Give me liberty or give me debt
Driving up 14th street yesterday, we couldn't help noticing the young man dressed in the Statue of Liberty costume standing out front of US Bank. As he beckoned us with his torch, I wondered what enlightenment the bank wished to offer us. (And whether the poor young man was gaining any appreciation for his college education I assume he was attempting to pay for.) It also reminded me of contrasting views of liberty.

Some in our society hold that liberty means that we are free to do what we want. I believe this would be the underlying precept behind US Bank's promotional campaign. Apply for a loan and be free to do what you want. Go on vacation, remodel your home, purchase a new car, update your wardrobe. Whatever your desire is, you will be freed to pursue it with a simple signature on the loan application. This also reminds me of B.F. Skinner's definition of liberty,
What do we mean when we say we want to be free? Usually we mean we don't want to be in a society that punishes us for doing what we want to do. Okay--aversive stimuli don't work well anyway, so out with them! Instead, we'll only use reinforcers to "control" society. And if we pick the right reinforcers, we will feel free, because we will be doing what we feel we want!
The bank offers us freedom to do what we think we want without the burden of working toward that goal.

Webster's 1828 dictionary, however, defines liberty primarily as "freedom from restraint." To be freed from the bondage of slavery, tyranny or sin is liberty. It can be a physical, ideological or spiritual condition. But it isn't entered into by contract with another individual. It is a natural, God-given state which requires a great deal of responsibility to maintain. As Proverbs 22:7 tells us,

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

There is not liberty in debt. Which, with personal debt reaching an all-time high, means our nation is sliding into servitude.

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