modern government.

Hopefully a philosophical discussion board, specifically this one, is a good place to discuss what the best course of social and political action is. Knowledge is necessary but not sufficient for affecting political change. Although many jews in Germany during WWII knew what the Nazis were up to, too few took action. As a result many were exterminated. The info war going on now is important. Through propaganda the power establishment is controlling people’s thinking and thereby lit their freedom. But if we do not take action to change the system, the propaganda machine will continue its propaganda operation.

This is just hysteria. A lot of you keep spitting out references to lost freedoms, the media machine, oppression, ad infinitium but you provide no examples as to how any of this is occuring. Rights? Freedoms? Last time I checked I still have the same rights I’ve always had. Personal Information? Well, if i wish to partake in a service I usually have to give up personal information, that’s just the fine print and a personal choice. It is not mandatory. Media? Media outlets are run by companies that often have their own political slant and that is only natural in a capitalist society and there is nothing wrong with it. No one makes you watch the news. If someone is “brainwashed” by the news that is their right to be. The rich and poor? Why do you people always insist on invoking this cliche argument. Plain fact: people are poor because they live outside of their means. They are poor because they are uneducated and usually make poor investments. I know this because I have been homeless myself, I also know people who spend their every paycheck on alcohol or cars. In most countries you wouldn’t even have the advantage of upward mobility. People are rich because they are better than you. Don’t be jealous, that is simply the fact. Most millionaires are self made any way or they are entertainers who provide a hot commodity.

I don’t think this argument is about rights or freedoms at all, I think it is about your personal needs for power and legitimacy over those who you deem oppressive. Typical Orwellian ploy.

“This is just hysteria. A lot of you keep spitting out references to lost freedoms, the media machine, oppression, ad infinitium but you provide no examples as to how any of this is occuring.”

Interesting that you use the term”hysteria.” That is what the Bush administration fear mongering has been whipping up for the past five years. You’re reading this thread is highly selective. I stated my opinion that freedom progressed over the past 200 years and gave exmaples to support my view.
“Rights? Freedoms? Last time I checked I still have the same rights I’ve always had. Personal Information? Well, if I wish to partake in a service I usually have to give up personal information, that’s just the fine print and a personal choice. It is not mandatory.”
This is a good example of how one has to relinquish ones privacy in order to participate in society. Freedom to maintain one’s privacy is definitely at risk today. The choice is often between privacy and goods.
“Media? Media outlets are run by companies that often have their own political slant and that is only natural in a capitalist society and there is nothing wrong with it. No one makes you watch the news.”
The Media are a corporate monopoly. They share the same viewpoint.There is a corporate lobbying effort to take control of the internet. Both political parties are factions of the same business party. Most of the population doesn’t vote because it seems meaningless to them. They have been marginalized and properly distracted by propaganda. Consent of the governed is engineered. The people doing the consent engineering are the ones who have the power and resources to do it–the business community.
‘If someone is “brainwashed” by the news that is their right to be.”
The public relations industry’s goal is to control the public mind. The business community spends lots of money, time and attention working to counter democratic deviations. Their conception of democracy is one in which you have masters, a specialized class trained to work for them, and ignorant masses. The masses are there to consume product. They are discouraged from organizing. They are to be atomized and kept in front of the TV. There they are infused with the message that the meaning and purpose of life is to buy commodities.

“The rich and poor? Why do you people always insist on invoking this cliche argument. Plain fact: people are poor because they live outside of their means. They are poor because they are uneducated and usually make poor investments. I know this because I have been homeless myself, I also know people who spend their every paycheck on alcohol or cars. In most countries you wouldn’t even have the advantage of upward mobility. People are rich because they are better than you. Don’t be jealous, that is simply the fact. Most millionaires are self made any way or they are entertainers who provide a hot commodity.”

Who are the“you people” you are referring to? That seems a little hostile. Do you feel estranged from people who’s views are different from your own? Is this an “us” versus “them” discussion for you? The national economy appears to be doing well for the privileged few. But wages and salaries have stagnated.
Globalization is extending the Third World model to industrialized nations. In the third world there’s a two-tiered society. One sector has extreme wealth and privilege. The other lives in poverty, misery and despair. The “free market” system directs resources to the wealthy and to foreign investors. Wealth is supposed to trickle down to the poor classes somehow. But you might notice that this is not happening.

“I don’t think this argument is about rights or freedoms at all, I think it is about your personal needs for power and legitimacy over those who you deem oppressive. Typical Orwellian ploy.”

Are questioning my motivation? Generally I think a position of mutual respect fosters the best communication. It occurs to me that your position smacks of complacency. Perhaps it is based on a position of privilege. Or maybe you have just bought into the dominant message of the media controllers.
Since you have volunteered a personal anecdote to the forum for illustrative purposes, lets explore it a little. When you were homeless did you blame others? Or did you apply your own analysis to yourself? That is, you had lived outside your means. You were poor because you were uneducated and had made poor investments. You spent your money on alcohol and cars? Or are you the exception to your own rule?

Felix, I must apologize. I overreacted to much of what was being said here and in that sense I was hysterical. In regards to your homeless question: When I was younger my father made a rather rash move by trying to open his own business and we moved to the inner city. At this time his business failed miserably and we ended up buying more things than we could afford. In the end we sold everything but could not get the right price in return. The landlord kicked us out of our home and we lived in cars and ate from soup kitchens. A couple months later we applied for
bankruptcy and gained enough money back to move to the country and start a new life. Here is a good example of 1. Making poor investments 2. Living outside of our means 3. Being generally idiotic. In no sense was our poverty due to external factors such as social oppression, unavailability of jobs, wages, etc.

This is certainly true but it makes me curious. Perhaps no leftist reform can alter this situation. Perhaps rather than libertarian socialism as adovacted by members here the more logical option would be monarchialism and caste: wealth is concentrated into areas where it is more vital to national and social interest rather than spread out among entertainment industries and the like. Money becomes the means of the state to acheive an end rather than the means of personal goals. In monarchial civilizations there is no need to manipulate residents through the media or disguise national motives because there is no need for popular consent on any issue. EX: If a king or emperor wishes to invade Iraq for oil there is no pretense. Another advantage would be the fact that monetary issues have been removed from primary consideration: there is more concern towards improving real social, environmental, and military issues. I am not actually advocating tyranny here but simply showing you an example that this argument may follow. Certainly this model of government has worked in the past for thousands of years with great success, why is it never considered?

Arthritis, you need to realize that your own family’s case can’t be generalized to a common rule. That set of circumstances is rare. Most people never try to start their own business either because they’re not inclined to, or because they don’t have the capital. Your father lost his money in a failed business attempt, but that means he had the money to lose. The fact that he filed for bankruptcy, means that at one time he seemed a good credit risk and banks extended him credit, allowing him to get in over his head. Many people don’t have the money to lose. Many people can’t borrow enough to ever worry about bankruptcy.

It’s certainly true that poverty means “living beyond one’s means,” but it is equally true that poverty means “having means short of one’s living.” If you want to understand which is the area that needs improvement, look at how a person is living, and see whether it could be contracted without threatening health, the ability to find a job, etc.

I have known doctors and lawyers making six-figure incomes who spent their money very unwisely, ended up in a lot of trouble, and went bankrupt. I have also known low-wage workers who had to get food stamps because their jobs didn’t pay enough for them to pay their rent and feed their children at the same time. In both cases, “living beyond one’s means” is a technically correct description of what happened, but in the second case there was no choice about it, and only an increase of income – not a contraction of lifestyle – would have solved the problem.

Aggregate results aren’t entirely a result of individual fortunes. Our society’s economic rules don’t determine whether, in each individual case, a person will be a winner or a loser. But they do determine how difficult or easy it is to be a winner, and thus how many losers there will be. From the end of World War II until the 1980s, America played by one set of economic rules, in which most capital was invested here, industrial production in America was strong and unionized, and there were plenty of high-wage jobs available even for those without lots of education, which pulled wages for all other jobs up by tightening the labor market. Since 1980, we’ve played by a different set of rules, in which capital is encouraged to flow to poor countries, industrial production in America has hollowed out, those high-wage union jobs have mostly disappeared, and wages for all other jobs have stagnated or declined due to a flooded labor market.

The old rules created a situation in which almost everyone could be a winner. Exceptions arose due to racial bigotry, mental illness, drug dependency, or just plain loser-itis. The new rules are rapidly moving us towards a situation in which most people will be losers, and there will be only a few big winners lording it over everyone else.

Navigator, good paradigm shift analysis. I will have to consider it. I wonder how many new poor immigrants are able to “make it” like immigrants 20s and 30s could. Check out the above post I made.

No need to apologize Arthritis. Your comments were rather mild compared to some of what passes for discourse here. Has there been a coarsening and polarization of culture I wonder? Like you I appreciate Navigator’s analysis of the socio-economic trend which I think supports my observation that we are moving in the direction of a two tiered third world-like economic system.

Fed chairman Ben Bernake said recently that apart from a few areas like real estate and the auto industry, the economy is strong. The Fed won’t lower interest rates and may raise them. His statements ignore the wage stagnation and underemployment that affects many Americans. But given the huge federal deficits there isn’t much that the government can do. That, incidentally, was exactly what the Bush Administration and Greenspan intended (I don’t know Bernake’s position on the matter, but I can guess.)