A new Gallup poll finds that fewer Americans are satisfied with the freedom in their lives compared with seven years ago -- dropping 12 percentage points, from 91 percent in 2006 to 79 percent in 2013. During that same time, the percentage of Americans dissatisfied with the freedoms available in their lives more than doubled, from 9 percent to 21 percent. The United States now sits in 36th place among the world in our admiration of the idea of freedom.
It's fair to mention that the definition of "freedom" has become increasingly pliable. (It is, for example, regularly argued that one person's unwillingness to pay for another person's contraception is a restriction of the latter person's freedom.) What is bothersome, though, is that nearly a quarter of us would feel comfortable telling a complete stranger that our own "freedom," in the broadest sense, is an overrated concept.
You can imagine, considering how we vote, that many more people believe the same thing. And I would argue that the majority of Americans admire theoretic freedom far more than they do the real thing. Gallup offers no breakdown of the ideological inclination of those dissatisfied with the choices available to them, so we are only left to guess.
Gallup claims that the decline in freedom loving could probably be attributed to the weak U.S. economy. It is plausible that this is part of the reason. The political class has used populist progressive myths about freedom's role in inequity, unfairness, racism and poverty so regularly and effectively that there is little doubt many people, especially young people, have started believing them. (And though the poll specifically points to the freedoms available in our lives, I believe that the Gallup questions are broad enough to be a reflection of what we think of freedom in general.)
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