Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Golden Rule of Freedom

Over 500 hits in less than a month. Maybe this blog thing actually has some merit...

The first seven years of my life were spent in the Soviet Union. It then proceeded to fall apart around me (almost literally - my mom had the lucky idea of taking me and my sister to St. Petersburg for the last week of August). After that came the wilderness years, less obvious in Small Country than they were in Russia certainly, but still a strange period where nobody was exactly sure what they were doing.

All through that time - what I agree to call my childhood - the beacon of perfection has been America. The City Upon the Hill, although I didn't learn of the term until much later, was an important factor. People in America seemed to lead perfect lives - I was raised on Saved By The Bell (and had a huge crush on Tiffany Amber Thiessen, but then who didn't?). More importantly, America was in my mind the land of equality, of opportunity and of freedom. I was taught a principle to live by, a principle that was supposed to be the foundation of all that is great about America:

Your freedom stops at the tip of my nose.

As time went on, I learned better; I found out that America is not the greatest place on Earth. When I was 19, I spent a month in Southern California and decided that America was not even particularly good. But I still remembered that principle, and I still consider it to be one of the cornerstones of a perfect state.

It is every bit as applicable as the Golden Rule of ethics, but much more objective; while every person has a unique opinion on what they wouldn't want done to them, the restriction of freedom to a space unoccupied by the freedoms of others is not subject to interpretation.

I can appreciate the argument that it doesn't work; and despite Small Country being fiercely individual and never destined for Scandinavian-type socialism, I still believe that there is a use for a strong government, that it can do some things - like infrastructure, education, and yes, healthcare, much better than if it was privately run. But the only reason that the Golden Rule of Freedom cannot replace civil restrictions is because you can't get everybody to stick to it.

I was young, and foolish, and I thought that's what they did in America. I'm less young now, and a slight bit less foolish, but it remains an ideal of mine.

Alas, ideals are not meant to come true.

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