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The future of our freedom
[September 16, 2002]

By Nicholas Provenzo

Buried behind last week's 9/11 anniversary and the debate over waging war against Iraq was the Republican party's abandonment of its promise to privatize Social Security. According to an article in the Washington Post, the Bush administration has decided to distance itself from the term "privatization" at the request of the National Republican Congressional Committee, claming the word never accurately reflected the White House's views. In fact, according to the Post, several Republicans are now accusing their Democratic rivals of advocating privatization, as if that is somehow bad.

So yet again we have the spectacle of Republicans unable to articulate a vision of freedom, let alone act on it. Perhaps only short of war, Social Security is the worst destroyer of wealth in the history of America. It violates our most basic right to determine the course of our lives and it does so while providing so paltry a return on our "investment," if Social Security were a private company, it would have gone bankrupt long ago. Selling a plan to replace Social Security is as simple as selling IRA's and 401(k)'s, and yet the Republicans find even this task too challenging to take on.

This latest backpedaling on the part of the Republicans shows yet again that there needs to be an alternative. I'm sick of waiting for others to act to solve a problem when both the problem and the solution are painfully obvious. We need leaders willing to stand their ground, make the case for individual rights and economic freedom and act accordingly. But just where are these leaders going to come from?

The first group is going to come from Objectivists who make their professions advancing the intellectual case for freedom. These are the people who day in and day out slog through the trenches trying to win victories as simple as changing the terms of the debate. Their numbers are measured in the tens. Consider them the first wave of the army of new intellectuals.

Today, I don't think that first wave is getting the support it needs to succeed. For all the talk about a glorious vision of a future of freedom, I don't see a lot of people lining up to pay to bring that vision into reality. It make me wonder where the disconnect lies.

Some say people are too busy living their lives to really think about the threats to their freedom. Selling crisis doesn’t make for good business, they say. That's probably true. Most people shrug off the threats to their freedom. Sure, Social Security eats a chunk of your average Joe’s income, taxes consume another chunk, but Joe still gets by at the end of the day. Well, most Joe’s at least. And when a sinking tide lowers all ships (like the needless stock collapse of the past two years), you at least have the consolation of good company when misery comes your way.

And I’m sure most of the people reporting to work at the World Trade Center on September 11th didn’t give much thought to the threat that was assembling against them; even most experts in the Middle East failed to anticipate the then nascent threat. And yet the attacks came. Looking back and taking in all the previous attacks on America by Bin Laden and his crew, one shudders to contemplate just how asleep at the switch we were.

Yet for both scenarios I have outlined, there were people issuing the warnings with dead on analysis, yet their warnings went unheard. It makes me wonder what needs to change.

What we need to do is raise the standing of our own advocates. We need to create our own institutions and put these institutions in a position where they can not be denied. You do not send a solider to fight a battle without the tools of war. You do not send an advocate for freedom into his battle without the tools he needs; not if you expect him to win the day.

But to support the creation of new institutions in order challenge the old ones takes vision. A person has to be smart enough to recognize the threats to his freedom and the value of his self-defense. He has to be willing to make either a personal commitment as an advocate, or be willing to provide sustenance to those who are. He has to see the world as it ought to be and take the steps that are needed to give life to that dream.

I often think of the men at Valley Forge, freezing and starving in their gallant attempt to keep the American revolution alive. I think of Whitman’s civil war poetry where he speaks of men “marching in the ranks hard pressed, and the road ahead unknown.” I wonder what our road will be. I wonder whether it will be a road of our own choosing, or one that will be imposed upon us against our will.

 

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