Freedom for Sale

August 9, 2012

Current Events, Financial

Are we slowly selling away our freedoms?

“Giving up freedom is the only way to save money.” That’s the final statement from a recent National Public Radio (NPR) segment on auto insurance entitled “Car Insurers Eye Driving Skills To Set Prices.”

It’s a staggering statement, one that sends a shiver down your spine if you value the personal freedoms that America’s founding fathers envisioned for its citizens. Yet we seem, all to often, to be willing to sell our freedoms for a little money, security, or luxury.

Monitoring Driving Habits

In the NPR article, the freedom sold is the privacy of our driving habits. In order to calculate a more accurate and specific rate for each individual, one auto insurance company installs a monitoring device in your vehicle. They watch your driving habits for 30 days, and then give you a “personalized quote” that represents your unique habits.

On the surface, that sounds great. If I’m a good and careful driver, I should have a better rate than the guy who speeds down the road, whipping in and out of traffic like a manic. Even if we both are accident free for years, he is much more likely to have an accident than me. His driving is riskier than mine and our rates should reflect that, right?

Sure, but did you catch the underlying implications? In exchange for money (a lower rate), drivers are willingly allowing a company to watch them and monitor their actions and habits (installing a device in your car to track you).

By knowingly installing this device in your vehicle, you are effectively selling a small portion of your freedom. You’re selling your right to privacy.

It’s just a short leap to watching where you go and how long you stay there.

States Have Sold Freedoms For Years

This isn’t new, though, really. Individual states sold many of their freedoms years ago. That’s one way the federal government has grown and circumvented the inherent limitations placed on it by the constitution. How so?

The federal government’s role was designed to be limited to interstate concerns. The states have the right to govern themselves for matters that do not cross state lines. Yet the federal government likes to reach into states’ matters but it cannot legally.

Yet it can and does by controlling the purse strings.

For example, when the federal government wanted to standardize the maximum speed limit in all 50 states, it didn’t have the right to do it. But legislators didn’t give so easily. Instead, they put conditions on highway dollars traditionally given to states by the federal government. If a state wanted to receive funds from the federal government for road construction, they must adhere to the federal governments conditions. Thus a unified, national speed limit.

The same happened for the national drinking age, healthcare, etc. States have given up their rights in exchange for money. Now we have weakened state governments and a massive federal government.

Every little decision to give up a small portion of your rights takes you one step further along the path.

Shouldn’t Personal Freedoms Be Limited?

Ah, but you may argue that personal freedoms must be limited. We cannot have anarchy.

In many cases, I’d agree with you. My right to swing my fist through the air ends at your nose. I cannot do something that would harm another person. Or put another, exercising my freedoms cannot take away the freedoms of another person. Throwing a punch toward your face would certainly violate your freedoms.

Likewise, I cannot go into a crowded movie theater and scream “Fire!” at the top of my lungs. That would endanger others.

Personal freedoms are not a license to do any thing at any time. But we do have some “inalienable” rights and we must protect. We shouldn’t willingly give those rights away a little at a time for a few bucks here and there.

What’s your freedom worth? What’s your privacy worth to you?

What do you think: is installing a device to save a few bucks a good idea? 

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6 Comments on “Freedom for Sale”

  1. scrambo Says:

    I agree with what your saying, but somewhere in our society when we started producing more lawyers into the workforce than sweaters, it became a against the law to punch someone in the nose. The first amendment use to have a consequence that if you choose to offend someone’s honor be that a lady or a gentleman, the consequence was getting your nose bloodied. The judge new this and there would be no legal recourse for such honorable behavior. The action was justified and the first amendment was protected as was one’s honor. Today that is not the case and I contend that due to this change we have rendered the first amendment a carnival act that allows the most gross transgressions on society. If a gentleman was free to bloody the nose of those who choose to act profane and otherwise exhibit bad manners, this country would not be in the mess we find ourselves…willing to give up more freedom for some sense of civility. It is really quite pathetic.


  2. Stanley Morris Says:

    In many ways, I agree with you. We are living in an unprecedented nanny state. Back in 1964, The Readers Digest railed against the federal government’s prohibition on the use of a drug called laetril which was used to fight cancer. It was not available in the US, because the FDA said it was ineffective. We see now how the prohibition of other drugs has led to incredibly wealthy cartels only minutes from our borders.
    On the other hand, also back in the 1960’s, a teacher once observed that the most onus of governments to most people was their local government, because local governments have the most direct effect on people. Think zoning laws. And since the US was created, we have experienced many state governments that were totally corrupt and in the pockets of the wealthy or venal, from Tammany Hall in NY, to Huey Long in Louisiana. So it should come as no surprise that many times people have looked to the federal government to protect them from corrupt state governments. “Jim Crow” law are an obvious example. I hope that we have reached the zenith of the nanny state, but what I see are different groups of people wanting the nanny state to continue and to “improve” the nanny state, whether or not it’s the ant-abortion groups, the gun control groups, or the family values groups. As a rule, groups push for nanny states.


    • Joe Says:

      As always, a great point, Stanley.

      Do you believe that the primary onus of government is due to local municipalities still today? Or has the balance shifted to a federal level?

      You’re absolutely right. Many groups fight for the nanny state and want to see it expanded – giving up personal freedoms for the convenience of having the government do more for them.




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