It’s not true that people yearn to be free. It’s a cliche. Now many cliches are true, but that cliche is not true. Most people do not yearn to be free. Most people yearn to be taken care of. – Dennis Prager, Conservative Leadership Conference on April 13, 2018
Prager’s statement, although difficult to stomach, is a sobering description of many people. There will always be exceptions, but by and large, most people, when given the choice, will opt for material certitude over the uncertainty and weightiness of freedom.
Don’t believe me? Look at all of the Americans that readily submitted to FDR’s New Deal or LBJ’s Great Society. Both of these ushered in the nanny state to a degree that until then had been unthinkable in a culture steeped in a love for liberty. Yet, the fear of poverty was so strong that they were willing to give up certain aspects of their inherent autonomy for some measure of governmental security.
Now, there must be an important distinction made between the freedom Prager is speaking of and the freedom that men, women, and children from war-torn parts of the world are dying to achieve. In the context of Prager’s speech, the freedom he is referring to is more akin to duty, such as the duty of behaving like an adult when it is much more tempting to relegate those grown-up responsibilities to someone else.
For example, what used to be viewed as a natural duty toward one’s family and fellow countrymen has been cast aside by large numbers in society. In exchange, many demand “freedom” from familial responsibility and the natural obligations that bind them to their parents, children, and neighbors. Thus, Prager’s thesis bears out.
So, what are we to do? Blindly accept that human nature is what it is and not bother with demanding more from ourselves and others? Or, is this reality check an invitation to be an adult and take personal responsibility for those to whom we have a moral obligation, even when our natural inclination is to shirk that duty on to the government?
As with most everything in life, if it is worthwhile, it will require sacrifice. And that is why freedom will always be worth the struggle.