Give me liberty or give me boarding pass

I’m in the United States through the end of next week out of necessity… I need to tie up some loose ends (read: taxes!).  Once I get my confession mailed out to Uncle Sam, I’ll be out the door once again.

Whenever I am in the United States, I always think deep thoughts about liberty. This place has changed so much since I was a child that it is hardly recognizable.

When people overseas ask me where I’m from, I always say that I’m an American… which is simply a reflection of my state of mind, not geography.  As my friend Doug Casey says, ‘America’ is an idea, not a country.’  I agree entirely.

America as an idea espoused economic and individual freedom, limited government, entrepreneurial risk-taking, and a market-based economy.  America was the one place in the world where rags-to-riches stories were commonplace, and where wealth was held up in a respectable light.

The United States has drifted a long way from America.  To underscore this point, I’d like to share an email that I just received from a close friend of mine who lives in the Midwest, ‘America’s heartland’:

Dear Simon-

As you know, I have two young children who attend pre-school at a local Montessori school.  The school is completely private and quite expensive… not a single dollar of public funds goes to this school even though I pay out the nose in state taxes to support public schools.

Yesterday, the county health inspector decided to show up and go through the health records of all the students.   Naturally I was immediately bothered that a public official could go through what I consider to be private records.

The truth is, after lengthy conversations with her pediatrician and a lot of self-study, my wife and I decided against many of the immunizations.

Frankly I don’t see the benefit in sticking my child full of a bunch of unnecessary chemicals. I didn’t get most of these shots when I was a kid and yet somehow I managed to live this long.

Regardless, the county health jackass gave us **one week** to get her ‘caught up’ on her immunizations, or else she will be forbidden to attend this PRIVATE school anymore.

The only way out of this is if I apply for an immunization exemption for my daughter on the grounds that our religion forbids me to have her inoculated.  Here’s the actual text of the document that I have to sign and have notarized:

“A religious exemption may be granted to an applicant if immunization conflicts with a genuine and sincere religious belief.   A Certificate of Immunization Exemption for religious reasons shall be signed by the applicant or, if the applicant is a minor, by the parent or guardian or legally authorized representative and shall attest that the immunization conflicts with a genuine and sincere religious belief and that the belief is in fact religious, and not based merely on philosophical, scientific, moral, personal, or medical opposition to immunizations.  The Certificate of Immunization Exemption for religious reasons is valid only when notarized.   Religious exemptions do not apply in times of emergency or epidemic as determined by the state board of health and declared by the director of public health.”

It infuriates me that the government requires me to have my child immunized to attend a private school.  If I disagree for medical or philosophical reasons then that’s not OK… but if I’m a Scientologist, then they’ll let me off the hook.  Are you kidding me?

I have little doubt that the lack of immunizations for my children demonstrates to the state that I’m a bad parent.   How long before Child Protective Services comes knocking on my door for a little home inspection?

Simon again.

I probably visit at least 30 countries each year… and to be completely frank, there is no perfect place.  But as free people we are able to decide for ourselves where we want to live, under what level of government– to ‘opt-in,’ if you will, to the set of regulations that we are willing to live under.

And believe me, there are a hell of a lot of places out there where my friend wouldn’t have to deal with this type of coercion.

Sure, the US is a comfortable place to live, but as my friend points out some of the critical freedoms are being erroded right under our noses.   The distinction between private and public is blurred.   The idea of being a “responsible” citizen is being held up as the ideal compared to personal liberty.

The US is on a downward trajectory. Many other places are on an upward trajectory. It is only a matter of time (and not too much time, at that…) before other countries surpass the United States’ quality of life.  Many already have.

After all, it’s easy to build a Starbucks, Super-Target, and endless rows of McMansions.  The hard part is finding a place where the government leaves you alone to live your life and prosper, and surrounding yourself with people who feel the same way.

Do you have similar stories? Do you agree that the US is on a downward slide, or do you believe that it’s still the best place to be? I’d really like to hear what you have to say.