The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

June 23, 2005

Peak Liberty

America has been, throughout the course of our history, a nation that values liberty. In 1787, at the time of the Constitutional Convention, liberty was on the brain. A Constitution was written to ensure that all people in this nation, for all time, would enjoy the blessings of freedom. Freedom from tyranny of government, which was ensured by the protections of a document that limited its powers and a Bill of Rights that enshrined personal liberty into its hallowed wording. And a nation whose freedom was guaranteed based upon the rule of law as written in that document, not the whims of an electorate or the legislature of the day.

There were flaws at that time, to be sure. The nature of our nation did not yet live up to that document’s billing. “Freedom to all” meant freedom to land-owning white males. Everyone else was out of luck. The work of millions of people helped to change that fact. The souls of hundreds of thousands of young men were lost in a war to bring freedom to the slaves, only to take another 100 years to bring true equality with the end of Jim Crow. Racial equality came to pass. Gender equality came to pass. Even today, these battles are still being fought for the rights of same-sex couples. Since the day this country was founded, you have seen the liberty of unpopular groups gain hold and reach parity with the rest. In a country that is based upon the right to be safe in unpopularity, the march of history has been remarkable to make that a reality.

But there’s another current at work. We are slowly seeing social liberty for all groups reach parity. Parity, however, can be equally great or equally poor. As unpopular groups have raised their level of acceptance and been granted the same rights as those of the popular, liberty has been defined down for all.

We have reached a point, socially, where government regulation intrudes on our lives and decisions from the time we wake until the time we retire, and all through our slumber. Rights, from what one can ingest into his body, be it benevolent medicine to malevolent narcotics, are decided by government. Free speech has survived, mostly, as long as you have a legal degree and training to comply with McCain-Feingold. The 2nd Amendment is still alive, and you’re allowed to own firearms, as long as you apply to the right bureaucrat to inform the government where to look for them. You have the freedom to practice religion, as long as you make sure not to do it anywhere approximating a “public” place. You have the right to be safe from unreasonable search and seizure, provided, of course, that you never visit the library. Seemingly innocuous laws such as the requirement to wear a seat belt in a car or a helmet on a motorcycle may be in your own best interest, but forcing such behavior is tyranny nonetheless.

Economic liberty, of course, has become a joke. It is almost unnecessary to even go into the details, but we must remember what we’re up against. The land of the founding fathers was one where government and business were more separate than religion and government are now. Starting with the anti-trust acts (probably before, of course), continuing through Wickard v. Filburn, through the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation of 2002, the government has a hand in regulation of every business in this nation. On the personal level, nearly every monetary transaction performed is taxed through a myriad of different local, state, and federal rules, you only own as much of your income as government allows, and likewise you only own as much of your property as government allows. You exist economically not as an individual, but as a servant of the state.

It is obvious, that as some personal liberties may be slowly advancing, many other liberties are quickly dying. So we ask ourselves, how did it get so bad? Can we turn it around? Jon asks in this comment at Dadahead whether we should start thinking of it as Peak Liberty. I.e. just like the extraction of oil from the ground might eventually hit a point where the increase in demand and limited supply lead to global catastrophe, have we reached a point of no return in our loss of liberty? Have we reached a point where our only options will be an eventual slide into tyranny, requiring nothing less than a bloody revolution to turn around? And if so, how do we know the “Peak”? Has it happened yet?

Then perhaps somewhere it peaked and we’ve been sliding downward, living on the backside of the bell curve for a while now. We’ve peaked and have entered liberty’s long emergency. As with peak oil, defining peak liberty might not be clear except in hindsight. Was it the Civil War? Was it Brown v. Board of Education? The Sherman Anti-Trust Act? The Civil Rights Act of 1964? Was it landing on the moon? ADA?

Or was it some act against democracy that defined the peak (Dred Scott? ERA fails? NAFTA?) Is protecting against “flag desecration” just one more drop out of a near empty tank? Does our ‘democracy’ function like our suburbs now, sprawling, messy and without some sense of direction other than growth?

It is a valid question. After all, we can look at the possible peaks. The Civil War, where slavery was ended but the concepts of federalism were greatly weakened and the federal government made more powerful? The 16th Amendment, where we first determined, as a nation, that the ability to keep ones income was a privilege, and the extent allowed was determined by the whim of government? The New Deal, where many people were helped, but where it was taken as fact that individuals were subservient to “society” and the government thereof? The sixties, where we reached our greatest heights in the civil rights movement, only to transition to the even more obtrusive welfare state of the Great Society, and the victim politics that arised? Or was it today, when our Supreme Court decided that private property rights no longer matter? Or has it not happened yet? Are we still on the upward trend (doubtful).

I can’t answer where the peak was, but it certainly seems like we’re on the downslope. Peak Liberty, as a theory, has some serious flaws. After all, liberty is not a finite resource. It is elastic, and greater liberty can be enjoyed by all. So no matter what happens, it can be reversed. It is certainly possible that an equilibrium point can be reached. It may be argued that Europe has reached that point, and only something as silly as a “European Union” can move them farther down the slope. But the effort and ease at which that reverse occurs depends greatly on what point of the downslope has been reached. If we act in time, we can defeat tyranny at the ballot box. But history has shown that people do not respond to the lack of liberty until it is too late. If the slide continues, the day will come where government will not tolerate our attempts to restrain it, and that government must be replaced, by any means necessary.

Peak Liberty, like Peak Oil, can happen. Each can also be avoided. Peak Oil, of course, is a completely different topic, so the aversion strategies are beyond the scope of this post. But to avoid Peak Liberty, it simply takes education. Oddly enough, our own government has provided us all the lesson plans we’ll ever need. Pissed off about Social Security? A failure of government. Pissed off about the inefficiencies of the IRS? Blame government. EPA declared your home “wetlands” and not letting you build that inground pool? Overreaching intrusion of government on your private property rights. Government educational system in your locale a morass of corruption, lack of discipline, excess of political correctness, and not doing a thing to educate your kids? Ask why we rely on government as the primary source of education in this country? And first and foremost, trumpet Kelo v. New London to everyone in earshot. People listen to what affects them personally. Nothing is more personal than the government seizing your house for what they determine is just compensation, only to turn it over to another private entity.

Peak Liberty, like Peak Oil, relies on current trends. We may have reached Peak Liberty, but by changing trends we can step back from the abyss. Our current populace cares about nothing but bread and circuses, and our current political crop is perfectly willing to erode their liberty while providing those diversions. We can change the trends, but to do that, we need to win the hearts and minds. We can’t change government without changing the minds of voters, so let’s get cracking. There may be dangerously little time left.

Multiple Mentality | linked with Items of Interest #47
Owlish Mutterings linked with Carnival of Liberty
Life, Liberty, and Property Group Blog linked with Carnival of Liberty II
Searchlight Crusade linked with Carnival of Liberty #2
Life, Liberty, and Property Group Blog linked with Carnival of Liberty II
word-hoard linked with there is no left. there is no right
Pole Dancing In The Dark linked with Peak Liberty
News, the Universe, and Everything linked with The Unrepentant Individual » Peak Liberty
Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 8:55 pm || Permalink || Comments (15) || Trackback URL || Categories: Uncategorized


  1. You did good. Hard to believe that anyone could argue your points. Proud to know you.

    Comment by TF Stern — June 23, 2005 @ 11:31 pm
  2. I appreciate what you’re doing here. I’m bit more of an anarchist or liberal than a libertarian in my thinking, but I can probably survive in a libertarian world. We will disagree on a great number of the details of what’s right and what’s wrong with the world, but we likely won’t end up threats to one another.

    I’m happy to claim credit for the mediagenic term Peak Liberty, however I didn’t intend it in the context of a comment on Dadahead to be a fully developed theory. It’s more of a probe, in the McLuhan sense of the word. See and for some treatment of how “probes” were intended to be applied as McLuhan envisioned.

    So I don’t know that it’s a theory, as much as an aphoristic device to throw into the ether and see how it impacts others. I’m inclined to wonder if liberty’s elastic or–possibly more appropriately–renewable (to extend the fuels/resource metaphor).

    Comment by Jon — June 24, 2005 @ 12:40 am
  3. One might argue that the “Peak Liberty” happened the day the Bill of Rights made it into law. The absolute level of liberty available to those considered “full citizens” has been decreasing ever since then, even though many more people are considered full citizens now than at the time of the Bill of Rights.

    Comment by Quincy — June 24, 2005 @ 1:06 am
  4. [...]

    June 24, 2005

    The Unrepentant Individual » Peak Liberty

    The Unrepentant Individual » Peak Liberty Just wanted to send you over to the Unrepen [...]

  5. Peak Liberty

    Brad has a wonderful essay on the idea of “peak liberty” and how this nation seems to be sliding backwards on the rights of the people. Go and read it now. I think he pretty much covers my opinion on…

    Trackback by Pole Dancing In The Dark — June 24, 2005 @ 7:52 am
  6. there is no left. there is no right

    The little cluster of neurons thinking about Peak Oil hooked up with the ones thinking about freedom and our long slither into fascism. Bingo: what if we’ve seen peak liberty?

    Trackback by word-hoard — June 24, 2005 @ 10:09 am
  7. Brad, I think I finally understand what these liberal judges are doing. I can’t believe they can just change an ammendment to the Constitution with one feld swoop. They don’t have the right to do that. Where are our checks and balances now? I’m totally baffled!

    Comment by Lucy Stern — June 24, 2005 @ 10:28 am
  8. I think Lucy may have unintentionally provided another point: checks and balances aren’t here because the legislature seems too busy making sure we’re not able to burn our own flag. To put it another, more succinct way, when checks and balances fails, it is up to the people, often through their elected representatives, to see that appropriate action is taken. When the representatives fail, it is up to the people themselves.

    Hmm, do I dare risk posting on blogger with my uncle’s dial-up connection? I think I shall endeavor.

    Comment by Mike — June 26, 2005 @ 10:13 pm
  9. [...] w the Supreme Court has gotten too powerful. Unrepentant Individual discusses the idea of Peak Liberty, noting that we are less free than we once were. Patriotis [...]

  10. Carnival of Liberty #2

    Here it is! The one, the only, the second Carnival of Liberty! We’ve got a good variety of various topics here. I tried to vaguely categorize them by main topic.

    Law and Regulation:

    Eric’s …

    Trackback by Searchlight Crusade — July 11, 2005 @ 5:04 am
  11. [...] w the Supreme Court has gotten too powerful. Unrepentant Individual discusses the idea of Peak Liberty, noting that we are less free than we once were. Patriotis [...]

  12. Carnival of Liberty

    The Second Carnival of Liberty is up. Interesting posts include this one linking determinism and leftism [which is why someone I had been talking to was proclaiming “Violence begets violence,” and why I think that’s utter bullshit. Plus this post…

    Trackback by Owlish Mutterings — July 11, 2005 @ 5:12 pm
  13. Items of Interest #47

    In this issue: Ann (the one with the tits), Mary Carey, Oliver Stone, and more.

    Trackback by Multiple Mentality | — July 12, 2005 @ 8:30 am
  14. Well done Brad. You lost me on a couple of issues, but all-in-all, it was a good read (and I don’t really like to read). Great article. I’m proud to know you. Garringer

    Comment by Garringer — August 11, 2005 @ 11:06 pm
  15. Peak “Anything” only occurs with resources that are finite. As you say, the effects of lack-of-Liberty are reversible — with education.
    So we are in much better shape here than we are with Peak Oil.

    Comment by Webster Hubble Telescope — August 13, 2005 @ 6:38 pm

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