In the United States, we have freedom of speech, in the sense that the government won’t arrest you for speaking your mind. Yay for freedom!
But your fellow citizens will happily ruin your economic life if you say something unpopular in public. Some might say that has nothing to do with the right of free speech. It’s an example of free people acting in a free way. But to me, it looks like cutting out the middle man. There’s no point in electing a government to punish unpopular speakers when the citizens can do it themselves, and cheaper. It might look we have freedom of speech to you, but to me it looks like we just found the most efficient system for limiting it.
[Interesting side note: For this post I made a list of opinions you are not allowed to express in this country, and realized I can’t even publish the list without a social and economic penalty that wouldn’t be worth the benefit.]
We also have freedom of religion in the United States, unless your religion conflicts with the religious majority in any non-symbolic way. In other words, you can wear a funny hat, but you can’t ask your neighbor to fellate you in return for setting up her wireless network.
Polygamy gets a bad rap because cult leaders keep forcing 14-year old girls to marry 60-year old men. Clearly there’s a victim in those cases. But why can’t Warren Buffet have multiple wives of legal age if they all agree to the arrangement?
Thanks to religious restrictions on freedom in the United States, we have a long list of things you can’t do (at least whenever you want): prostitution, marijuana, euthanasia, gambling, polygamy, and on and on. You might argue that the law is just trying to protect people from harm. But if that were the case, bicycles would be illegal.
I keep wondering why I don’t get mad about the government chipping away at my freedoms in the alleged interest of fighting terrorism. I used to think it was because I thought the tradeoff was worth it. But I suspect the real reason is that losing a few more freedoms would just get lost in the rounding.