Story: I was involved in local water politics about 10 years ago. Because our aquifer is in serious overdraft, the county board of supervisors wanted to monitor how much water large private wells were pumping. The outrage provoked by this notion was such that supervisors were forced to close the meeting discussing it, and be escorted to safety by police, to protect them from the mob. Apparently there is an unshakeable belief that the water pumped from a private well is “owned”, as if each landowner has a discrete source of water beneath his property unconnected to anyone else’s, and that the Government is trying to Regulate Private Property. The proposal was never brought up again.
I have been puzzling over this for a long time. Conservatives seem to place an enormous importance on what they call “freedom”, but I have never figured out what they mean by it.
I am sincere, here. If you asked me what I understand “freedom” to mean, as a broad value, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. It seems to me that once you have a relationship with anyone, whether as child, parent, member of a tribe, neighborhood, town, country, or if you even own a pet goldfish, your “freedom” to do just exactly as you wish is going to be impeded by your obligations and responsibilities. Rules, regulations, and laws being mere codifications of such things.
When I think of “freedom” I mostly think of the freedom to say what I wish (freedom of speech, freedom of the press), and move where I like, and the freedom from needing to protect myself personally from being robbed, raped, shot, or eaten by cannibals (related to freedom of movement).
But to conservatives, it seems it is a word that stands for a whole lot more than the above. It’s used in sentences in which you could substitute “Ultimate Goodness”, yet in reality freedom is very limited for those who don’t live as hermits in completely uninhabited regions. It is odd because most of the right wing people I know are at least as enmeshed in and dedicated to their relationships as any liberal, if not more so. They tend to be very civic minded and neighborly people, in my experience.
It would be easy to say, well duh they’re just stupid and/or evil, but that has not been my usual experience on an individual basis. Maybe on message boards, but not personally.