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ARTICLE

A Matter of Choice

NOVEMBER 01, 1975 by RUTH E. HAMPTON

In this unease we are not alone. When we talk to friends or relatives who began as we did, but who have moved on to exciting jobs and high rise apartments, we find they too are feeling guilt because they’re happy. People who have worked hard for success apologize for making it!

Where does this guilt at following our talents and tastes into a life of our own choosing come from? A lot of it comes from the articulate advocates of seize-from those that succeed and force on those who don’t through taxation. There is no real reason for anyone who has chosen a legitimate goal and worked to realize it, to feel that he should be handing everything to the government for redistribution and regulation. Voluntary sharing is one thing; confiscation, another.

Left to themselves, human beings will meet each others needs. And we needn’t all start out even either. In a truly free society, those with less have greater incentives than the rest.

Our own early homes included mill shacks, a homemade camp trailer, and the back bedrooms of other people. For a while we only dreamed of something better. Then we realized that dreams wouldn’t do it. We chose a way to live, and worked to attain it. I chose full time homemaking and he left seasonal work he liked to build a world he could love, working his back and leaving his mind to wander. It wanders out to the canyon acres that weren’t practical, to the life style some may envy but others would find confining. Isn’t that how it should be?

If a man is poor and he’d rather stay poor than struggle, he’s entitled to that. If a neighborhood is crowded and its occupants would rather stay crowded and familiar than face uncertainty, that’s their right.

Each individual’s profession, business, and way of life should be his own. If those who find rural lives dull want to strike out for the city and for the stimulation of jobs, businesses, cultural advantages, and positions of leadership, they have the right to pursue such goals. The phrase, "pursuit of happiness" did not designate which happiness or give leaders the duty of defining it. That was left —properly — to the individual.

Freedom is the option of succeeding or failing because we did or did not make a wise choice. No computer, guideline, or political system should dictate the choice. A life style, like a system of economics, is only good when it works. It works when those involved in it are doing what satisfies them. If it is being propped up, paid off, and regulated, it fails to stand alone and ultimately becomes a holdup — in every sense of the word.

Isn’t it significant that, at a time when the world is in desperate need of more efficiency, lower prices, more goods, governments seem determined to upset the normal laws of supply and demand, the natural incentives of enthusiasm and profit, and substitute artificial quotas and made-up controls?

Any wise parent knows that the child who is confined past the peak of a particular learning phase does not make up this loss easily. He holds back and becomes overdependent. Still later, this same child rebels against too much interference. Such youngsters often become helpless whiners and misfits. There’s nothing wrong with helping hands and shoulders to lean on along the way to a business, marriage, or life, but there’s no such thing as a completely free ride either. Judgment must be exercised if it’s to grow strong. Too many "experts" are viewing the American people as children to be kept in cribs and strollers. When official bribes and penalties put props under certain ways of earning a living, it should not surprise us that a little too much here or there finds the whole structure toddling uncertainly. Left to develop naturally, we will balance our lives and produce to meet all human needs.

Our family situation is a source of joy to us and we’re grateful, but for every person who’d love to live in the hills, there’s no doubt another who would rather shoot the breeze with his neighbors and feel the glowing safety of streetlights at night. We all need each other.

I wasn’t sure about this canyon as a home at first. My husband was. He was sure enough to plead and work and convince. Today I thank him every time I see a fawn in my garden or watch a bald eagle soar, because I chose too. And every day we both breathe a "thank you" for the privilege of living in a land that — after two hundred years — still says to its citizens: "Choose."

I can think of no better way to celebrate our country’s birthday and get rid of our fashionable guilt complexes than by joining together to keep the choices we still have and to gain back the ones we’ve lost. From the smallest personal decision, through local community action, and on to the National Elections, every move that takes power out of government hands and puts it back in the grip of those for whom governments were instituted is a step in the right direction. Enough steps make a mile. Let’s start walking.  

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November 1975

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