I think of freedom in positive, aspirational terms - as in FDRâ€™s â€śFour freedoms,â€ť or in the uplifting songs of freedom sung by oppressed people everywhere.
But right-wing ideologues have fabricated a negative notion of â€śfreedomsâ€ť derived from their twisted concept of individual choice. Youâ€™re â€śfreeâ€ť to be poor, politically powerless, or ill and uncared for, they say - itâ€™s all a matter of decisions you freely make, and our government has no business interfering with your free will.
This is what passes as a philosophical framework guiding todayâ€™s Republican congressional leaders.
For example, they say their plan to eliminate health coverage for millions of Americans and cut such essential benefits as maternity care for millions more is just a matter of good olâ€™ free-market consumerism.
As explained by Jason Chaffetz, a Utah tea party Republican: â€śAmericans have choices. And so maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.â€ť
Lest you think that Chaffetz must simply be an oddball jerk, hereâ€™s a similar deep insight from the top House Republican, Speaker Paul Ryan: â€śFreedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need.â€ť
Yes, apparently, youâ€™re as free as you can afford to be. As Vice President Mike Pence recently barked at us, Trumpcareâ€™s youâ€™re-on-your-own philosophy is all about â€śbringing freedom and individual responsibility back to American health care.â€ť
The GOPâ€™s austere view is that getting treatment for your spouseâ€™s cancer should be like buying a new pair of shoes - a free-market decision by customers who choose their own price point, from Neiman Marcus to Goodwill.
And if you go barefoot, well, thatâ€™s your choice.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. Heâ€™s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. Distributed by OtherWords.org.