Freedom and openness can be put on a short leash.
That appears to have been Mikhail Gorbachev’s mistaken belief when he introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) to the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
The last leader of the Soviet Union would be hailed as a superstar in the Western media, and rightly credited with helping end the Cold War.
But it also appears that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was inadvertent – a miscalculation that freedom, openness and heavy-handed state control could coexist.
If you think of our two nations being on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum – communism on one end, freedom and capitalism on the other – Gorbachev’s happy mistake was thinking he could move the Soviet Union toward the middle and have it survive intact. But freedom and an overbearing state are wholly incompatible, as he would learn.
Could Barack Obama be making the same mistake, albeit from the opposite direction?
According to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, former Soviet satellite Estonia is now a more economically free nation than the United States – ours being the only country that has lost economic freedom seven years in a row. The U.S. is ranked 12, with Bahrain threatening to overtake it at No. 13.
The decline started under President Bush, but Mr. Obama has only accelerated the spiral of government spending, regulations, red tape and the nationalization of industry and health care.
Meanwhile, rather than moving the federal government toward openness and transparency, the Obama administration is known, even at liberal media organizations, for moving us toward secrecy and opaqueness. Says New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson: “I would say it is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering.”
“James Goodale has a message for journalists: Wake up,” writes Susan Armitage in the esteemed Columbia Journalism Review. “In his new book, Fighting for the Press (CUNY Journalism Press, 2013), Goodale, chief counsel to The New York Times when its editors published the Pentagon Papers in 1971, argues that President Obama is worse for press freedom than former President Richard Nixon was.”
That is most damning criticism – from journalism’s liberal lion itself.
And consider this: Under the Obama administration, the U.S. has fallen from 32nd to 46th in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index put together by the press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders.
Right behind Papua New Guinea and Romania.
All of this just happens to be the complete inverse of Gorbachev’s glasnost – it’s moving our country away from freedom and openness.
Gorbachev found it wasn’t easy or advisable to try to keep freedom on a short leash (though Putin has basically put a shock collar on it). And yet, freedom in America is on an increasingly shorter leash. Under the health care law, it’s now basically a crime not to buy insurance of the government’s liking. The IRS, the same agency guilty of targeting conservative nonprofits for harassment, will make sure of it.
That same health-care law requires employers to violate their religious beliefs and provide workers with birth control and abortifacients. Even liberal USA Today, noting that the government is trying to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide birth control, wrote: “Talk about a political loser.”
“If the nonprofits refuse to sign,” the paper wrote, “they face ruinous fines — $4.5 million a year for just two of the Little Sisters’ 30 homes.”
Sadly, the courts may be freedom’s last refuge. As the USA Today editorial noted last month, “So far, the government is on a (legal) losing streak. In 19 of 20 cases, including the Little Sisters’, judges have granted preliminary relief to the nonprofits, allowing them to press their claims. The administration should take the hint.”
Not just from the courts, but also from history.