While traveling back from Bridgewater, VA on Sunday, for some reason I began to think about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech. For those who don’t recall, these four freedoms are: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. As he put it in his State of the Union address on Jan. 6, 1941:
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants–everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
To that new order we oppose the greater conception — the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.
Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change — in a perpetual peaceful revolution — a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions — without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.
This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.
To that high concept there can be no end save victory.
The first two freedoms he addresses have a constitutional basis as they are both found in the first amendment. The second two, however, cannot be found anywhere in that document. I began to think a good bit about the third freedom, the freedom from want. What do I really want? Like most citizens, I have my own version of the American Dream, things that I want to both have and accomplish within my lifetime. As they are all great desires of mine, they are all very important and therefore list order is irrelevant.
1. Own my own home. (Preferably in a small city, the suburbs, or a town.)
2. Find a faithful and moral woman to love and marry. (If possible one who shares my passions.)
3. Publish a novel or, ideally, several novels.
4. Promote my political ideology in a meaningful way. Although I can accomplish this task in many ways, at some point in my life, I hope to run for public office.
5. Find employment that combines my love of politics and my zeal for writing.
Some might say that this list is simplistic, and indeed it may be. I do not seek great riches, to be showered by fame, or to hold immense power and even though I would not shun these outcomes, for me happiness, true happiness, lies in the statements above. Now are these wants of mine needs as well? No, of course not. My life will go on as it always has regardless if I accomplish all, some, or none of these goals. They are my ambitions, far removed from my basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter.
But wait Joshua, you say, according to the dictionary want could mean need. Even if this definition is the one President Roosevelt intended, my point remains the same. If you are in need, should you expect the government to morph into a charity? Unfortunately, the bread and circuses provided by the government are not true charity, but coercion, as they are not paid for willingly and freely. Considering you as a private citizen cannot legally rob your neighbor to aid yourself, why should we allow the government to do so? I say it is high time to return charity to the private section. After all, a population that relies on their government to satisfy either their wants or needs is not the master of their government but its servant.
So should I, like FDR suggested those many years ago, rely on the government to free me from my wants (or needs)? And can the government give me what I truly desire? First of all, can the government offer me these items? Sure, the government can build me a home with little or no cost to myself. The government through laws and strong-arm tactics could force some woman to marry me. Via grants and new agencies, the government could publish my novels. If we allowed the government to control the job market, I’m sure that they could find or create a position ideal to my specific situation. But, assuming that we gave the government all this power, all the power to take away and satisfy our list of wants, would we really be happy? More importantly, would we be free? And once all our basics wants are completed, is it not human nature to seek even greater ones? Sooner or later, will we become selfish and corrupt if we take far more than we need and could ever use? The unanswered question is what do we have to give up in exchange for this freedom from want? If we rely on the government to remove our wants or our needs, do we not shackle ourselves both economically and liberty wise to it? Citizens will become perfectly equal, but we all will be equally enslaved. It is the dream of a socialist and not an American. Borrowing a quote from Gerald Ford from 1974, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”
Although God could take away our wants, he chooses not to, and I believe that want is a basic motivation for humankind, which gives us the drive to go beyond our simple needs. If you were to offer a single person or even a group of people a power which could solve this want problem, I would greatly fear that they could use that power, as Gerald Ford suggests, to unjustly deprive us of our rights, our property, our liberty, and even our very lives. Therefore, I must reject this so called freedom from want. Both a free and an enslaved people have wants, but it is not the proper or constitutional role of our, or any, government to free us from them. Although I could go on further, especially to discuss the fourth freedom, freedom from fear, we must save those issues for another day.