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(For 11 August 1998)

Calling All Countries:
The Freedom Project

The Pursuit of Liberty, Phase Two

"Freedom hath been hunted round the globe."
- Thomas Paine

Things have changed since the words of Emma Lazarus were inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty: "Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free." The huddled masses are just S.O.L. these days: American freedom is one Lazarus that won't be rising from the grave any time soon, thanks to the crop of chowder-headed politicans guarding the tomb.

But what can one do about it? I discovered firsthand the improbability of resurrecting freedom in the Land of the Free by running for office myself. Contemporary elections are about as legitimate as professional wrestling, and even if elections were legitimate, it wouldn't help much, because there doesn't seem to be a crime these boneheaded politicians can commit that would keep people from voting them back into office. Scandal doesn't seem to bother the electorate; like a James Bond martini, they are shaken, but never stirred. I mean, how many women does a guy have to drive off a bridge to be considered unelectable in the state of Massachusetts?

"The right to be let alone is the underlying principle of the Constitution's Bill of Rights." - Erwin N. Griswold

Where, then, can today's huddled masses turn to find freedom -- or just be left the hell alone? I decided to look beyond U.S. borders. Motivated by Erwin Griswold's maxim, I resolved, like National Lampoon's Griswolds, to become a global irritant. Like the governments of the world, I, too, would hunt freedom round the globe -- but I would hunt for it, not after it. Disguising myself as the head of a think tank, I mailed a questionnaire to every head of state on the entire planet.

The questionnaire was designed to see if there exists a government that does not enslave its citizens. The questions were as follows:

1. Are people in [name of country] free to produce and earn as much as they are able, and to dispose of it as they wish?

2. Are people in [name of country] free from direct taxes on their earnings?

3. Is the right of personal property fully secure in [name of country]? Are people there free from government seizure of their property?

4. Do you have any kind of citizen registration in [name of country] (ID cards, identity papers, or the like)? Is the privacy of the lives and finances of your people fully secure, for them -- and only them -- to divulge or keep secret as they see fit?

5. Can a person in [name of country] -- insofar as he keeps to himself, harms no one, and lives a quiet and productive life -- simply be left alone by government?

There was a secondary purpose to the questionnaire, which was to see whether heads of state were even capable of recognizing the difference between freedom and slavery. Do they recognize, for example, that if people are not free from direct taxes on their earnings, they cannot be said to be free?

Casting my bread upon the waters, I sent out over 200 letters. And a lot of bread it was: each letter cost me two bucks - a buck to send it and a buck for the International Reply Coupon (IRC) to cover return postage.

Soon responses began filling my mailbox ...

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