Nothing is Free
by Dr. John E.
Bonfadini, Ed.D., Professor Emeritus, George Mason University
We claim to live in a free society, but nothing is really
free. All things come with a cost. You have the right to freedom of speech,
but also the responsibility to protect that right. Without the willingness
to protect the right, the freedom would soon be lost.
This concept carries to all things we say are free. Like a
good marriage, freedom and responsibility are merged into one relationship.
Todayís society has lost contact with the responsibility
part of the marriage. We want everything free. The past few generations have
been taught that is better to get something free than to obtain it through
hard work. In my opinion this concept is not what our founding fathers had
in mind when they developed the framework for the ďLand of The Free.Ē
Iíve searched my mind in an
attempt to find out how we as a nation have come to worship getting things
free. The morning paper gave me a clue. The weekly ads had several offers to
buy one item and get a second one free. The cost of the item was $10, so you
were getting the items for $5 each ó
nothing was free except the perception.
The questions a purchaser should ask are (1) Do I need the
item? (2) Is it a reasonable price? (3) Can I pay for it in a reasonable
time? A large number of ads emphasize the sale of items for less than their
full value. The media bombards us with the notion that getting something
free is a part of daily life. Nothing should be purchased because someone
says itís free. If responsible-purchasing messages took up as much print
space as the get-something-free ads, we might be headed in the right
Our government operates on the same principle, trying to
get the populace to think that services provided are free. Iím now a Social
Security recipient. I retired after 43 years of teaching and qualified for
Social Security benefits. I paid into the program all my life so what I get,
I donít think is totally free, but I also realize that we canít maintain the
system for future retirees the way itís set up now.
Weíve developed the perception that you should have
sufficient money when you retire to travel the world, buy a second vacation
home, and live like a king just by investing your money with company X. You
donít have to do a thing. You wonít have to build a product, provide a
service, or do a common labor job. Just sit back and watch your money grow.
By the age of 55 you should be sitting pretty, free to do what you want. We
can no longer provide for retirement at the age of 55 (I donít care what the
profession) when most will live to the age of 80. It just doesnít work that
way and weíd better start teaching our children these facts. Their future is
their responsibility, and itís not free.
Many kids play organized sports with the hope of getting a
free education. Study and make good grades so you can get a free ride to
school. That ride isnít free, someone is paying for it. I can remember the
local battle over ďFree Textbooks.Ē It wasnít a matter of the textbooks
being free; it was how to pay for them. Many people look for a quick way to
financial freedom by purchasing lottery tickets. We say the money is also
going to help schools or older people. Again, in my view itís just another
way to have the public believe that you can get something for nothing. Even
those who win financial freedom must realize they have a newfound
responsibility to use the money wisely.
Public or private education isnít free education. At the
end of 12 years students should have learned that they owe a debt to society
that must be responsibly paid back. Understanding this concept is far more
important than an additional class in algebra or a foreign language.
Every year we fight battles in Congress in an attempt to
determine the direction of this country. The word free is used in almost
every speech. After this yearís budget battles I often wonder if the members
of Congress ever read Lincolnís Gettysburg Address, especially the ending
phrase, ď Ö we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in
vain ó that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom ó and
that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not
perish from the earth.Ē
A new symposium on the word free is exactly what we need
today. We need to put things in proper perspective. Things arenít free and
we must pay our bills. Two ways to achieve this goal is a balanced approach
to spending and revenue. Ideological battles prove nothing. If we are to
maintain the greatest measure of freedom we must provide for ourselves as
much as possible.
We have all benefited from the good times of the past; now
it is time to give something back and expect a little less in the future
until we FREE ourselves from the chains of unreasonable debt. The future is
not free ... it must be earned.
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