The slow death of American freedom - Macleans.ca
 

The slow death of American freedom

The U.S. anthem no longer rings true. By many key measures, the ‘land of the free’ is badly falling behind the rest of the world.


 
Tattered American flag flies after Hurricane Sandy. (Education Images/UIG/Getty Images)

Tattered American flag flies after Hurricane Sandy. (Education Images/UIG/Getty Images)

Francis Scott Key, the man who named the United States “the land of the free and the home of the brave”, owned six slaves. Granted, this was extremely common in the early 1800s. But Key, a public prosecutor, actually worked very hard to maintain slavery in America.

When a Quaker wrote in an abolitionist newspaper “There is neither mercy nor justice” for African Americans in Washington, Key indicted him for trying to “vilify the good name” of the ruling class. He argued that even a public discussion of abolishing slavery was “wickedness”. The “land of the free” was a gross exaggeration.

Nonetheless the phrase caught on. Throughout the last 200 years, Americans have viewed their homeland as a bastion of personal liberty. The Pilgrims, the Boston Tea Party, the Wild West, Wall Street—every thread in the national story is spun from tales of independence, of individual freedom and opportunity.

But, over the years, and quietly, America has fallen behind the rest of the world, and without even noticing, its citizens have become much less free in comparison.

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The annual “Human Freedom Index”, a joint publication of the Fraser Institute, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and the Cato Institute, considers 79 different indicators of personal and economic freedom. These days the United States doesn’t even make the top 10. In fact, it trails countries like Poland and Finland.

This index gives the U.S. a particularly low score for the rule of law. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Americans are the second most imprisoned people in the world. They are five times more likely to find themselves in prison than a citizen of China or Canada. To put these numbers in context, the only other countries, which are remotely close to the U.S. rate of imprisonment, are all ruled by notorious dictators, including Turkmenistan and Rwanda.

And those dire numbers are nothing compared to the incarceration rates of African Americans. They are jailed five times more frequently than whites. And while levels of drug use are the same for both whites and blacks, the imprisonment rate for the latter is six times worse. Incredibly, as a result one in four African American men will end up in jail at some point in their lifetime.

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One of the most startling violations of individual liberty is the growing use of “civil forfeiture”. This is the official euphemism for the ability of police to legally seize money or assets from people they merely suspect of having committed a crime. No trial. No evidence. No guilty verdict. This is so widely used that the annual value of police seizures now exceeds everything stolen by criminals. In many states, this revenue is now paying for a sizeable portion of police budgets. Although it is increasingly seen as unconstitutional and several states have begun to repeal the practice, this week Attorney General Jeff Sessions signed an order actually encouraging law enforcement to seize private property more often.

The Human Freedom Index also gives the United States very low marks for “freedom of movement”. While the road trip remains an elemental part of the American Dream, foreign travel is considerably restricted. Last month President Donald Trump imposed new travel bans for Americans wanting to visit Cuba. This week North Korea was added. The list of countries off limits to American businesses is much longer.

In terms of broader economic freedom, the Heritage Foundation’s separate Index of Economic Freedom ranks the land of opportunity as only 17th globally. The annual report cites the growing amount of regulations and red tape faced by American entrepreneurs. The World Bank agrees. Its “Doing Business” report, an annual measurement of the barriers faced by businesses, ranks the United States 51st for the ease of starting a new business. (By comparison, Canada is listed as 2nd.)

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And, with a president who declared the media “the enemy of the people”, perhaps it is not surprising that Reporters Without Borders now ranks America 43rd in the world for press freedom. American journalists are not protected by laws to shield their sources. Intelligence agencies have increased surveillance of the media. And journalists are having their phones and laptops seized at the border.

In 1814, when Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner, perhaps (white) Americans enjoyed more freedom than anyone else on earth. But that is no longer true. The title “land of the free” has become a truism that has masked an ugly reality: the United States is now among the more restrictive countries in the western world. And with a new authoritarian president, this looks like it is only going to get worse. The anthem may need updating.

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The slow death of American freedom

  1. All that ‘free and brave’ stuff was a Hollywood invention, never reality.

    America was born and raised in fantasy.

  2. Soon the Globalist Cultural Marxists will kill any semblance of freedom.

    • Is this your Lizard People theory again?

  3. Again, Gilmore fails to grasp the irony of being a rabidly vocal anti-Trumpist, when the Trump administration has manged to repeal some 860 regulations in 180 days, or close to 5 per day. In contrast, the Obama admin added several hundred thousand pages of new federal regulations against the American people in his 8 years.
    More irony. Gilmore, having openly expressed a desire for a more “progressive” form of government in Canada, i.e one that is more regulatory and confiscatory, yet managing to write an article decrying the dismantling of liberty in America by the cancerous lesion of untammeled government. Did you get into the rum, Gilmore? You do realize that the kind of “Red Tory/Liberal” government you constantly yammer about being in love with is exactly the kind of government that destroys liberty and freedom, don’t you?

    • Well said. The red toryism Gilmore advocates went over like a lead balloon with his new conservative party/vanity talking tour.

      There is a reason that the Conservatives have a rock solid 30% of popular opinion. A third of Canadians don’t like this never ending move to the left on social issues. When the Conservatives have a solid leader who can prevent a reasonable fiscal platform they can make up the difference to win power. Hopefully Andrew Scheer can do that.

  4. The Clintons “built” the private prison system in the United States, with their so-called “criminal justice” reforms in the nineties, to fill them up with all of Hillary’s super-predators, which also disenfranchised them.

    After all, it was Al Gore who dug up Willie Horton in 1988.

  5. Finally, a glimmer of truth from the lying mainstream media! The article doesn’t even go into other messy indicators of lost freedom of Americans…. and, sadly, Canadians, too. Like, the gestapo humiliation that travellers are subjected to at our airports. Like the fact that 90+% of US communications media is owned by just 6 mega-corporations, thus homogenizing what passes as ‘news.’ And like the tyranny of political correctness that severely stifles the expression of any views that ‘offend’ this or that little cubbie-hole of the Left… and that challenges the gate-keepers of ‘reality.’

  6. The second amendment was enshrined to ensure that citizens could be empowered to form militias and oppose tyrannical governments.

    Then the governments had muskets and cannons.

    Today our governments have drones, killer robots and electronically spy on every aspect of our lives.

    Those who intend to oppress us are pleased that we have grown comfortable in our velvet chains.

    • Militias were run by the govt to defend against invaders.

      No one is trying to oppress you

      • I told you what you are. Weak, stupid and ugly inside. You are part of the problem.

        Militia: a body of citizens organized in a paramilitary group and typically regarding themselves as defenders of individual rights against the presumed interference of the federal government.

        • Nope sorry. They were meant to come together as a national army in a time of need, since the young US couldn’t afford a professional full-time standing army.

          Nothing to do with attacking your own govt.

          • A WEAK argument is supported by a STUPID denial of a textbook definition in a feeble attempt to satisfy an UGLY ego.

          • It’s not an argument at all……..simply factual.

  7. “And, with a president who declared the media “the enemy of the people”…….” His issue isn’t with all media just those who are highly biased left wing organs-like CNN, MSNBC and can’t get over that Hillary lost and he won. They will do anything to try to bring him down. The distortions these networks tout and the biases they show are despicable.
    His administration certainly isn’t growing new regulations, it’s ridding America of all those ugly, business destroying ones that Obama enacted.

  8. Sorry, I have to ask:
    Would you rather live in China, Cuba, Venezuela, or many other countries where you’d be in prison right now for expressing your ideas?
    Do you admire these socialist dictatorships as our current PM does & his father did?
    What country is the most sought after for new immigrants?
    How is it that Canada has such a relatively small military & such rich social programs, & “free” medical care?
    Hint, it’s because we live next to the USA. We’d all have been speaking Russian a long time ago if it wasn’t the case.
    The concept of “freedom” is relative & evolving, as it should be.

    • 200 countries to live in….most of them not as barbaric as the US

      • MOST of them NOT as barbaric? F—, you’re stupid.

        • Norway? France? Germany?

          Skipped geography class eh?

          • Three out of 300 is most.
            Proggy logic.

          • I didn’t make a list, I just gave examples

          • “I didn’t make sense, I just gave excuses”
            Fixed it for ya.

          • Your Lizard roots are showing.

    • If the author was making the claim that China, Cuba and Venezuela were more free than the US, then your point would be valid. But he didn’t, he only compared the US, with respect to the Human Freedom Index, to Poland and Finland; so you argument completely falls flat.

  9. Mr. Gilmore. For sake of space – I’m going to just look at the Press Freedom Index you mention in the article. Other’s can address the Human Freedom Index if they feel so inclined.

    “The Press Freedom Index is an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by Reports Without Borders based upon the organization’s own assessment of the countries’ press freedom records in the PREVIOUS YEAR”. I added the CAPITALS for emphasis. Get it? The 2017 ranking is based on 2016 data.

    This means that the USA’s current ranking is based on Obama’s tenure. Now, if we go back to 2009, Obama’s first year in office — the USA was ranked 20th. This means under Obama’s tenure the USA fell from 20th to 43rd — or 23 indices. This corresponds with the largest drop in USA history. Under no other president has the USA fell so many indices. Sorry — it’s the facts and I’m using your own references.

    So — now we have a level set. Under Trump the Press Freedom Index starts in 43rd place.

  10. .America was never ‘free’

    The constitution was signed by slave owners.

    The land was taken from the natives

    People were forced into staying with the ‘union’

    Citizens were drafted into a military and sent to foreign countries under the orders of that ‘union’

    And today…..people go to Starbucks with AK 47s slung over their shoulders, go to the grocery store armed, while worrying about being caught in some cross-fire……and send their toddlers to school wondering if they’ll be blown apart by the end of the day.

    The country is always ‘at war’ with some enemy…..real or imaginary.

    America was never free.

    • Going with that logic, you owe me reparations.

      Your Leftist brethren stole my great grandpa’s family homestead when your Bolsheviks revolted.
      Pay up.

  11. The media is the enemy of the people when they print fake news and conspire to lie to the people and attempt to manipulate elections, as you all clearly and without any subtlety did during and since the US election. Macleans was front and centre among them like a proud brown shirt smashing windows and starting riots with your lies and social indoctrination.

    You are the voice of your corporate masters with a mandate to sell weapons and perpetuate the endless wars which Orwell predicted in 1984, you do not speak for us and we do not believe your propaganda.

    • By colluding with corrupt government and industrialist establishments the media manipulates censorship and propaganda to achieve the desired delusion of the masses.

      As our technology empowers free democratic speech, efforts to censor are redoubled.

      In a case of free speech vs hate speech the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that the truth is no defence. Do you understand that? What the establishment says is final. Speaking truth to power is illegal here.

      We are not winning yet.