Political Viewpoint

Land of the Free and Home of the Brave

In this article, we show that safety regulations benefit us a lot less than people think. We should not sacrifice our precious freedom for so little benefit.

Government regulations are often advocated to make us safer. Each safety regulation requires us to give up some freedom for safety. The added safety can sometimes prevent tremendous bodily harm or death. So we are told that safety is the supreme value, while freedom is a luxury to be sacrificed.

In America, this supremacy of safety over freedom has led to many regulations over the past one hundred years. Seat belt laws take away our decision to control our safety ourselves. Some states require motor vehicle inspections that cause motorists to incur repair bills out of proportion to the safety benefit. City parks disallow entry after dark because someone decided they can make decisions about your safety better than you can. Airport security subjects passengers to unusual screening measures. The regulations are endless. Our national anthem says we are “the land of the free and the home of the brave”, but we have become the land of the regulated and home of the protected.

New regulations are constantly pushed to make us yet safer. Each mass shooting leads to a media firestorm of attention to the issue of gun violence along with calls for more gun regulations. Government surveillance increases with each decade. These and other measures are on a slow and steady march to more government powers, less individual rights, and less freedom. The justification is always the alleged increases in safety.

Many Americans know, at an instinctive level, that we should not give up our freedom for more and more safety. But safety advocates argue the supreme importance of terrible injuries and lives lost. If we say that freedom is supremely important, then safety advocates will argue that safety is supremely important. How can we argue that freedom is more important than safety, when we cannot logically weigh an amount of freedom against an amount of safety?

But we can in fact weigh freedom against safety in a logical way. We have to start by looking at the overall nature of our lives. First we grow old and then we die. The best way to cope with these difficult realities is to ignore them while pursuing personal goals and seeking happiness. Nearly all of us will die at an old age of heart attack, stroke, cancer, or another result of the aging process. Government regulations will not stop us from growing old, nor will they save us from eventual death, nor are they likely to determine how and when we die. Add up the health and safety benefits of all the many safety regulations (except laws against murder, homicide, rape, and theft). The benefits add up to very little. So why should we sacrifice our precious freedom for so little benefit?

The founding fathers understood the importance of freedom. That is why the license plate of the state of New Hampshire says “Live free or die.” Patrick Henry said “Give me liberty or give me death.” Thus, the founders thought freedom was more important than any amount of safety. Yet today, as the pale shadows of the founders, we give up our freedom for only a little bit of safety. In doing so, we dishonor the great sacrifices of the founders and other freedom fighters over history. Let us repeal the regulations and become the land of the free and home of the brave.