The Pardu

Freedom Under The Law And Freedom In Fact: Connect The Dots USA

In Connect The Dots USA, on January 18, 2016 at 1:51 PM

On a day when some in the nation celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Connect The Dots USA, published a piece worthy of sharing. The is not about the late civil and human rights leader, but the piece is as germane to Americana as any piece I have read today.

Republicans (and especially Libertarians) narrowly define “freedom” as the mere “absence of a legal restriction.” Progressive commentator Richard Eskow indicts this as a “selfish and false freedom which the powerful offer to the powerless. Without economic justice it’s the kind of freedom a French writer (Anatole France) described over a century ago, in which ‘a poor person is as free to starve under a bridge as a rich person is to ride over it in his carriage.’” 

Instead, we need to enlarge our definition to include “freedom in fact,” including FDR’s freedom from poverty, ignorance, disease, discrimination, war and fear. Martin Luther King understood this broader definition of freedom when he asked, “What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger?”

This is why, for example, regulating businesses to pay a livable wage may restrict their freedom-under-the-law to pay you less, but it enhances the freedom-in-fact for tens of millions of workers. 

As comedian Chris Rock explains, “I used to work at McDonald’s making minimum wage. You know what that means when someone pays you minimum wage? You know what your boss was trying to say? “Hey if I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.”


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