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The Difference between Freedom To and Freedom From

July 4th is my favorite holiday. While this may sound like Republican hyper-patriotic pandering, the rest of this column will explain what today’s political environment can learn from this day, as well as make an argument for what the Founders and colonists were truly fighting for that will go counter to mainstream conservative culture right now. If we shift our perspective using the following argument, we could change the current media discourse immeasurably for the better.

This nation was founded on freedom from the English monarchy. Colonists were fighting for freedom from tyranny; this is true. But it’s also true that oppression from that monarchy was relative to colonial society.

American colonials enjoyed the highest per capita income with the lowest tax rates in the civilized world at the time of the Revolution so they weren’t economically oppressed.

If you add the boundless opportunity stretched before them, the American colonies had among the highest quality of life standards in the world but felt that lifestyle was threatened beyond their control when taxes on literature through the use of stamps and tea through taxes on imported goods began to rise without their ability to have a say in the increases.

This led them to want freedom to preserve this way of life and establish it as something fundamentally American.


We could improve the national and local discourse if we focused on each issue in the context of preserving the freedom to do something rather than fighting for the freedom from something else.

Founding Father Patrick Henry embodied both these sentiments with two famous quotes.

The first was the freedom to do something which was to have a voice in government decisions, or as he repeated from James Otis, no “taxation without representation.'' The second which became the rallying cry for freedom from British rule, “give me liberty or give me death.”

If you are fighting for freedom from an entity, then you are accepting the context of a power struggle in which one side will always be succeeding over another.

The additional assumption behind this is that the weak remain in that marginalized state because of the strong and the strong perpetuate their superior positioning at the expense of the weak.

This idea of framing everything in the context of a power struggle is the greatest home court advantage someone arguing Marxist ideology can have. Marx thought capitalism is corrupt through the exploitation of the proletariat by separating labor from the means of production. The foundational lie at the heart of this philosophy is that the desired outcome is not about equality but rather about a reversal of power.

American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton recognized the futility of trying to solve problems of power imbalance when he said, “give all the power to the many, they will oppress the few. Give all the power to the few, they will oppress the many” (a quote that I couldn’t find a direct source to but that most of the internet attributes to him.)

In 1776, as a day-old nation, it was necessary to use language that brought people into the fight. From the narrow retreats out of Brooklyn and Manhattan to the offenses in Trenton and Yorktown, our forefathers knew what they were fighting from.

We are a different nation now. We are the envy of the world, 245 years old, who leads by example, who sets the tone, who stands up for what is right. Since we have no equal abroad, we turn to fighting the perceived enemy from within when we continue to perpetuate the “freedom from” mentality.

This rejection of the power struggle context is why I don’t view the Concurrent as a competitor to the Chronicle.

The ideas published in here are not a battle against a more established media outlet, fighting for freedom from their influence, but rather the freedom to fill a need I see in the county which is free access to contextualized news delivered via more multimedia platforms than simply print and online text.

President Ronald Reagan, whose last day in office was the day I was born, said freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. Some think this means we have to fight for it, and certainly brave men and women do.

But I think he was calling on some of us to preserve it, to preach the message that we are American, and that gives us the freedom to live our lives rather than perpetually fight for freedom from others.


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