I write so often concerning the idea of human freedom because it underpins the important issue of human dignity. When considering the issue of human government, we must always remember that humanity was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26,27), and God is free. This means that every loss of human freedom moves the image of God in humanity closer to extinction, and therefore must be guarded against most diligently.
As noted in a previous article (The Redistribution of Poverty), good government is essentially limited to the following few things, with all else being left to the idea of human freedom:
- Pass a simple system of laws that honor and protect humanity’s most precious asset – the image of God in us (Genesis 9:6b; Exodus 20:2)
- Enforce that system of laws (Genesis 9:5,6)
- Maintain an open, fair and free justice system (Exodus 18:21,22; Deuteronomy 19:15)
- Ensure capital punishment for murderers (Genesis 9:6), other serious offenders (Leviticus 20) and repeat offenders (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)
- Fine and/or physically punish minor offenders, after which they are to be set free (Leviticus 6:4,5; Deuteronomy 25:2,3)
- Quarantine those with dangerous, infectious diseases (Leviticus 13)
- Maintain secure borders against the rest of the world (Joshua 13-19; 2 Samuel 8:6,14)
- Maintain a national language (Genesis 11:7-9; 2 Kings 18:26)
- Avenge and protect the blood of its people upon the world stage (1 Samuel 15:2,3)
- Maintain its roadways that its people may move about freely (Deuteronomy 19:3)
- Mint the coin of the realm (Exodus 30:13)
- Tax all of its people an equal percentage of their income to maintain these services (Leviticus 27:30)
In our bloated and expanded system of government today, however, it has unfortunately become difficult to imagine how we could possibly survive without government running all of the many facets of our lives that it currently does. It is toward shedding light in this dark area that I shall write the articles belonging to Shades of Freedom, in which we will tackle these issues as time allows. The first of these will be the issue of food production and distribution, which is today almost completely shackled by oversight from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a host of many other local, state and federal entities.
But before we proceed we must understand the great problem with freedom itself, which is that each human freedom comes attached to the price tag of responsibility. The sinful human nature absolutely hates the idea of responsibility, and will seek to shirk it if at all possible. And the simplest way to shirk this responsibility is to transfer it to government. But when we do so, we are left less than what we once were.
For instance, I should possess the basic freedom to feed myself and my family as I see fit, but with that freedom also comes the responsibility to feed myself and my family. As a possessor of this freedom, I am free to raise livestock, have a vegetable garden and grow fruit trees, from which I may feed my family at will.
I may choose to give up that freedom so as not to have to tend to such chores, but the responsibility to feed my family still remains. My first option might be to make arrangements with my neighbor to exchange money, work or other goods for his food, from which I then feed my family. Unfortunately, however, my neighbor may have the habit of fertilizing his vegetables with human feces, but that really isn’t his concern, because it’s my responsibility to feed my family healthfully and well, not his. If I don’t want to eat vegetables fertilized with human feces, I should buy them elsewhere or grow my own.
My next option might be to take my family out to the local restaurant every evening instead of feeding them from my herds and crops. Although the food at this restaurant is fantastic, there just happen to be lots of rodents running wild in the kitchen. But that really isn’t the restaurant’s concern, because the responsibility for feeding my family healthfully and well belongs to me. If I have a problem with rodents in the kitchen, I’m free to feed them another way or eat at another establishment.
Finally, I might choose to go down to the local supermarket and stock up on foodstuffs there, where I purchase food prepared by complete strangers in another part of the land or world. The hamburger patties I buy there could be made from rabid iguana meat for all I know, but that’s the risk I take by exercising my freedom to feed my family in this manner. If the thought of feeding my family rabid iguana burgers doesn’t sit well with me, I should exercise my freedom by feeding them something else. But if I want to be sure of the quality of the food I feed to my family, my responsibility lies with either growing it myself or of having someone else certify its quality on my behalf.
And so to certify such quality we have irresponsibly turned to our local, state and federal governments, who will never deny themselves a chance to remove a responsibility from us. But a responsibility only exists as the flip-side of a freedom, and so when we give a responsibility to our government we likewise lose a freedom to it. In the case at hand, we have lost the freedom to feed our families as we see fit because we have asked the government to assume the responsibility for the quality assurance of our food supply. We are therefore much less free and dignified than we could and should be, and have allowed government where it has no business.
But there is a better way, wherein we may exercise our freedom to feed our families in all of the ways mentioned above, but without ceding our freedoms and responsibilities to government. And this better way is shown to us by the rabbis who certify food as kosher for those who desire to observe Jewish dietary laws. Kosher food certification is something that occurs despite there being no U.S. Department of Kosher Foods overseeing the millions who observe such dietary laws. Instead, there are rabbis who are trained in the Scriptures and other Jewish dietary requirements, and who then go out and inspect food processing facilities and restaurants. If these facilities and restaurants meet the requirements, they are then certified to be kosher, and observant Jews will be satisfied that they may purchase such food or eat in such restaurants.
In essence, the kosher stamp of approval given by the rabbi represents a bond of trust between his certifying agency and the people. If his agency has a good reputation, observant Jews will be comfortable purchasing the food. If his agency has a poor reputation, observant Jews will probably not be willing to purchase such food. And if a company wants to sell its products to observant Jews, it will therefore ensure its facilities are up to the high standards of kosher and then pay a reputable company to inspect and certify its facilities as such. When observant Jews buy the kosher product, they are therefore personally paying for the inspection, they have lost neither their freedom nor their responsibility, and they have maintained their dignity in doing so.
We would do just fine if the USDA, the FDA and every other government agency involved in the processing and distribution of foodstuffs was disbanded, for out of the vacuum of their absence would arise a system of free market certification that would place the freedom and responsibility for this issue back in the hands of those to whom it naturally belongs.
Freedom works. We should insist on more of it. See your local synagogue for details.