Personal Liberty? Yeah, I Got That — I Think

Written by Clark Howell on December 10, 2013

Every week I rack my brain for something relevant, or humorous, or pithy to write about, and every week I have a hard time. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like there isn’t a whole lot going on TO write about… THERE CERTAINLY IS!!

But, when I write about something, I like to really know what I’m talking about. I mean, I don’t want to go off half-cocked and start spouting some stuff about how much of a Dictator Barrack Obama has become. That’s what Facebook is for. No, I need to write about things I KNOW about. Trouble is, I don’t know that much. What I mean is, I only know a LOT about certain things – or, at least I think I do.

I do Marketing for small businesses … so I know that. I play Rock & Roll music (drums, bass AND now guitar), so I’m good at that, too. And lately, I’ve become a pretty good househusband, like John Lennon was near the end of his short life ,,, although John didn’t have to vacuum all the time, clean up cat barf three times a day, and run around in the afternoon to try and make the house look presentable for the wife. THOSE things I can do. Oh yeah, and one other thing.

I’m “learning” about personal liberty.

Yeah, that’s a tough one, personal liberty. It’s not a thing. You can’t paint it different colors, or dress it up, or put it in a rocket ship and send it to the Moon. Personal liberty is just … there. Or, it’s not there. And it warps and bends a little bit, because personal liberty might look different to a New Yorker, and someone who is a cattle rancher out in Wyoming. But, maybe we should call THAT “freedom”, and not personal liberty. We live in a highly complex society, and rules are established to keep us from stepping on each other toes, so to speak: The more people, the more rules.

But, as Yogi Berra might say, it’s something, that if you don’t have it, you want it. And if you HAVE it, you’ll probably take it for granted. I know that in my life I never gave it much thought. Too busy trying to be happy, or at least not depressed. Was too busy listening to music and trying to be the next John Lennon. And, later in life, too busy trying to be business-man. And now, I’m trying to understand personal liberty.

So, what is it, personal liberty? Well, I DO understand one thing: It comes to us as a basic human Right, from God. It’s not something granted to us, as “progressives” believe, by the State or by a nation, or even by a religion. It comes DIRECTLY to us. We are BORN with it.

But, is it applied differently, depending on who you are? No, not really. As I said above, personal liberty shouldn’t be mistaken for freedom, per se. One might have boatloads of money, and therefore have the “freedom” to not have to work for a living. Others – most of us – are not so lucky. But, no matter how much money we have, or how talented we might be, our personal liberty never changes in the eyes of God. Freedom, well, THAT can be taken away and altered by circumstances.

Personal liberty is the thing that Alexis de Tocqueville tried to understand, as it applied to the citizens of 1830’s America. Tocqueville was a French thinker and historian and came to America to try and understand how America could have come from such humble beginnings and go on to become a burgeoning global powerhouse, which Tocqueville correctly predicted it would. How could this happen in such a relatively short amount of time, he thought?

Tocqueville noted that, “Whenever the political laws of the United States are to be discussed, it is with the doctrine of the ‘sovereignty of the people’ that we must begin.” This sounds an awful lot like personal liberty to me. Without having a sovereign people, how can personal liberty be exercised?

Then, Tocqueville says that this principle – of the sovereignty of the people – “generally remains concealed from view,” which goes to my point that personal liberty is an elusive thing to qualify, but always there. Finally, he says that the principle is “obeyed without being recognized,” which reinforces the notion that it is a fundamental thing, a thing that “goes without saying.”

Obviously, that principle is rarely, if ever, applied in modern day America. In fact, the exact opposite seems to be the deciding factor when laws are enacted. Not a day goes by where some legislature, somewhere in America, isn’t devising a way to reduce our freedoms in some way.

Take my own life as an example. When I was a boy, growing up in the suburbs of Connecticut in the summertime, I would leave my house in the morning and go off into the woods to find my buddies. Usually, I didn’t come back until it was dinner time. This no longer happens in modern day America. Today, children are almost ALWAYS supervised by adults. We can discuss why this has happened, and which laws and societal changes brought this about, but the end result is clear: a loss of individual freedom — in this case, for children. The tragedy of this particular situation is that it prevents a child from exploring life, and from learning independence.

That’s just one example of how life in present-day America offers less freedom than in the past. There are literally millions of examples like this – as many examples as there are people to talk about.

So, I’ll go on trying to understand personal liberty, and WHY it is so important to who we are as human beings. I need to understand it so that I can talk about it passionately and intelligently.

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Clark Howell is a 50-something, former Liberal who, sometime in the mid 1980's, began to take notice of Ronald Reagan and the positive policies that he and his political allies brought to the table of American life and politics. Since first leaning about Barrack Obama and his ambitions in 2004, he has begun a quest to understand the motivations behind modern "Liberalism" and "Progresivism." Mr. Howell is a professional Marketing Consultant in Central Massachusetts.