On Memorial Day, we pause to reflect on those who died to protect our freedom. But today I have to wonder: In this year 2018, what proportion of Americans seriously value freedom?
Recently I encountered a meme on Facebook that went something like this:
Keep telling yourself that America is the land of the free while the rest of the developed world enjoys universal healthcare, free college, paid maternity leave, and a ton more vacation time than any of us get.
Nothing there about free speech, freedom of religion, or even freedom to pursue one’s chosen career. How many people think this way? I’m afraid it’s a nontrivial number and a growing one.
I don’t think I even need to post a lot of links in order to demonstrate that individual freedom is being devalued by many in America today: the evidence is too well known. There are surveys showing that large numbers of college students view ‘avoiding offense’ as more important than free speech. There are on-line mob attacks, and sometimes physical-world mob attacks, against those with dissident views. College students who do hold such dissident views often feel they must keep those views to themselves, and this is increasingly true in the business world as well. Americans have become tolerant of bullying bureaucrats and of virtually unlimited discretion on the part of prosecutors. There is surprisingly little concern about the shadow thrown on free speech by the murderous threats (and sometimes actions) of radical Islamists: draw a cartoon that offends them, and you may have to go into hiding.
So my question for today is: What factors are driving the devaluation of freedom in America today, and what can be done about it?