My forthcoming book is The Limits of Liberalism, and I am happy to say that I have finished the manuscript except for some editing of the final chapters. But in this posting I am writing about the limits of liberty.
June (my wife) has long been involved with a parent education program marketed as Active Parenting, and one of their parenting principles is "freedom within limits," a significant slogan. (That is also the title of the third chapter of J. Melvin Woody's book Freedom's Embrace.) A proper emphasis on freedom or liberty always includes a concomitant emphasis on responsibility.
In my posting on September 23, I mentioned listening some to “talk radio.” Mark Levin is one of the commentators I hear for a few minutes each week on my way home from Rockhurst University where I teach on Thursday evenings. Levin is the author of Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, which has been on the bestseller lists since it publication in March of this year.
The liberty Levin writes and speaks (loudly and abrasively) about is partly freedom from what he thinks is excessive taxation. The first section of his “conservative manifesto” is about taxation—and his first appeal is for the elimination of the progressive income tax. Then under “7. Entitlements,” he admonishes: “Fight all efforts to nationalize the health-care system.”
Because of our responsibility to support the public good, we are not free not to pay taxes, including some taxes that we have problems with. For example, we are not free not to pay taxes to support war—a serious problem for those of us who are pacifists, and even for many who are not pacifists but who oppose(d) the war in Vietnam and Iraq. (I admire those who have had the courage to practice war tax resistance, but I have not been able to do that myself.)
People are not free not to pay school taxes, even though they do not have, and maybe have never had, children using the public schools. Those taxes are justified, rightfully, as being for the public good.
Here in Liberty (I like the name of this town!) where I live, people are not at liberty not to pay a library tax as part of their property tax, even though they may never set foot inside it. Again, it is for the good of the community.
If we Americans are taxed to support libraries, schools, and even wars that we oppose, why can the critics say that some taxation to help provide universal health care is a form of tyranny and a violation of liberty? Is it not for the public good that everyone in our country has access to health care? And for us Christians, isn’t helping the needy a part of our responsibility? We may not necessarily be our brother’s keeper, but we are our neighbor’s neighbor. And Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.