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How to Get Your Children to Care About Freedom

Dee David Gallatin

I grew up in the 70s, part of a generation known for being rebellious against "the establishment," for rejecting the values of the older generation, and for not trusting anyone over 30. Although I didn't get caught up personally in the culture of "love ins" and "dropping out," it was certainly part of the mindset of my generation.

Much has changed since those days. The 90s generation, it seems to me, has pretty much grown up accepting the world as it is--wanting to get a job, make money, buy a car--willing to pay taxes and go along with the system. "I can get a good job and make money. What else is there to care about?" seems to be the attitude of many young people in high school and college. Most kids get their first job, see the cut that the government takes out of their paychecks, and just accept it as the way things have always been. How can we teach kids that they don't have to accept things just because they have been that way for awhile? How can we get them to bitch a little more--to be "constructively discontent"?

For a long time now, I have tried to think about ways to teach my children to care about freedom. I have taken them shooting and taught them to value their right to own firearms. I left a job where I was paid from tax money (teaching at a state university) and took a job in a private research organization where I was paid through voluntary, non-coercive contributions. We've done home schooling and used private schools instead of government schools whenever we could. I take my kids fishing at a private fish pond rather than pay the government "license" for fishing privileges. I've raised my kids on a diet of pro-freedom movies: everything from Shenandoah to The Sound of Music to Star Wars to Schindler's List. We discuss freedom issues at the dinner table and at other times. My wife and I started a home business and we employ our kids and pay them as much as we can in pre-tax dollars. These and other things have gone a long way to help my children value freedom, but I still feel only moderately successful. My older kids feel pretty much trapped in the present world--they don't really see any alternative to the way things are. In spite of the things I have done to help them, I don't see many signs of serious rebellion against the present state of things. In fact, I often get chided by my kids because, according to them, I can't carry on a conversation or watch a movie without bringing up politics. It really isn't true. I hate politics. It's just that I value political freedom.

Is teaching your children about freedom really the most important thing? What about teaching them about good and evil? Isn't that more important? Well, actually, I think it is correct to point out that the two are intrinsically related. Both good and evil will exist in a free society, but in a non-free society, evil and tyranny will eventually triumph. That's because non-free societies are based on a fundamentally evil principle--coercion. In an environment of freedom people are more easily able to follow the dictates of their individual moral and ethical conscience and to associate with other like-minded individuals in advocating causes or ideas that they deem as good. These things are more difficult in an environment of non-freedom. So, my answer is that the battle between freedom and non-freedom is what matters more than anything else.

What more can be done to teach children about freedom? Some of this is hindsight, but if I were starting to raise my kids over again, there are a few things I would consider doing.

This country was settled by individuals who were willing to stand up against the tyranny and abuses of kings and tyrants. Remember, as far as King George and the British government were concerned, the patriots of the American revolution and the signers of the Declaration of Independence were tax evaders, smugglers, and lawbreakers. They simply refused to obey laws that they thought were immoral and pay taxes that they felt were unjust and abusive of their freedoms and happiness. The 70s generation, of which I am a part, has too readily accepted the system as it is. Our best hope for freedom is that a future generation will emerge with the will to resist current abuses (which, in many respects, cause those against which the colonizers revolted to pale in comparison). There may be no better way to build a future of freedom than to raise a generation of young people who refuse to submit to tyranny. With proper help and encouragement from parents, the youth of today and tomorrow may be better prepared to "do freedom." Our children may be our best hope yet.

(c) 2000


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