In an article, titled "Do The American People Have Freedom?," IVN contributor Michael Hoang introduced the notion that freedom is about belonging to a "mother nation" and being harmonious with the other members of a person's "national family." While the idea is not entirely unconventional, it is fundamentally incompatible with the Western liberal tradition and, specifically, the ideals of the American Revolution.
Briefly, freedom is not earned, neither is it given nor received. Freedom is a state of being, not something to possess, buy, or sell. The radical idea set forth by the colonial revolutionaries is that individual freedom pre-exists government. A nation does not bestow freedom; it is endowed by virtue of being human.A truly free society is necessarily discordant and disharmonious. Free, democratic politics are by definition polarizing. Order and harmony are the bywords for tyranny. But don’t take my word for it; read the United States’ founding documents and read Locke, Montesquieu, Paine, and the other intellectual fonts of enlightenment and liberty.
The definition of freedom hastily aside, I would like to restate the original question: Is the United States a free country? All people are free by right, but the issue that remains is if the government with which Americans are in contractual terms with actually allows for freedom.
Regarding this question, the combination of an imperial government locked in perpetual war and a capricious economic system has eroded all Americans’ civil liberties and tied freedom to class. The consequences are not abstract. The rule of law, a fundamental bastion of any free society, has been mutated into “a weapon used by the most powerful to protect their ill-gotten gains, strengthen their unearned prerogatives, and ensure ever-expanding opportunity inequality.”
The American legal system is one the most cruel in the world, laying waste to entire generations of the mostly poor and colored.
The central government has, arguably, the most powerful surveillance apparatus in the world that acts without meaningful oversight and without regard for fundamental civil liberties. This fact alone should disqualify the United States from being considered a free country. American police departments are little more than extensions of the federal military/security state; technology that used to be made exclusively for the most violent parts of the military is now at the disposal of state and local departments to be inflicted on citizens. The chickens of empire are coming home to roost.
Voting, even at its best, is hardly the most effective way to participate in politics and self-governance. Still, the power of voters, at least at the federal level, has been diluted to the point of irrelevance. The vast majority of congressional elections are pre-determined shows, partly because of bipartisan gerrymandering and mostly because of hilariously corrupt campaign finance laws.
As I’ve written before, in today’s America the constituents don’t choose their congressman; congressmen choose their constituents. And, as we learn every 4 years, presidential elections are basically decided by a handful of voters in mostly homogenous parts of the country.
Today’s House of Representatives is both unrepresentative and unable to represent. Taken as a whole, Congress looks nothing like the country it represents; the growing racial minority population barely registers in the Capitol’s chambers. More critically, there are more millionaires in Congress than ever before. How can such a Congress truly represent, much less understand, a country that is becoming less white and rich?The number of congressmen in the House hasn’t been raised in almost a century. The population has grown, but the number of representatives has not. Today, the average representative has more than 700,000 constituents. This doesn’t even begin to address the corrupt, stomach-churning transactions between politicians and their financiers, Lawrence Lessig
National politics, rather than being about representing and serving, is becoming the best avenue for some Americans (the already privileged and well-connected) to enrich themselves. It is a common attribute of corrupt, illiberal banana republics that their capital cities also happen to be their wealthiest cities. It serves as the best evidence that a country has been captured by a rich and powerful oligarchy.
It is therefore alarming that Washington, D.C. is rapidly becoming not only one of the richest cities in America, but also host to the highest average income per capita in the entire country.
The United States was meant to be the antithesis of the class-structured, aristocratic, regal societies and political systems of Britain and Europe. Yet, America is today one of the least socially mobile and most economically unequal countries in the West. Ironically, American politics and politicians are today treated with the same pomp and regality the revolutionaries of 1776 refused to bestow to the king and parliament of England.
Gone is the casual, unceremonious relationship between elected officials and their rambunctious constituents. Gone is the unscripted debate between leaders with eloquent, desperately opposed visions. This is the age of coordination and choreography, of political staffs stuffed with MBAs and marketers ravenously “selling” their candidate, of subservience to order and tradition, of car salesman politicians, of condescending slogans and cliches that quash any hope for change, and corporate media outlets that manufacture consensus.
These are but a few of the tangible examples of the illiberality of the United States. Indeed, there is still room for self-governance at the local and, to an extent, state level (though, as has been unequivocally demonstrated in North Carolina, no state government is safe from the machinations of a single multi-millionaire), but that space is quickly disappearing.
In short, while a human being need not offer any proof of their inherent freedom, a government must always bear the burden of proof that it allows for humans to fulfill their birthright. The United States, as it stands today, cannot truthfully discharge that burden.