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Sunday, February 23, 2020
HomeOpinionLive Free or Live Longer?

Live Free or Live Longer?

Emigrants at the Gates, Colomon Butcher, depicts the trail for American pioneers.
Emigrants at the Gates, Colomon Butcher, depicts the trail for American pioneers.

Emigrants at the Gates, Colomon Butcher, depicts the trail for American pioneers.

Reading about some of the early pioneers from our early American history, I noticed that they didn’t live very long. In fact, on numerous occasions on trips to old western towns and other historical spots, I noticed the dates on gravestones were very often not much later than the birth date. Besides the obvious shortened lives due to childbirth and stillborns, I noticed quite a few young men in early graves too.

At least by our standards. An old man 150 years ago was over 50. Now it’s well over 80.

Of course, life was much harsher then too. The interesting thing about Americans 150 or so years ago was that there was no denying they were freer, and had more personal liberties than we do now. They arguably had more exposure to guns and violence, traveled by foot into harsher, more untamed lands, and generally had less access to medicine and high quality diets.

However, I noticed they didn’t complain about it too much. Oh sure, there were some that wanted a longer life, but for most people access to a higher quality of living didn’t necessarily mean a longer life. Or that government would provide it for them. The literature and correspondence from those years were more focused on how they were making a better life for their kids from hard work, not for themselves via governmental powers.

In fact, the reason people are living longer now than they did back then, is very simple. The people were free to build, develop and sell better products and inventions. Many Americans got fabulously wealthy inventing things that gave us a longer and healthier lifestyle, from the electric light bulb to modern pharmaceuticals. Capitalism developed all the comforts that now extend our lives and give us a better quality of life.

Attitudes in America have shifted a lot in those 150 years. Now people still want a longer life, but those demands are now directed at government. People want free health care and more laws to protect their lives and safety. Some even think that laws that prevent people from hitting each other in the head with a football on the beach are somehow an improvement on the quality of life. Many want to abandon the economic and societal principles that got us here in an effort to reinvent the American experience.

If you were to transplant a pioneer from 150 years ago into a modern day environment, they probably would be appalled.

You see all of the things that some people are demanding today from government are not going to prolong life, or increase its quality. At least the pioneers didn’t think so, and the economic track record bears them out.

While other nations have had strong centralized governments and detailed socialistic societal policies in place for far longer than America has, it certainly hasn’t brought them a better quality of life. The poorest of Americans have access to substantially more benefits than the poorest of other nations. We even provide free cell phones to the homeless.

The astonishing wealth of the American economy did not come from a strong and powerful government, but from a strong and powerful people. Now, that wealth did not come without a price—as I mentioned earlier, the graveyards are full of the young people that sacrificed to build this nation.

But I don’t think very many of them would have had kind words for leaders that think taking 30 to 50 percent of a man’s earning to protect them, was a good idea.

Freedom, wealth and a high standard of living doesn’t come at the hands of government benefits or societal policies and laws; it comes from the busy and hardworking hands of its people. Our government now wants to tell us how to eat, take our paychecks and pay for medical care for all of us, and, in essence, how to live our lives.

Many will point out that other nations now have a higher life expectancy than America. This much is true. The reason Americans don’t live as long, however, is because they live better and more free than their global counterparts. Americans die more often from overeating rich foods and sitting around living a life of leisure than do others.

We may live a few years less than a man living in Germany or Japan, but I don’t think giving up our national heritage and our freedoms is worth it.

You have a choice as Americans to live as you see fit. You can live like a monk and scrape out a few more years, or eat Twinkies and Whoppers in front of the TV all day, or take drugs and party all night and die younger.

But at least here you have a choice.

I prefer having a choice. Don’t you?

Written by
Contributor

Thomas Purcell is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the popular radio show Liberty Never Sleeps.

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