I was watching BookTV on C-Span 2 today, because I’m a current affairs as well as history and political junky. Whose interested in things besides celebrity culture and technology. If that offends you too bad. And I was watching a presentation from Tom Allen who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997-2009. He and Chuck Hagel who served in the Senate from that same period actually came to Congress the same year and left the same year. Without ever serving in the same chamber, just a little food for thought. And Representative Allen has a new book about the broken U.S. Congress about why he believes Congress is not working and so-forth.
And I’m not going to focus on Congress in this blog. I only mention that because in his presentation, Tom Allen was talking about the need to balance individualism and freedom with community and responsibility. Professor Noam Chomsky in this presentation talks about the need for community. Basically arguing that someone paying taxes to fund public education, might not see a direct benefit from that. But those taxes probably funded their education and so-forth that we pay taxes that funds what we need. Directly by also what we’ve used in the past. Take education, or what we’ll be consuming in the future. Like Social Security or Medicare and perhaps Unemployment Insurance. And all of that is true, but my argument is that with out individual freedom and individualism we wouldn’t have the resources to fund those programs. Or not enough money to fund those programs.
Liberal democracy at it’s best recognizes the need for individual freedom, individualism, individual responsibility and community as well. That we won’t do very well if we are lacking in just one of those areas. That freedom becomes too expensive if we constantly have to subsidize the bad decisions of others. Or when we can’t profit from the good decisions that we make, that we should subsidize success, but that there also has to be consequences that we have to deal with when we mess up. But also an opportunity to work our ways out of those failures.
So that’s exactly what individual freedom and responsibility and community are about. That we are all part of the same society that empowers us to be successful. But then with what we do with those opportunities is up to us and when we do well, we are rewarded. But when we don’t do well we have to deal with the consequences of those decisions. But then there’s an opportunity for us to survive. And get ourselves on our feet.
So liberal democracy at it’s best and I believe at its core, is a national system not necessarily Federal. But a system and philosophy where we all have the freedom to live our own lives. As long as we are not hurting innocent people with what we are doing. And that we are rewarded when we do well, but also have to deal with the consequences of our good and bad decisions. But when we do mess up there’s a community that helps us get ourselves up on our two feet. Which is individual freedom and responsibility to go along with community.