Memorial Day: Remembering what our servicemen died for

Victor Joecks

On Memorial Day, we honor and remember the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have died protecting the United States. Their deaths have given us the freedom we have today.

Did they die in vain? Was — is — freedom worth defending?

That's not a rhetorical question. Many of our elected officials won't say it publicly, but their actions indicate that they don't believe in freedom.

Consider what the government has done recently. The federal government is now running General Motors, the Obama Administration has strong-armed Chrysler bondholders into taking less than they were lawfully entitled to, the government won't let banks return TARP money, and Congress is preparing to enact a de facto federal takeover of the health insurance market.

Many of our elected officials have taken or proposed these actions in an attempt to "correct" the flaws they see in freedom and its natural corollary, the free-market system.

Are there downsides to freedom? Sure. Consider that freedom:

  • Implies the freedom to fail
  • Guarantees unequal outcomes
  • Means the rich have better healthcare than the poor
  • Produces wild swings in the stock market
  • Allows others to do things you think are immoral, disgusting or stupid
  • Gives other people the ability to legally hurt you financially
  • Rewards greedy individuals
  • Means there are no sure things
  • Isn't free

So, hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines over the years have traded their lives to protect your right to fail, to achieve worse outcomes than others and to do stupid things. Did they, foolishly, trade their lives simply for a system that is now being corrected, out of necessity, by radical change?

The answer is no. The case for freedom, and the sacrifices it entails, starts with the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In addition to being a God-given, or natural, right, freedom comes with a number of strengths that are actually revealed by its weaknesses.

Without the freedom to fail, there would no ability to succeed — a point made well by the line from The Incredibles that if everyone is special, then no one is. And freedom allows — no, encourages — people to define success differently from one another. Financial measurements are not the only, or even the most important, metric of human achievement or satisfaction.

Without unequal outcomes, there would be no diversity. Freedom allows you to pursue your own interests and become different from anyone else in areas such as finance, religion, speech or even what you eat.

Without the rich paying more for new healthcare technology, there would be fewer innovations to benefit the lower and middle classes. Freedom creates an open system that allows anyone to choose his own doctor. In closed, socialized medicine systems, people often wait months to see a specialist, and bureaucrats can deny them life-saving treatment.

Without the fluctuations of the stock market, inefficient businesses would never go away. Imagine the traffic (and environmental) problems we would have if horses and buggies were still competing with cars.

Without the ability of others to do things that you think are immoral, disgusting or stupid, you would have no safeguard against someone else wishing to prevent you from doing things that he thought were immoral, disgusting or stupid.

Without the ability of others to choose to avoid your business, someone could choose where you purchased your groceries, car, clothes or home.

Without freedom, greedy individuals would have no other avenue than government through which to gain money or power. With freedom, greedy people can become rich through improving the lives of others by providing a good or service that people want to buy.

Without "sure things," like a caste system, people are able to improve their lot in life. Or choose not to.

Without the sacrifice of countless men and women, you wouldn't have the chance to reject freedom.

The American left has become overtly smug in recent months. To some, increased nationalization is a positive inevitability. President Obama recently silenced a Republican critic of the federal stimulus package simply by saying, "I won."

Obama did win an election and is using governmental authority to limit our individual liberties, but he can never take away our right to freedom.

And relying on that God-given right ­— freedom — and the liberties we have left, we can continue to do everything in our power to convince others that freedom is superior to the anti-freedom agenda of this President and this Congress.

Ideally, you would fight for freedom. But our servicemen and women have died to protect your right not to. And that's the way it ought to remain.

Victor Joecks is the deputy communications director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute.