Individual choice makes people free. Choices give alternatives and flexibility. We want to be able to pick and choose what we think is best for ourselves and our children. We want to make the final decision. We want every opportunity to live life by our own rules. We hate being told what to do. If we wanted a dull, choiceless life, we would simply live with our parents under their rules for the rest of our lives. But that is not what freedom is about. Freedom is independence and self-responsibility. It is about individuals making their own decisions about their own bodies, lives and future. We want the ability to choose where to work, where to buy a home, what stores to patronize, and how to retire — all with an equal responsibility to make certain no one is physically harmed by our choices. This is our American heritage — decisions being made by the individual affected instead of by neighbors, pressure groups, lobbyists or central authorities. To choose is to give everyone the ability to make decisions. Without choice, only a selected few have that ability.
Unfortunately, the concept of freedom has suffered recently. Many have forgotten what it means. All too often, centralizing authorities make choices for citizens and disguise their control by offering “free” services — medical, housing, food, etc. — to be funded by people who may or may not ever use these services. Governments then place more controls on those who receive the freebies, in a futile attempt to stop waste and fraud. Taxpayers are forced to pay more into the mandatory system, and the beneficiaries are saddled with more draconian laws. The individual is no longer independent to make choices, but must seek permission from governmental bodies — bureaucratic committees, boards, councils, etc. — which mainly seek more control, money and power. Freedom dies, the economy falls, and society becomes corrupt.
Free choice allows people to be autonomous, self-governing and self-reliant. It permits everyone to enjoy the successes of life or to experience the agony of mistakes. Freedom is the ability to mold our lives into our own creations and to seek out what we believe is best for ourselves and the world. Any other way would make us enslaved to the compulsory control of others, which is the antithesis of independence and individual liberty.
This article is from a series of short opinion pieces written by L.K. Samuels during the late 1990s and early 2000s as chair of the Libertarian Party of Monterey County and later as the Northern Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007)