Freedom is ephemeral

Statue of former US President Thomas Jefferson, of whom the author of the column recalls his phrase: “Yes, we have produced an almost perfect republic. But will it stick? Or will freedom be forgotten with the enjoyment of abundance? Material abundance without temper is the surest path to destruction ”(Reuters)

In his book On Tyranny, Timothy Snyder quotes the hero of a novel that states “When you make love for the last time, you don’t know that you are making love for the last time”. Freedom is something like that, and when we enjoy freedom for the last time, we rarely realize that it is for the last time. Freedom is ephemeral.

We need the freedom to act according to our rational judgment. If we are not able to act according to our judgment, we will not be able to live fully as human beings.. During the Peloponnesian War, Pericles He reminded us with a wonderful oratory in defense of democratic values. He exhorted the Athenians to fight for their freedom reminding his compatriots that “… Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being brave”.

Today we can examine the fleeting nature of freedom with the help of reports such as the Index of Human Freedom (HFI), elaborated by the Cato Foundation. In its sixth annual report, this index uses 76 indicators of personal and economic freedoms that cover, among other topics: the rule of law, security and protection, freedom of movement, religion and association.

The HFI is an index that covers 162 countries with 94% of the world’s population. It measures freedom on a scale from 0 to 10, where 10 represents the maximum of freedom. In 2018, the average freedom index in the world was 6.93, and represents a slight decrease compared to 2008, the reference year. The freedom gap between the freest and the least free countries has widened since 2008.

The countries that top the freedom index are New Zealand and Switzerland, while Sudan and the Syrian Arab Republic they are at the bottom of the freedom index. state United and the United Kingdom are tied for 17th place. To my readers from the south of the Florida, Cuba it does not provide adequate information to participate in the index, but we can predict that it would be near the bottom. Venezuela He is third from the bottom, ranked 160.

The report shows that the most free countries enjoy a significantly higher average per capita income of $ 50,340 per year, compared to the income of the least free countries of 7,720. Evidence that economic and civil liberties interact with each other, and that they play a prominent role in our well-being.

Alexander Fraser Tytler, Scottish historian and professor of Universal History at the University of Edinburgh at the end of the 18th century, he spoke on the transience of freedom. Tytler expressed a critical vision of democracy. He is credited with this famous quote: Democracy is temporary by nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist until such time as voters discover that they can vote, for themselves, generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority will always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits acquired from the public purse, with the result that every democracy will eventually collapse due to its lax fiscal policy and is always followed by a dictatorship.

Since the beginning of history, the average length of time that the world’s greatest civilizations have lasted has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, those nations went through the following sequence: from slavery to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to freedom; from freedom to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency to slavery.

Aware of the fragility of freedom, Thomas Jefferson coincided with Tytler: “Yes, we have produced an almost perfect republic. But will it stick? Or will freedom be forgotten with the enjoyment of abundance? Material abundance without temper is the surest path to destruction”.

Today, in our uncritical enjoyment of abundance, we should ask ourselves: Are we enjoying our freedoms for the last time?

* José Azel is an academic at the University of Miami. His latest book is “Reflections on Freedom.”

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