At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is the little indignities, the small intrusions, and the almost imperceptible assaults that pose the greatest threat to American freedom. In the name of instituting homeland security, fighting the war on terrorism, protecting consumers, preserving the environment, educating our children, insuring economic efficiency, and establishing public safety we have endured little foxes nibbling away at our freedoms. Complaining about any one of these losses of dignity, privacy, or civil liberty seems more than a little cranky, uncooperative, and unreasonable. But it is in those little, seemingly insignificant freedoms that the genius of the American experiment in liberty may best be seen. Take them away and the entire fabric of our national credo is compromised.
The slow but steady erosion of basic everyday freedoms that we are all asked to endure at airports, in licensing bureaus, in regulatory offices, and in daily commerce and communications ought to concern us all. Even more though, we ought to think hard about the vision of common freedom that the American founders had in mind in order to find a way toward the recovery of that vision. The myriad of ways we tend to forfeit our freedoms everyday for the sake of not making a fuss or creating a hassle--in the realms of travel, health care, environmentalism, property ownership, communications, commercial transactions, education, business regulation, and taxation--have themselves become a kind of polite and civil bondage that portend far, far worse. Indeed, it is vital that we comprehend why bureaucracies naturally breed a culture of petty tyranny, why the rule of law is ultimately subverted by the collapse of moral standards, and how lascivious entertainment invariably portends the dissipation of personal as well as national liberty. The way to freedom is invariably messy, often noisy, and sometimes even irksome, but in this poor fallen world, it is that messy, noisy, and irksome process that matters most.