Sometimes when discussing civil liberties, a line gets drawn between personal freedoms and economic ones. In fact, it is even seen as one of the defining characteristics between the political left and right. But while this certainly may be true of the policies that either side supports, I feel as though this misses the interaction between the two.
Let’s start with the First Amendment: Freedom of speech. This has been a hotly contested issue of late, with the Citizens United ruling several years ago. There was (and continues to be) much said about the validity of corporate money in the political arena. That in particular isn’t an issue I wish to focus on, but the interaction between speech and money is.
If an individual chooses to spend their money towards a political campaign, or flyers, or to self publish a book, those are all different forms of speech. To limit the amount of money that an individual is allowed to spend is akin to limiting the amount that they are allowed to say; the limitation on economic freedom becomes a limitation on personal freedom. The political left seems to think that while freedom of speech is beneficial for individuals, it is not the case for groups of those very same individuals; the reasoning behind this I cannot understand. Pragmatically, there is little reason to believe that the amount of money that one spends will guarantee a particular outcome. One must look no further than the current presidential election, where Jeb Bush outspent nearly every other candidate, and yet dropped out of the race dead last.
Another area that the two areas, personal and economic, interact is in trade. If I want to offer my carpentry services, it’s unfortunately not as simple as finding someone in need of my services, rendering them, and collecting payment. If I wish to keep the weight of the State off my back, I must first be licensed, register as a contractor, pay various fees, file my taxes quarterly, etc. There are numerous costs that I must incur before ever accepting that first payment. The economic restrictions become a restriction on my personal freedom by altering how I must spend my time in addition to my money.
Or what if I would like to hire somebody, but they’re not a citizen, or haven’t been through all the needed regulatory hurdles? That’s another restriction on my economic freedom, that is effecting my freedom of association as a consequence.
Liberty shouldn’t be seen as compartmentalized segments; it’s deep and dynamic, and restrictions on it have far reaching consequences.
A man that I knew recently passed away. I didn’t know him well, only having met his acquaintance through various parties and social gatherings over the years, but I always enjoyed his company when I was around him. He happened to do the same work as I, a carpenter, and we both enjoyed talking about music and, specifically, guitars.
His death was unexpected, stemming from an accident at work. He was working under a house in a tight area, and (probably while fumbling around), accidentally fired a nail from his nail gun into his heart. He was air lifted to a hospital, treated, went through rehab, and was sent home to recover further. Several days later, his wife arrived home from work to find him dead, looking “almost as if asleep”.
Moments like this in life, when an acquaintance, friend, or loved one passes away changes your perspective, if only for a little while. Our time here is limited, and while we struggle daily against that fact, eventually our bodies will decay, we will contract a disease, or suffer an accident, and suddenly we will be no more, our existence being extinguished like the flame of a candle being blown out.
As it turns out, this absurdity of life is something I happen to think about often. What makes life meaningful? Why? Is my life meaningful? Is there or can there be an objective standard of meaningfulness? I struggle to answer these questions, but increasingly I feel as though I am being pushed away from the things that I think are constraining me; work, money, etc. I wonder how much I am actually constrained by these things I worry about, and how much is dead weight that I am forcing myself to carry to my own detriment.
I can’t claim to know what makes life meaningful, but for me personally, I enjoy it the most when I feel free.
Life is short. Live freely.