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Period of greatest freedom for the average/typical person in the US? - Input Junkie
April 3rd, 2012
08:50 am

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Period of greatest freedom for the average/typical person in the US?
The question was raised by Steve Barnes at Facebook, apropo of people saying that "we're losing our freedoms".

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/536864.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:whswhs
Date:April 3rd, 2012 01:50 pm (UTC)
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Depends which aspect of freedom you mean. For some aspects, the period of substantive due process in Constitutional law, after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment and before the Progressives got in and narrowed it down—note that this was an era when the average person paid no income tax and no social security tax, for example. On the other hand, a lot of conduct that is more or less accepted now was subject to criminal penalties then, and the treatment of distinctive ethnic groups ranged from unpleasant to murderous. I wouldn't try to turn that vector into a scalar.
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From:xiphias
Date:April 3rd, 2012 03:34 pm (UTC)
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I think the Clinton White House was pretty good.
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From:agrumer
Date:April 3rd, 2012 05:44 pm (UTC)
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I'd say the 1990s. Post Civil Rights Act, women accepted in business, gays accepted in large urban centers, airport security not yet insane, very little in the way of censorship, and then the Internet comes along and opens up all sorts of possibilities for free expression.

An argument can be made for the late 1960s and early '70s --- post Miranda, pre-widespread militarization of police forces --- but only if you define "typical person" as "white middle-class Anglo-Saxon cis hetero able-bodied male".
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From:agrumer
Date:April 3rd, 2012 05:52 pm (UTC)
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Thinking further about it, I'd place the end of that 1990s period at 1998, when the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed. So I think that gives us 1995-98 as a high water mark for American freedom.
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From:st_rev
Date:April 3rd, 2012 07:13 pm (UTC)
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Ages 55-68.
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From:heron61
Date:April 3rd, 2012 08:14 pm (UTC)
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This question is largely unanswerable in its most general form, since the answer for straight white men is drastically different from the answer for everyone else.
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From:agrumer
Date:April 4th, 2012 05:34 am (UTC)
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One of the commenters on the Barnes thread comes right out and says that, as far as he's concerned, the "typical" American is white and male, so his most-free point is just after the Revolutionary War.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 5th, 2012 05:52 am (UTC)
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Steve was asking for subjective impressions.
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From:agrumer
Date:April 5th, 2012 06:44 am (UTC)
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I know. And that guy's subjective impression says, at best, that he doesn't think his opinions through and knows little to nothing about early US history.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 5th, 2012 03:16 pm (UTC)
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Sometimes you have to choose between finding out what people are thinking and telling them that they're wrong.
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From:agrumer
Date:April 5th, 2012 06:46 pm (UTC)
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I'm not criticizing Barnes, just expressing amazement.

I'm aware that a white American man can walk around all day believing, in a not-consciously-thinking-it-through kind of way, that the default state for humanity is to be a white American man, because I am one. And I'm aware that most white American men do that, because hey, look at how people behave. I'm just astonished that a person can have their attention brought to this fact and persist in consciously believing it long enough to actually write it down as a deliberate assertion.

With a side order of aggravation about the guy's cartoon notion of early American history. (Has he even read the Declaration of Independence?)
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From:vvalkyri
Date:April 4th, 2012 04:49 am (UTC)
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From:ashnistrike
Date:April 7th, 2012 04:00 pm (UTC)
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The U.S. was majority slave until the Civil War, and then majority former slave for a couple of decades after that until the big wave of European immigration. That was also before the anti-reconstruction forces really cracked down, so it was pretty good for straight Christian males across the board. Then freedom goes down a bit until women get the vote, and goes up slowly and irregularly for a while...

The argument above is that the late nineties were pretty good. But Lawrence vs. Texas was in 2003, which means that a little under 10% of the adult population was illegal until well after post-9/11 civil liberties restrictions. And of the other 90%, many were poor and suffering from the new social safety net limits and the outsourcing flow following the free trade agreements. (You might be a redneck actually middle class if you don't think unemployment or lowered income restrict your freedom.) I'm getting hung up here on the fact that not all parts of the population gain or lose rights at the same rate; I think it's the wrong question.

Alternate answer: I don't think you can average categories of people, but the US mode is probably a lower-middle-class straight cis Christian caucasian female who has, or knows someone with, a restrictive medical condition of some sort. That would probably, in fact, be the mid-to-late 90s.

For the record, for me personally the answer is "2012."
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