“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, with the liberty and justice for all.”
Every American knows the words to the pledge. We learned them in school, public or private, sacred or secular. Even home schooled children learn the words to the pledge. We recite the pledge at many public gatherings. Moreover, we recite the pledge with conviction. We really mean it when we utter every word. Yet.
Yet, there are considerable differences as to what those words mean to different citizens. What, for instance does “library . . . for all” mean? At base, liberty means living or acting with out constraints such as shackles, bars or other physical restraints. But what about non physical constraints such as skin color, type of clothing—from shabby and dirty to burka –sexual preference, choice of manner of worship—Quaker to Catholic to Hebrew to Islam to Shinto and beyond—manner of speech and language and, not exhausting the non-physical restraints, gender.
Liberty means being able to do what one wishes or what one pleases. Yet doing what one wishes requires resources and fundamentally one resource, money. So, poverty is one of the most insidious restraints on people that prevents them being able to experience liberty. If one wishes to enslave a people, first impoverished them. For when they are poor they have no options save to do your bidding or die. It is not by accident that Patrick Henry said “Give me liberty or give me death.” For the opposite of liberty is slavery.
Today Americans seem to subscribe to the idea that a person in poverty is there because he or she is lazy, morally corrupt, or the like. In short we Americans blame the poor for being poor. Interestingly, poor people had poor parents. So, in part blaming the poor for their poverty is blaming them for choosing the wrong parents. Yes, children often move to a different economic strata then their parents—up a bit or down a bit—but not far. Children of the poor do not have the luxury of moving down in economic status. They start down.
If one were to look at the distribution of the difference in income or economic status between children and their Parents one would find something akin to a bell shaped curve for all classes save the poor. Children of the poor on this difference variable will show a steep one sided curve. What this means is the poor are disproportionately “stuck” in their parents socioeconomic situation—poverty. They are stuck because getting out of poverty requires a dependable resource base—an income or someone to provide resources for training or education and support during that period of learning. The poor do not have money. This is not a question of an economic choice, affording it. They simply do not have the money. It takes money to provide for that boost all the other socioeconomic groups routinely supply for their children.
Therefore I conclude liberty requires an income to have any reasonable chance of becoming extant and “for all.” So, how is that income to become a reality?
We have tried everything every thing from income transfers, charity to work fare. Everything we have tried in the war on poverty has conditions—restraints on how the poor can use what we grudgingly doll out. Funny, we want to get the poor out of poverty, but we don’t give them the liberty to do it without severe constraints, nay draconian restraints. We want to judge what is “good” for them. We want to prevent the poor from making bad choices. We want the poor to use resources the way we want them to use “what we give them.” I am sorry that is not liberty, that is a form of imprisonment.
If you want a free people, free them of the shackles of poverty, give them liberty; give them money.