I've noticed two aspects to freedom: 1) what one is allowed to do and 2) what one can do. Understanding the two aspects can help clarify some of the politics of the world and particularly whats going on in Iraq right now. The first is the degree to which the state (or others social structures) curtail behavior of their citizens. The second aspect is one's ability to act, basically access to resources and information. I call the first aspect liberty, the second economic power.

On Iraq:

When looking at the two Gulf Wars, through these dual aspects to freedom, we have given the Iraqis much more liberty. Or at least we are trying to (on this point I believe the administration). At the same time however, we have taken away a great deal of their economic power. We killed many people, destroyed many buildings and removed the central control structure. Essentially, we have allowed Iraqis to complain about the government for the first time in 30 years, and installed a foriegn occupying force at the same time. Is it any surprise they are complaining about us being there?

Consider Saddam Hussien shortly before capture. He had enough money to be independently wealthy, but almost no liberty. Contrast that with the homeless in America, all liberty and no economic power. Notice that one without the other is useless, some of both is best.

Reflecting at home:

We have great liberties when compared globally. There are a few governments that protect their citizens more (all in Europe afaik), but I have never seen a country where non governmental structures exert less influence. Think of interracial marriage, women in the work place, and other social norms. People in the US are extremely tollerant, probably because of our immigrant history and the resulting diversity. Some say that we have lots of social pressures; of course we do. We are not immune to cultral and state-enforced norms, but when you look at humanity as a whole, we are really open.

There are two main points I want to make about the US. The first is that we often confuse liberty with economic freedom. They are different and people need and want both. Take for example the latin american illegal alien laborers, estimated to be over 12 million strong. They come not primarily for the liberty, but for the economic freedom. They may even have less liberty here than they did back home. It is hard to tell, because the latin nations can be quite opressive. Here they keep a low profile in order to avoid deportation. However, they leave a place so starved for economic freedom that the manual labor work they get here illegally is better than their options at home (or they would stop comming).

The second point about the US is that we have often been willing to import economic power while reducing liberty abroad. When given a choice between our economic power and someone elses liberty, we take the power. Our foriegn policy is chock full of examples. In this regard we are not especially nasty, most (all) countries would do the same. The reason we are often percieved as a villan is twofold: 1) we do this a lot, due to our size and 2) we do it while saying we promote freedom and democracy.

Bill de la Vega 12-Feb-04