Can You Divorce Freedom From Responsibility?
Can you divorce freedom from responsibility*? I think back to the summers of my childhood where I would be bored to tears sitting at home all day. My mother worked, and as a single parent, this meant her 5 children were home alone all day during the summer months. Yes, we did play with our friends outside most days, or go to summer camps, but there were many days that we sat at home twiddling our thumbs. I am the 4th of 5 children and tried hard to act older and do the things my siblings were doing. My two older sisters, aged 13 and 14, got a job one summer picking berries in the Puyallup Valley of Washington State. The farmers hired children age 12 and up during the summers to help them harvest their berries. The schools pitched in by providing buses to pick up the kids early in the morning and deliver them home in the late afternoons. We would work 8-hour days with only portable bathrooms for relief. We needed to bring our lunches with us as we were out in large farm fields. The bees would harass us all day because we were covered in berry juices. Our arms would be scratched from the thorns and our sweat would sting when it inevitably rolled into our open wounds. For this “opportunity”, we were paid $2.00 for each flat of berries we picked. I saw my 2 older sisters come off the bus with as much as $20.00 a day. Paid in cash! So, at 12 years of age, I got on the school bus and worked a total of two days. That’s all I lasted. I was only able to pick 4-5 flats of berries, earning much less than my sisters. I was miserable and uncomfortable. They wouldn’t let me work with my sisters, so I was alone and scared. I decided not to go back. I ended up getting some babysitting jobs here and there but nothing as steady as my sisters had. I don’t remember how long the season was, but I do remember my sisters rolling in cash. With that money they were able to buy the little things they wanted; in many cases it was ice cream. I didn’t eat much ice cream that summer.
Should they have shared their summer earnings with me, so that I could purchase the things I wanted? They had the freedom that the money now offered them. My sisters took on more responsibility and that lead to more freedom.
Can you divorce freedom from responsibility? I have been hearing in the news that several prominent politicians are proposing a college “loan forgiveness” program. Selling the public on the idea that they have the right to have their school loans forgiven. One of these politicians, Bernie Sanders, stated on his website: “We have failed a generation of our young people. What Bernie believes is that the American people deserve freedom – true freedom.”
I agree with him.
“We have failed a generation of our young people”: We HAVE failed them! We have failed to teach them the power of work. We have failed to teach them the power of planning, the power of thrift, the power of delayed gratification and the power of gratitude. Without these powers, you have no freedom. You will be commanded by your immediate desires for the rest of your life, which will slowly eat away at your freedom, until you are a slave to your own past decisions.
“The American people deserve freedom –true freedom”: If you want to be free to choose your life direction, you must be willing to take on responsibility. It is through responsibility that freedom is obtained. Forcing others to shoulder another person’s responsibilities (debts), takes away their freedom, by forcing them (taxpayers) to take on a stranger's debts. That is not freedom! That is having the threat of legal action if you don’t pay your neighbor’s school debt. Just see what happens if you choose to short change or not pay your taxes.
I was one of 5 children in my family. I saw my older brother graduate college debt free, I saw my older sister graduate college debt free, so I knew I could graduate debt free. I was empowered to “know” this. Sadly, we are not teaching this to the youth of today. We are brainwashing them into thinking that the only way to pay for a higher education is to go into debt, or anything beyond $500 for that matter. Most parents and high school counselors don’t present the youth of today with the debt free options. It takes planning and hard work, but a debt free college degree is still very attainable today. I know, because my niece just graduated debt free this year (2019) with a BS in accounting. Every penny she earns now goes to her, not someone else. That is the reward for working three jobs during college, for picking a school and apartment she could afford, for living frugally and without a car for most of her college years.
Instead of forgiving college loans, and deferring the payments onto the taxpayers, let’s first teach financial literacy in high school and teach the youth how to proactively pay for college. Secondly let's have those that owe now, continue to plug away at their debts. The path where they take full responsibility for their debt. It won’t be easy, but there’s usually a way. This will require making sacrifices. Those sacrifices will hopefully be noticed by the next generation. If they see the sacrifices their parents are making to honor their debts, maybe, just maybe, they will learn true freedom. They will learn how to plan, thriftiness, delayed gratification, and gratitude. By doing so, this generation will not fail the next generation. Forgiving student loans is one more step towards failing another generation of youth. It would teach them that responsibility and freedom are not connected. As one of my favorite authors, Joel Salatin, stated so simply, “We’re trying to grant freedom without responsibility.” It simply can’t be done.