Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Everyone DOESN'T want freedom

One of the most wrongheaded notions of neoconservatives and those influenced by their ideas, including President Bush and Rush Limbaugh is that everyone wants freedom. Or, as Rush puts it, "the natural yearning of the human heart is for freedom." Nonsense, I say.

Consider the story out of Afghanistan of a man who has been sentenced to death for being a Christian. I could have sworn that all the terrorism and violence in the Middle East was caused by a few evil dictators, and that democracy would end that all. How could this happen? This couldn't have anything to do with Islam, could it?

Of course it could. Terrorism and lack of religious freedom are the products of ideology, specifically Islamic ideology. They are not the products of economic conditions or a lack of democracy. In fact, democracy is the product of certain cultural characteristics, including willingness to tolerate those you disagree with. Imposing different government structures will not change these underlying cultural factors, at least not much.

Democracy also requires a basic support for freedom amongst the people. But does this actually exist? This is one of the many instances where confusion results from ambiguous meaning. What does it mean to say that everyone wants freedom? If all it means is that people don't like getting raped and tortured, then this is certainly true. But how much freedom do people really want? If people really want lots of freedom, it's hard to explain why they put up with a government that takes half their money. Programs like Social Security that take your money by force and then give some of it back couldn't exist if people didn't support them. Examining many examples throughout history shows that the amount of freedom that people want is fairly limited.

There is another ambiguity. Ponder this: Did Saddam Hussein want freedom? Presumably, he didn't want other people telling him what to do, right? By now, the problem should be clear. There is a big difference between wanting freedom for yourself and wanting freedom for everyone. Lots of people who don't want anyone telling them what to do have no problem with wanting to tell other people what to do. Unfortunately, only a relative handful of conservatives and libertarians really want freedom for everyone. But this is what is required for a "democracy" to last.

Otherwise, people will soon discover that they can rob their neighbors at the ballot box. Then government power and spending will grow larger and larger until government either collapses or becomes tyrannical. That's how the Weimar republic, a democracy, collapsed. Unfortunately, we are heading down the same road.


Dan said...

I have to somewhat disagree. I personally believe that inherently, everyone wants freedom. However, when you have something down the road that alters that, then it's a different story. The problem over there is so engrained in the culture that there's little we can do. The president of Iran believes it's his God given job to wipe Israel off the map. This makes him someone we cannot negotiate with. And this is just one example of one person.

Eric Statler said...

I am going to disagree as well. I believe that everyone wants to be free. However, I will agree with Allan on the point that culturally, Islam in the Middle East is anti-democratic. That does not mean that democracy and freedom do not stand a chance in that region, however. It will definitely take a LONG LONG time for the Middle East to change its culture.

I believe that to make America safe from Islamic Naziism (spelling?), we have to fight the Islamic Nazis with our military. We have been doing that successfully, but there are still a great many more terrorists/Islamic Nazis out there. Also, we have to fight and defeat the IDEA of Islamic Naziism. To fight an idea, you use another idea. I believe the ideas of freedom and democracy could prove successful in fighting the idea of Islamic Naziism.

Matthew Moss said...

Remember that in Afghanistan there is an entire generation that grew up knowing only of War. That mentality can seriously warp your thinking and we'll probably have to have years of peace and democracy before they realize how good they have it now, compared to the Taliban.

Anonymous said...

You are off your rocker Allan. I will concede one point though- democracy has an uphill battle to fight in any Islamic nation. After being theocratic for so long, it's hard to implement a radically new idea in such a short amount of time. I don't remember exactly what the criteria for stability in new democracies is generally, but I believe it's three successful, consecutive elections. Iraq and Afghanistan have a long way to go, but hopefully, it can be done, lest the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan fight and die in vain.
Furthermore, claiming that terrorism is a product of Islamic ideology is just wrong. If the terrorists said "Warmongering is a product of Western ideology, especially American ideology. Democracy breeds fascism," would that be accurate? Of course not, but it's perception. You seem to think that terrorists for some reason are ONLY Muslims. There are two problems with this. First, the only Muslims that are rioting in the streets and killing people and burning Bush in effigy are the EXTREME Muslims. Moderate, literalist Muslims do not viciously attack on command. Most cannot speak out about the atrocities committed by the extremists in their religion because of fear for their well-being. Second, Timothy McVeigh, ALF, and ELF (and PETA, more and more) prove that terrorism is not confined to any particular religion.
You can't make such broad generalizations about an enormous amount of people and expect to be accurate and convincing.
Wise up sir.

Andrea M. said...

I guess I'll be the third to say I disagree. The sentence "Terrorism and lack of religious freedom are the products of ideology, specifically Islamic ideology." is rather bias. Its very obvious that certain members of Islam are fundamentalist, but at the same time, we have to examine the rest of the varied group that makes up Islam.
I also have to disagree on your comment that "only a relative handful of conservatives and libertarians really want freedom for everyone". I think all Americans want freedom for everyone. If only those handful of people want freedom for everyone, what does everyone else want?

A.J. said...

So, we should completely dump Social Security as a whole? I'm not so sure that's practical, or even smart.