I recently sent this link to some friends, which lists “10 Things You Could Do in 1975 That You Can’t Do Now.” The list included:
2. You could buy cough syrup without showing an ID
4. You could buy a gun without showing an ID
5. You could pull as much cash out of your bank account without the bank filing a report with the government
6. You could get a job without having to prove you were an American
9. You could open a stock brokerage account without having to explain where the money came from
10. You could open a Swiss bank account with ease. All Swiss banks were willing and happy to open accounts for Americans
I opined: “We are FAR less free than we used to be. The “War on Drugs” is a major cause, but general government encroachment for its own sake is behind most of it.”
My friend Singapore Pundit responded:
[Lex], I have to challenge your theory that we are “FAR less” than free we use to be. Here is a short list of things from the 70’s which we are free from today: The military draft; 70% marginal tax rates on income; airline price regulation by the federal government; forced busing of school children; gas rationing by the federal government (Nixon); legalized monopoly of telecommunications; US gov. restricted travel to China, Vietnam, Russia and east Europe; banned importation of books based on ideology; tariffs on goods from Canada and Mexico; federal government price controls (Nixon); 25% of workers in unions (now it’s 7%). Here are somethings we have today versus the 70’s which I would argue make us freer: charter schools; home schooling; the internet and access by it to free information; 401K; more right-to-work states; right to vote for citizens over 18.
I had to concede these were all good things.
So, on net, are we freer or less free?
39 thoughts on “Are We More or Less Free Than We Were in 1975?”
It may depend on what is important to you. As an information junkie, the internet has made me immeasurably freer in my use of time, and a few other conveniences such as ATM’s and electronic banking, have freed up more.
If you value anonymity, the second half of the 20th C was a disaster.
The list from your friend includes things that are less personal, like taxes. I was newly in practice then and had incorporated to begin a personal pension plan. My taxes were, if anything, effectively lower and unions did not affect me. I will add that it was a golden age to be a physician. That golden age was abused by many physicians who practiced rent seeking along with medicine, but we were very lightly affected by regulation. That began to change in 1978 and steadily increased until I might make another career choice now.
“banned importation of books based on ideology”
If this is a naïve question please forgive me as I was only three in 1975. Plus it’s also 95 degrees at 7:30pm here, so my brain isn’t functioning as it should. But what literature could not be imported in 1975? Any examples would be appreciated.
Thanks in advance.
In 2013 we are less independent than we were in 1975. In 1975 we were less independent than we were in 1940.
Individual liberties have oscillated. The independence of the citizenry has not. Its trend has been far more predictable.
Jason, as late as 1972 you could not legally import the writings of Mao Tse Tung (as he was then known) into the USA.
I bought a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book in 1968. Also, LBJ’s Little Red Book. I bought them in Minnesota. Still have both books and I sometimes wave them at rallies.
My friend now tells me that his father had his copy of Mao’s works confiscated at the airport. However it may have been due to a trade ban with China, hence books printed there could not be imported, not a ban on the content.
In 2013 we are less independent than we were in 1975. In 1975 we were less independent than we were in 1940.
That suggests to me you aren’t black or a woman.
Blacks and women are much more independent than in 1940 or even 1975. But they aren’t today as free as a white male in 1940. Nor is a white male today.
But it will change for many when we install the upgrade to 3.0. Now, do we have a clever code name for the new release?
BTW, I don’t recall books being banned for ideology since Woodrow Wilson, if then. Obscenity, yes; ideology no. Though movies were censored for ideology during the Breen years and for obscenity until 1969, at least in Maryland.
T. Greer summed it, the general trend is less free.
On balance if you throw DEBT in we’re no question far less free.
We are however more *free-minded* which was not the case in 1975, the Statist control over us is fraying in a many places and there’s no respect left for them, just a check.
You are correct, I’m not. I’m not black or a woman. I’m a white male.
And after decades of hearing you, congratulations.
You talked us into it.
It was always a fools game you were playing. And it’s over. If you want the turning point it was the second week of Nov 2012.
Do I bear you ill will naturally? No. But again – you talked me into it. Decades of Hate and Hostility will tend to be reciprocated eventually. I’m not exactly into Hate/Hostility, but I now recognize that my skin means it will forever be directed against me, for my skin. So I now proceed armed with that certainty.
So you talked me into it, and frankly me is an us.
And if you missed the news, your charming brood is racking up an Emmett Till level atrocity every month, and the frequency along with mob beatings is increasing.
Affirmative action could be borne with gritted teeth. It’s only money.
Murder, rape, torture, mob beatings cannot. All of which are racially motivated – Hatred of Whites. Because the children were raised to..and what did you think would happen? Well probably exactly that. They are now operating as designed.
The motive for raising the children stewed in racial hatred being: revenge and monetary, political gain – for a few. Both quite easily understood.
Since no one will apparently tell you: It’s over.
“That suggests to me you aren’t black or a woman.”
The principle effect on women was the invention of the birth control pill, technology not ideology. I don’t think it has been an unalloyed blessing. My three daughters might not agree but they have been heavily influenced by political indoctrination.
Blacks were most benefited in the north by the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, both passed in the 60s. Certainly, the cultural effects of the passing of an older, less tolerant, generation has affected their lives but the growth of a violent, uneducated underclass has had an opposite effect on the majority. They live in less safe neighborhoods unless they have been able to flee to largely white suburbs, as Reverend Wright has done in Chicago.
A few years ago, I had a sort of sad experience with the man who now owns my childhood home at 7344 Paxton in South Shore. I had stopped to take a photo and he came out to see who I was. We talked and he insisted on showing me the house. He asked if I could send him some photos of the home when we lived there. When we lived there in the 40s, that was, if not the safest, one of the safes and most pleasant areas of the city. It is now one of the two or three most violent. I was sympathetic to his desire to be reminded about what a lovely area it was 60 years ago.
It is not hard to explain why blacks are moving back to the south in large numbers.
Reduced Freedom since 1975:
1) The glassware from an old chemistry set is now illegal due to DEA chasing of methanphetamine cooks.
2) Many effective cold medicines are incredibly regulated due to DEA chasing of methanphetamine cooks.
3) Drug forfeture laws place people with large amounts of cash into the kakaesque position of proving your cash is innocent of being drug money. This is legal theft by law enfoceme nt in most cases.
4) No-knock assaults on homes due to drug laws via paramilitary police units.
5) Limits on cash movement across American borders and reporting of same via bank transfers.
6) Regular stops of vehicle traffic via drug profiling based on a. age of vehicle, b. routes and c. time of day.
7) Planning of drug raids based upon the possible value of homes and vehicles searched since they can be seized via drug forfeiture laws with “Proof of innocence required” processing that steals property when the accused wins the criminal charge in court.
1975 was the year the gummint made me put unleaded fuel in my speedy ’69 Sportster XLCH. The old gal never ran quite the same again but before that she would scoot off the line like a scalded hound.
Who and what is the actual object of the war on drugs?
The War on Drugs has certainly left us less free in certain ways.
However it also made us safer over time. Because the war on drugs is a war on crime in many ways. Crime [not drugs] may well have been Nixon’s motive for initiating the War on Drugs.
Over time combined with mandatory minimums, welfare reform, community based policing – all of which reached their coda and victory in Crime’s biggest success story, NYC – it reduced the murder rate back to early 60s levels. In places it’s been done.
None more so than NYC, which of course has some quite directed and I daresay questionable community policing. Which is unlikely to end BTW. They’ll just change the wording [this being how you get around lawyers].
You see, Libertarianism is just not for everyone.
So on the war on drugs scale, if you include freedom from criminal violence, you’re safer than 1975. And the crime statistics reflect that.
“That suggests to me you aren’t black or a woman.”
True. Not black, and not a woman.
But your response suggests to me that you are not poor.
Perhaps there is a bit of confusion over terminology. When we say less or more “free” what do we mean?
I am not liberal. And I mean that in the old fashioned, classical liberal, proto-libertarian, John Locke type liberalism. I like those folks. But I am not one of them and I find their central contribution to theories of freedom – the idea of ‘rights’ and the ‘negative liberty’ they imply – less useful and easily manipulated by those in power. It is just too easy to get people to trade power for the siren promise of ‘rights,’ never realizing that once their power is gone there is nothing but the good will of those higher up to ensure those right remain honored and unviolated.
I find myself much more comfortable with the republicans. Not the current monstrosity of a party that bares the name, but the old fashioned, classical, James Madison type republicanism. Their great virtue was independence – autonomy, the ability of self governing men in self governing communities to govern themselves. In this view the fundamental building blocks of society are not individuals but families; the goal is not to protect an individuals ability to choose unobstructed from government, but to empower individuals and their families so that they have the capacity to make real choices in the first place. I recognize that talk of liberty is really just talk of power, and that you cannot have one without the other. Only when power is decentralized – so that families and communities can solve their own problems without relying on their betters and can successfully resist actions imposed on them by others – is real liberty possible.
So we come back to the original question. American families, communities, and citizens have grown far less independent with time. Their ability to rely on themselves to solve their own problems has decreased. Their ability to resist and challenge the powers that be has likewise decreased. They have become true liberal individuals – isolated cogs in a great international machine.
Some individual liberties have increased. (I notice nobody has mentioned sexual liberties yet – men and women are considerably more free here). Others have not. Which is to be expected. Absent the power to defend and define one own’s freedom, rights and liberties are simply gifts from the machine. One should expect them to change with whims of those manning the control panel.
As a middle class non-smoker/light alcohol drinker/legal perscription drug user, I have been threatened and had to modify my life style far more from illegal drug law enforcement activities than I have been by criminals.
All simply because as a single guy I lived in apartments and drove an old car to and from Houston Texas night clubs on a ‘know drug trafficing route,’ late on Friday and Saturday nights, for about 10 years.
As for drug forfeture laws, they are theft under the color of law.
They do not differentiate between the poor folks without access to financial institutions in the “white economny” where large cash rolls are carried and the criminal underworld “black economy.”
They are the mother and father of law enforcement corruption because they put a profit motive in the application of law.
The principle effect on women was the invention of the birth control pill, technology not ideology.
Perhaps for the women with whom you hang but for many others it has been the opportunity to expand their employment opportunities beyond secretarial, nursing and teaching activities.
I am not poor. And I would not argue that the poor are more or less free than the rich.
The Rich and the Poor are freer than their neighbors in many and different ways. Based in no small part on personal or group priorities.
Who is inarguably less free is the Middle.
As the Middle is always the threat to the Top, and it’s almost never from the Bottom, the Middle is the Target.
1940 is a false benchmark. In 1940 the New Deal is cooking seven years. In 1940 Europe is at war, and we clearly will be soon. In 1940 the President for Life is elected to his 3d term. In 1940 Bureaucrats can write laws by fiat [Humphrey’s Executors 1937].
Turning point years are 1933 [New Deal- Admministrative govt], or 1913 [Federal Reserve, Wilson, Income Tax].
As 2013 may well be already. The internal Arms race for instance. The end of an certain era of politics**. A President who is so clearly being dragged to war against his own will. No President in History to my thinking
has ever been so reluctantly dragged to war. He actually Castled [Rooked] to Congress the other Day. That is the Imperial President. The King – of Chess. The King has one power move, the Castle. And he did it, and BRAVO Sir. Deftly done, and I’m not a fan.
Now we face a war, the goal is regime change. The Senate Bill reflects this, for the money [as our Sec State was so nice to tell us yesterday] is coming from the Arab States.
I think he has the next Yacht all picked out, although he didn’t mention it.
I think if we go to war in Syria, 2013 is one of those turning point years.
**Because a year ago, this conversation would have been deleted.
“**Because a year ago, this conversation would have been deleted.”
By whom? Why?
It’s really up to you. It is who you obey that restricts your freedom to do as you please.
Now although this is far too simple an explanation it is true.
You do not have to take your next breath. That would require a level of control and dedication that is almost unheard of and of course your body will start breathing once you lose conciseness but it is really up to you.
I am besieged by wasps, I must go feed my masters. ;)
I am feeling forced to take the “2013 freer” side not because it is so starkly true but because of the reflexive arguments on the other side.
The point made about being black or female stands. That’s a pretty good chunk of the population. Whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing, that’s also true for gays and lesbians.
But even for white males – do you like a variety of viewpoints on your TV? Or a variety of types of entertainment? Without even getting into the unrestricted porn of today, take a look at what was not allowed, and certainly not easily obtainable in 1975. Like pot? No contest.
It is true that more towns have zoning laws and you can’t build just what you want in most places, as you could more easily in 1975. But as construction materials are improved, you are able to build things you couldn’t then, more than an offset. More car choices. More everything choices. That’s not the only kind of freedom, but it’s a big one.
I’m heartbroken that I can’t open a Swiss bank account so easily now, nor move large amounts of money across borders. Shucks.
When making comparisons, one can’t cherry pick elements to fit a preconceived narrative. The point of such questions is to learn more by attacking your own ideas, not trying to win a point to confirm your world-view.
I find the little things bother me.
1. We used to build bonfires with yard debris in our back yard. Can’t do that anymore.
2. We used to stay out late at parks. Now the rangers chase you out.
3. At national parks and BLM “Wilderness” areas, roads are not being put in, existing roads are being closed, even cars are being banned or trying to be banned. Citizens pay the salaries of the rangers and park service staff. They own these places and are not being allowed access to them. That’s wrong.
4. As children, we roamed everywhere at will. Now, I read of parents being charged with neglect for allowing their children to play without supervision.
5. Once upon a time, the USA did not monitor its citizens wherever they drove, either by camera or GPS.
6. Once upon a time, the USA did not eavesdrop on its citizens telephone conversations.
7. Once upon a time, I was not treated as a criminal while boarding an aircraft.
8. Once upon a time, I could smoke a cigarette or a pipe or a cigar and not be treated as a second class citizen. Nor did I have to pay exorbitant taxes on those products.
9. Once upon a time, the USA did not raid animal shelters and organic farms with SWAT teams.
10. Once upon a time, people didn’t have their property arbitrarily declared a wetland and be threatened with million of dollars of fines if they build a house on it by an agency claiming it cannot be challenged in court.
11. Once upon a time, the IRS did not target citizens for being politically active in the opposition.
12. Once upon a time, the US military did run training classes that teach that citizens who believe in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are extremists and enemies of the state.
13. Once upon a time, the American Legion was not treated as enemy organization.
14. Once upon a time, people’s religious beliefs were treated and respected as private matters.
15. Once upon a time, you could purchase and use fireworks – at your own risk. You could even make your own, as Robert Goddard often did.
16. Once upon a time, children were not detained, arrested, or expelled from school for drawing pictures of guns or playing with toy guns. Children even hunted. On their own.
17. Once upon a time, you could go to a community pool and jump in the water, use a diving board or splash. All now forbidden.
18. Once upon a time, you could have a drink at work.
19. Once upon a time, you could teach at a University if you patriotic and believed in the Constitution. You will now be passed over as the wrong sort.
20. Once upon a time, the Executive Branch was not controlled by a gang of criminals who treat the law as being whatever they want it to mean that day, who lie to the citizens as often as they breathe, and who enable illegals to vote and become wards of the state in order to ensure their political majority.
Less free. No question. Far less free.
I find this argument curious. You have equated the number of choices with the ability to choose. In 1950 my dietary options would be more limited, because back then stores just didn’t carry soy milk, coco-nut milk, or almond milk. They just had milk. (And not as many different % either). Likewise, I would not have been able to eat Mexican food one night, sushi the next, and finish off the week with Thai food, as many urban couples can today.
Does that make me more free? Is variety freedom?
“Perhaps for the women with whom you hang but for many others it has been the opportunity to expand their employment opportunities beyond secretarial, nursing and teaching activities.”
My mother-in-law was a fan magazine editor at Hughes Productions in the early 1940s. She had a very rewarding career in the movie industry. My mother worked in a warehouse company in Chicago in the 1930s and, after my sister and I were well along in school, she went back to work where she basically ran half the company. She finally retired involuntarily when she was 77 after the company told her that everyone who had been there when she started about 1929 had died. Nobody knew how old she was.
My high school girlfriend graduated from Purdue U in 1960 with an engineering degree. She raised her children until they were well along in school and then went back to her career in the aerospace industry. A few years ago she was president of the Society of Women Engineers.
I’m sorry your opportunities were so limited. Could it be that they were there and you didn’t see it ?
Keep in mind minorities are much more free today, save for Muslims.
“11. Once upon a time, the IRS did not target citizens for being politically active in the opposition.”
You still didn’t notice they also looked for keywords such as “progressive”, thus ‘targeting’ leftists as well, and the few organisations who actually faced severe consequences because of these investigations (which were the IRS’ job!) were left-wing organisations?
The IRS investigations were the IRS’ job. The real scandal is that plenty political organisations dodging taxes were not identified as such. The public “scandal” driven by Fox News was a hoax.
“… minorities are much more free today, save for Muslims.”
No. Muslims are no less free than anyone else in the USA. What are you talking about?
You still didn’t notice they also looked for keywords such as “progressive”…
All or almost all of the complaints of abuse come from right-of-center organizations. Since the Obama administration has a history of singling out conservatives for abuse, and of letting left-wing organizations (Acorn, Black Panthers, et al) get away with plainly illegal activities, your explanation doesn’t convince.
“The real scandal is that plenty political organisations dodging taxes were not identified as such. ”
I don’t expect you to understand but the “dodging taxes” consisted of not being taxed on contributions, which are not tax deductible to the donor. Thus, those contributions have already been taxed once. These organizations are taxed on profit making activities but cannot spend more than 50% of their activity on politics. I used to run an organization somewhat similar. It was a medical association. The Tea Parties were spending most of their time teaching people who wanted to be active in politics how to do it. They were not lobbyists, like Obama’s Organizing For America, his campaign organization that was converted to a lobby after the election.
The political left, like you, hate the fact that others can learn how to do retail politics. Obama and the IRS decided to stop them.
“No. Muslims are no less free than anyone else in the USA. What are you talking about?”
Well, look up the NYPD’s behaviour in regard to Muslims, or think of how the TSA treats recognisable Muslims.
They’re clearly being discriminated against.
Not trying to strawman you, but this ‘discrimination = unfree’ thing is basically what the black experienced in the 50’s, albeit by another magnitude.
“Well, look up the NYPD’s behaviour in regard to Muslims, or think of how the TSA treats recognisable Muslims. They’re clearly being discriminated against.”
My heart bleeds. Were Christians and Jews and Buddhists waging a relentless 50 year war of terrorism and genocide against muslims, you might have a point. However, the reverse is what’s true. Considering that, muslims should consider themselves lucky that Americans and British and French and Israelis and Indians don’t kill muslims on sight. They, in fact, allow them to live quite well in their advanced and forgiving societies. Lucky for them.
Hmm, he British are lucky that non-British Muslims don’t kill them on sight after the British had bombed MidEast villages and massacred civilians merely because they resisted British rule.
Americans are lucky that non-American Muslims don’t kill them on sight after well, I think that’s obvious. Let’s say after the 50’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s.
Israelis … lol.
This all isn’t relevant.
(Obviously, different groups of humans had their conflicts. All white Americans would be worthy of death after what was done to the native Americans if we took such primitive thoughts seriously.)
Muslims are still being discriminated against in the U.S., period. A denial is either comedy or tragedy.
In your case I suppose you would have been a feverish supporter of the internment of Japanese-ancestry U.S. citizens in 1942-1945. And that’s somewhere between sick and sad. One thing is for sure; my impression of you isn’t the impression a defender of liberty makes.
think of how the TSA treats recognisable Muslims
I don’t think you’ve spent much time in the USA.
Most Muslims who immigrate to the United States are considerably more ‘free’ than they were in the country they emigrated from.
Most normal people, Muslims included, come face to face with the TSA less than twice a year. As much as I dislike them they are a poor example to use here.
“more ‘free'” than elsewhere doesn’t mean they’re ‘free’ here.
The original blog post’s list has set the criterion for what affects whether one is ‘free’ pretty low, so discrimination easily counts as detrimental.
You guys don’t seem to tend to look at things this way, but there are minority perspectives, and the life experience of minorities differ a lot.
Someone who thinks “You could buy a gun without showing an ID” is an indicator for Americans in 1975 being much more free shouldn’t be able to deny that some minorities weren’t as free as today back in ’75, and that some minorities have lost freedom in ways not considered in the lists above.
“Hmm, he British are lucky that non-British Muslims don’t kill them on sight after the British had bombed MidEast villages and massacred civilians merely because they resisted British rule.”
So, does that mean that non-British Muslims are lucky that other Muslims don’t kill them on sight ?” After all, Muslims kills most other Muslims the way that American blacks kill other blacks. The British have been gone from the mideast for 60 years.
Your imaginary Muslims and blacks are “less free” because they don’t react as you expect. Poor guy. The world doesn’t act the way you imagine it should.
“You guys don’t seem to tend to look at things this way, but there are minority perspectives, and the life experience of minorities differ a lot.”
Sure. But that leaves s with two questions:
1. Is the average Muslim more or less discriminated against in 2013 than in 1975?
I have a good friend from Yemen. Another from Palestine. The first is a man, the second a woman. Both like America. I have heard much worse complaints of discrimination from black and Cambodian friends then I have from them. (This probably reflects their income and the education level of most the folks they live around.) They generally feel accepted by other Americans. Or at least, the upper income, educated Americans who frequent their circles.
I wonder how accepted Muslims were in 1975 or 1950. The TSA was not around back then, but would they really have been better accepted by society then? If common civil society discrimination prohibits ‘freedom’ as defined here, then was American society in 75 more accepting than the cosmopolitan, multi-cultral society of today?
2. Are increases in discrimination towards one minority substantial enough to off-set general increases in freedom? (assuming the general trend has been more freedom)
I don’t think that question needs further explanation.
In the 1950s my aunt went back to work because of a severe illness my uncle was suffering. She got employment as a secretary, which appears to fit your statement. What doesn’t fit your statement is that she ended up as the owner of an advertising agency. Moreover, my aunt was one-eighth Indian. She didn’t need any push from Affirmative Action mandates: her ability sufficed.
But discrimination did exist. I know a woman who began college in the late 1960s as an engineering student- the only female in her cohort. The male students shunned her. Professors told her that the profession was not for females. She dropped out of school, returned and eventually became a Ph.D. biology professor. When I was an engineering student in the 1970s, about a fifth of my cohort was female. Female and male engineering students freely mixed. The best student in my cohort was a female.
@ T Greer. Variety is one type of freedom. As I said in my initial comment, if one values anonymity, then the 2nd half of the 20th C was a disaster.
What one values has a great deal to do with whether one regards the present as freer than 1970. I did like burning leaves in the fall, and I miss it. But I couldn’t buy fireworks then. I don’t like the extra information the government has about me. But I do like that the police are less free to beat me up because they feel like it, because the government has more information on them.
My central point is that there are tradeoffs and differing ways of measuring, but we are getting a lot of comments from people who see only doom. I claim that they are trying to prove a previously-held POV rather than examining the question objectively.
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