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Opinion | Life, liberty related to the rest of the world

dickgr@muohio.edu

Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 23:11

There is no doubt that liberty and equality are the foundations that this great nation was built upon. From the moment we declared our independence, we made it clear that ours would be a nation that respected and revered liberty and equality. Ours is a nation that understood: without these two principals there would be no happiness to pursue.

Without these two key principles, there would be less social mobility and less of a reward for hard work and determination. Find another country where a poor immigrant family can put down its roots and in two generations have a son who can contend to be the leader of that country.

We all know that this kind of social mobility is the result of hard work, determination and a little bit of planning but let’s not pretend that larger economic forces don’t impact the pursuit of this dream too.

If you need a reminder of that, take a look at the financial collapse of 2008. A collapse that left millions of Americans wondering what happened to their homes, college savings and retirement funds — gone in the blink of an eye were the fruits of their many years of labor. Liberty might have helped them get it, but something else took that away from them.

You see, we live in an increasingly interconnected world and to say that what happens in one country bears no relevance to what happens here in the U.S., is to misunderstand the world we live in.

Today, millions of Americans invest their money in the markets. Having the ability to invest in the market no matter how rich or poor a person might be is a truly great example of economic liberty and equality in action. Then again, investing is influenced heavily by the outside world.

You might not care about the world around you but to the farmer who has invested in the markets, what happens in Greece and Spain matter a whole lot. Suddenly, the consequences of a faltering European Union could mean the difference between whether or not his child gets a college education.

You might think that what happens half way around the world has no impact on United States citizens, but tell that to a small business owner who relies on a fleet of automobiles to deliver his goods. To them, the consequences of a Middle East in turmoil means higher oil and gas prices, leading to a higher overhead.

You might not see how what happens in China matters to millions of Americans, but the factory workers in the rust belt without jobs do. They understand that China’s manipulation of its currency impacts millions of Americans. They understand that China’s refusal to play by the rules is an affront to their pursuit of happiness.

Having blind faith in liberty and equality won’t guarantee anyone the ability to climb the social ladder if we aren’t willing to protect those rights for a fear of becoming involved in international affairs.

It’s hypocritical to applaud the importance of liberty and equality and then turn around and say that the United States has no role to play in the Syrian conflict, a conflict that started when the people of the country demanded liberty.

Unfortunately, we weren’t willing to hear their plea and watched 42,000 people die in the streets. Yes, instead of getting involved, we sat by — forgetting that we once rebelled against tyranny for the sake of liberty — only to watch a tyrannical leader slaughter his own people.

Realizing that there’s a value in having a democratic Syria and a democratic Middle East is the first step in practicing the policies we preach and providing a stable world ripe for economic development.

The second step is understanding that there is also a real value in helping those in Africa who struggle to get access to clean drinking water or who still worry about preventable illnesses like malaria.

It’s accepting that an economically developed Africa is good for the U.S. economy and that making this commitment will not infringe on the liberty of American citizens or in any way limit their pursuit of happiness.

That’s why it’s time to stop burying our heads in the sand and acting like we can isolate ourselves from the rest of the world and solve the problems facing our country with two little ideas. It’s time we practice a policy that valued the role of liberty and equality not just at home but around the globe as well.

The policy I am proposing is not a war-hawkish policy or the policy of someone who misunderstands the nature of American “exceptionalism,” but rather, is the policy of someone who sees the value in bringing stability to the Middle East and developing the economies of Africa.

If we are to be a truly exceptional country that values liberty and equality, we cannot turn a blind eye to injustice in the world and affronts to the American way of life.

We must practice a policy of compassion that uses both military and humanitarian aid to help spread democracy and develop the economies of those who seek to set up systems that also value liberty and equality.

To do that is to fully understand the importance of liberty and equality and practice a policy of exceptionalism.

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