O’er the Land of the Free?

As I stood for the National Anthem at a salute to veterans this weekend the question at the end of the first verse struck me in an unusual way, “…does the Star Spangled Banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

I have always though it appropriate that our National Anthem ended in a question, because in a free society the question always presents itself- shall we be free tomorrow? This question will always be with us, because freedom requires the action of the people.

Many sing without hearing the words thus they do not realize that ours is the only national song that ends with such a question. Those who do know that the final stanza answers the question, and assume as I traditionally have, the answer to be yes. But this day in 2009, I must admit that a lump rose in my throat as the song ended… it is difficult today to say that the banner does indeed wave over the land of the free.

Freedom can be defined simply as the lack of the physical coercion of another. This of course does not mean that the rights of your neighbor do not limit what you can do; he has the right to defend his property. But, to be free, he may not force you to pay for his food, his car, or his house. Chances are you will voluntarily choose to take him some brownies for a Christmas present, mow his grass when he goes to the hospital for treatment, or even help paint his house- but in a free society these must be voluntary choices.

It is clear that the current philosophy of our national leaders, now more than ever before, is to ensure that your neighbor has no needs- even desires, unmet; therefore you are forced to give up your property-your earnings- to meet those needs. You are forced- at gunpoint and the threat of prison- to meet the wants of your neighbors. Frankly, the fireworks did not sparkly quite so brightly for me this year as I contemplated these thoughts.

Most of the “freedom” indexes from 2008 showed the United States somewhere around sixth or so in the world freedom ranking. These, of course were prior to the Bush/Obama “stimulus.”

One such study released in June of this year shows the United States ranked 11th, tied with the United Kingdom. But even this one cannot fully chronicle the cost of the productive effort to the people of the nation from the only slightly implemented stimulus. It certainly does not take into account the potential slavery of our corporations, thus of the productive workers of the nation, to “Cap and Trade”, or to the specter of national healthcare. And, because this particular study is of tax burden only, it does not take into account the loss of market freedom to the government control of our major banks and two of three automotive manufacturers, or of the imminent rise in inflation next year. These costs will not be fully realized for years or even decades. These costs to our freedom may never be recovered.

To recover the freedom that is rapidly being stolen from the people of our nation will require a unique since of bravery, of statesman-like strength in the face of political alienation. I hope that we can find men and women of this strength to lead our nation. There are precious few on the horizon at present. We must require this strength, this bravery, of each who requests our vote. We must demand a contract- a signed statement- stating specifically what they will do if elected; what they will stand for. We must then hold them fully accountable during their term. We must show the bravery to part with those we have supported, even with our own party, if necessary unless they stand firmly for our freedom.

It is only through a system of laissez-faire capitalism that the inalienable rights granted by God that this freedom exists. It is only through the freedom of un-coerced effort- driven by the rational, economic self-interest of the individual- that our nation achieved the hopes of all mankind. It is only through laissez-faire capitalism that we may again become the freest nation on earth.

It is difficult today to say that the banner does indeed wave over the land of the free. It remains to be seen if it waves over the home of the brave.

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