Homesteaders revel in the idea of autonomy.  But, in order to be autonomous we must have significant freedom, and that is often beyond our control.

We like to think of ourselves as living in the land of the free in America, but we forget that freedom is a very relative term.  For example, I am not free to sunbathe at the beach without covering my breasts, but I am free to expose the entirety of my derriere.  I am not free to grow a number of different kinds of plants in my garden, but I am free to purchase all the equipment necessary to grow those same plants indoors, as well as all the paraphernalia required to process and consume them.  I am not free to marry whomever I choose, or for that matter, to marry several people of my choice.  I am not free to pay taxes to fund only those programs I believe in, or to not pay taxes to fund wars I do not support.

We can choose not to vote, for example, if we are not pleased with either of the two candidates who have any chance of winning.  We have freedom of the press, as long as our ideas are popular, or unpopular, enough to get press.  We have the right to a fair trial, and even an unfair one in our favor, as long as we have money for a good lawyer.

There are other freedoms that are even more precarious, like those that govern our bodies and our land.  In these two areas where we might expect to have the most autonomy, our freedoms are in fact shockingly limited.  In theory we have the freedom to own property, as long as we meet certain requirements that would otherwise quickly forfeit those rights.  For example, as long as the land is undesirable to the government because there has, as yet, been found no exploitable natural resources below the surface.  Or, most commonly, as long as the land is not in an area that becomes desirable for development, in which case its taxes will be raised so quickly as to find it impossible to keep by anyone except the most wealthy.   On my own property, during certain times of the year, and in some places at any time, I am not free to kill an animal whose continued presence in my garden threatens the livelihood of me and my family.

When it comes to our bodies, in many states we do not have the right to a birth a child with the help of a midwife.  We certainly don’t have the right to terminate our own life anywhere, for any reason.  We don’t even have the right to refuse medical treatment.  When it comes to the medical establishment, if we equate freedom with choice, then our freedoms could not be more limited.  While you most likely pay a hefty monthly premium for your health insurance, that insurance will only pay if you visit a physician trained by the orthodox institutions.  In nearly every case, you cannot choose for yourself to see any other kind of specialist, for example a nutritionist, a massage therapist, an acupuncturist, a holistic practitioner, an herbalist, or a homeopathic doctor, and the list goes on and on.

We believe we have freedom of religion, but in fact those freedoms are significantly diminished if that religion strays from our established social mores.  For example, if your religion requires ceremony including a drug we call “illicit,” or if your religion is against the immunization of your children, or the forced treatment of terminal illness.

Before we continue to sing the praises of the “land of the free,” maybe it’s about time we define what freedom really means.