Those interested in preserving what remains of freedom in the US would do well to monitor events in Britain, as those interested in salvaging what's left of freedom in Britain would do well to monitor events in the US. The few lonely souls on the Continent still daring enough to show an interest in this arcane matter would, I suppose, do well to monitor events all over the place. We all seem, from our various positions, to be drifting in a similar direction, at least as regards freedom, and we can perhaps learn from each other's catastrophes before it is too late. Or not.
Today's Telegraph reports that fully one third of UK households now receive at least half of their income from the state. Government figures "also reveal the huge gulf in welfare dependency between single parent and two-parent households."
Well, who would have guessed?
Once a sense of independence and self-reliance is leeched from a population, I suspect that constitutional guarantees of freedom are easily enough amended out of existence. There is a cultural structure that under girds the Western sense of freedom; it's foundation consists of a deliberately fostered awareness of one's obligations and personal responsibilities, and an interest in the rights of others. These responses - ingrained in culture rather than DNA - are not intrinsic to human nature and are far from universal, even within our own society, as is made clear with depressing regularity whenever we turn on the TV.
In much of the world, such appeal as freedom has is based primarily on the license it grants to do whatever the hell you want, disregarding all consequences to others. Freedom, as understood in these terms, validates and unleashes what is least admirable in human nature. Hence, the understandable ambivalence toward "freedom" in cultures that do not share our curious and rapidly diminishing notion of a freedom bound by willingly assumed responsibilities. These responsibilities start with the effort to provide - to legally provide - for one's own material well-being, rather than always and inevitably turning to the state.
I don't see how a free and independent populace, in the sense that we have traditionally understood it, can sustain itself when one third of its households depend largely or exclusively on the state for their upkeep. It may be in the nature and the in interests of politicians and bureaucrats to see to it that these figures remain high, but the consequences of such dependence are easy enough to understand, and to forecast. Over centuries, we've been taught - or rather, we've taught ourselves - to value freedom, and to sacrifice security and leisure in defense of its fragile existence. Those lessons can be unlearned, or simply forgotten, and they are being unlearned, and rapidly forgotten.
Freedom, in historical terms, may simply be passing out of vogue.