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Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to the governor of Pennsylvania in 1775, wrote,  "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

The quote has been used over many years, interestingly, by a wide range of folks, all to support their particular ideological (dis)positions.

For a moment, though, please simply consider the sentence at its face value (as if it were an assertion made by any common wo/man, or perhaps, even yourself).

We all must find and strike a "balance" at which we are willing to sacrifice a bit of our personal liberty/freedom in exchange for a modicum of safety.  For instance:
  • Speeding up to beat the train at the railroad crossing?
  • Marrying this guy (with money) or that guy (who makes me laugh)?
  • Purchasing the sedan or the pick-up or the jeep?
  • Staying in this job (that dependably feeds my family and my creditors) or launching my own business (that would feed my passion)?
The list of these kinds of moral, ethical, and financial gambits goes on and on.  They almost always entail a degree of trade-off between freedom and safety.  We make those calculations daily, in both small matters and large.  

The real problem, in my view, surfaces when someone else usurps my freedom to make those choices.  It does not matter to me how noble or worthy their intentions.  If they presume to commandeer my liberty and make those choices on my behalf, they have robbed me of something just as important as liberty or safety - my dignity.  

That sends me into a state of imbalance, which I detest.

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