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Mon May 25, 2020, 09:40 AM

BTRTN: "Freedom" in the Age of the Coronavirus

Born To Run The Numbers is honored today, on Memorial Day, to have another post written by our good friend, Charles B. Dew, the Ephraim Williams Professor of American History at Williams College. Professor Dew writes of the changing meaning of "freedom" over the course of our nation's history, and how that evolving meaning shapes differing individual reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic:


Excerpts: "For the British colonists living in North America in the 18th century, the word had a simple meaning: to be free was to be free from tyranny—free from the tyranny of King George, free from the tyranny of a British Parliament seeking to impose taxes on them without their consent, free from the tyranny of being forced to quarter red-coated British troops in their own homes..."
"In the 19th century, as Jacksonian America took shape, freedom and equality became linked in the American mind, but not equality of condition—equal opportunity became our watchword, a level playing field for all, with the accident of birth or the actions of the government not acting as a hindrance to individual advancement. Abraham Lincoln was powerfully motivated by this concept...
"In the 20th century, the American definition of freedom again underwent modification... Freedom increasingly involved not only imposing restraints on monopoly power (the Jacksonian concept) but also took on a new dimension: the guarantee of a basic level of security for each citizen. FDR and the New Deal were the embodiment of this new definition: to be truly free meant one also had to be secure from the multiple ravages of an increasingly complex society—joblessness, hunger, lack of shelter, even the death march of a previously unknown epidemic disease. This new definition, free and secure, clearly could only be underwritten by a dramatic expansion of government..."

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