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A very brief essay on American government: what is a “democratic republic” and what is “freedom”?

2021-01-14
photo by Wynn Pointaux courtesy of pixabay.com

The US is a “democratic republic” in theory. A “republic” is a country ruled by written laws, not run by personal leaders like kings or dictators. A “democratic” country is one that elects its leaders through periodic, ideally secret, voting; the leaders who receive a majority of votes are chosen to represent the people in governing bodies.

What is “freedom” under the law?

Certain written rules make a “democratic republic” a free country. The rules that limit the power of the government are set out in the Constitution or bodies of law. Such rules include, in our Constitution, freedom of speech, freedom of association, the right to petition peaceably for redress of grievances, and the right to worship (or not) in the religion of one’s choice (with the prohibition of government from favoring or restricting any particular religion.) One unwritten rule is that the majority of the people, through their government, cannot restrict the rights of minorities to exercise their freedoms.

Additional written rules characterize the United States as a nation with voting rights for all people who have reached adulthood, automatic citizenship for everyone born within the country, equal protection of the laws, and a prohibition from holding government office to people who have advocated or performed acts of sedition (defined as violent attempts to overthrow the government.)

The right to keep and bear arms– not within an organized militia, but on your own.

The US has enshrined certain unique laws within its written and interpreted (by the Supreme Court) Constitution. One of these, possibly the most unique, is the right of all adults who have not been convicted of felony acts (violent or nonviolent) or certain violent misdemeanors (specifically acts of intrafamily violence known as spouse abuse) to possess and carry in public certain relatively small firearms.

Restrictions upon this right to possess firearms are few in this day and age and include certain weapons that could be construed as “weapons of war” or those that may confer “unfair” advantages upon the possessor. Thus, automatic weapons (those that fire multiple cartridges with a single press of the trigger) and weapons that incorporate noise reducers, known colloquially as “silencers.”

Restrictions upon specific types of firearms vary from state to state. For example, “silencers” (or “suppressors” more accurately, since a silencer merely reduces the very loud noise of a firearm to more tolerable levels rather than silencing it) are broadly prohibited in the state of California but not in many other states.

Limitations upon firearms vary even more. Automatic weapons are not completely prohibited in most states, but regulated by very large taxes that dramatically reduce their availability to the general public. Even ordinary firearms generally are expensive, making the possession of a firearm that is more effective at killing more of a luxury than it would otherwise be.

What is wrong with “freedom” in the US?

The upshot of “freedom to carry a firearm” is that poor people can only afford knives. Freedom comes at great financial cost. Wealth in a capitalist society brings more “freedom.” This is the ugly truth behind American worship of “freedom.”

True freedom means personal responsibility, not the license to impose your opinions on others. That is what too many right-wing people don’t understand: your freedom does not mean that you can impose your ideas of what is right and wrong upon other people. That is what is wrong with the 40% of people who ascribe to the notion that they are “Christian conservatives”: they want to use government to limit the freedoms of other people who don’t agree with them.

What about freedom in other countries?

This essay will be expanded at a later date, and the title will be changed to alert readers of new material.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 2021-01-16 11:10 AM

    Reblogged this on Becoming is Superior to Being and commented:
    Blogging allows one to cross paths with other bloggers. I learned about Conrad Theodor Seitz this morning while reading Dan Wall’s posting, “Religious Freedom.” — kenne

    Liked by 1 person

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