Monday, June 22, 2009

Money =/= Freedom

Kris Kristofferson once wrote that "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose."

Truer words were never written. To be truly free, as any Buddhist, even Jesus Christ himself, would tell you, requires surrendering all your worldly possessions in search of your soul.

Sadly...we live in a different world. So we've created this false front: to be free takes money. The more money, the more freedom.

And believe it or not, there's some truth here, too. If you accept the rules of this game, then you need at least as much money as it takes in order to satisfy your needs. Above that, you start to get greedy, and the rules of humanity start to ebb away, as I wrote last week.

Paradoxically, then, you become less free with the more money you have. You have to pay taxes, of course, because goodness knows enough people are greedy enough that if they have one dollar and their neighbor has none, they wouldn't dare give him fifty cents or even a quarter and the country needs roads and bridges and police and firefighters and doctors and so on.

Freedom is a life lived without responsibility except those you personally accept as your own. The greedy anti-tax crowd would tell you that taxes are unacceptable, but they are the price for living in this "free" society. You accept them.

There comes a point, however, when more money can buy you a sort of freedom. It is at this point that you can buy freedom from politicians.

You see, power, like money, is not freedom. The social construct of power is that you have a duty to those over whom you exercise power, to protect them, and to look out for them.

Indeed, the great cognitive dissonance of American politicians is to reconcile taking money from the powerful and repudiating the powerless, all while trying to secure enough votes of the powerless in order to remain in power.

Last week I wrote about rational markets, about how in theory markets are effective only when everyone has equal access to information.

But look around you. This isn't happening. Right now, you're ingesting all sorts of chemical crap with your food because the USDA has not required food processors (you can't really call them anything but) to clearly label foods as genetically modified, say, or to even fully disclose when they've screwed up in packaging a product, unless it creates a public health crisis.

You'd think this doesn't matter, but when genetic modifications of food require the E. Coli bacteria to express genetic traits like herbicide resistance into crops, and there's a spike in E. Coli outbreaks...well, let's just say a bunch of Messicans didn't stop washing their hands suddenly.

And that's just one instance of what goes on under the table that you don't know about. For example, did you know the African wheat crop was being wiped out? Is it any coincidence that this is happening just as the attention of the GM folks has turned to wheat?

Wheat, corn, rice, cotton...these are all staplec crops of the American consumer.

Are we free? I'd argue not, not so long as tinkering with this basic kind of crop can go on under our noses and we are not kept apprised of it.