A Yardstick of “Our Freedoms”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

It’s interesting – and generally, true – that each generation looks back wistfully on the freedoms it enjoyed vs. now.'80s image

I’m a Gen Xer.

My generation can remember what America was like back in the ’70s ands ’80s. Here are some random snapshots about the way things used to be vs. the way they are today:

Schools did not not have metal detectors … or armed “resource officers” (cops).

The idea of checkpoints where you had to show your papers and were subject to interrogation about your destination would have been considered by most people something the East Germans had to deal with.

Not Americans.

You did not need a permit to set up a lemonade stand in the summer – or to shovel snow in the winter.

At my high school, there was a smoking arcade.gen x

As sophomores – with newly minted driver’s licenses – we often went out to our cars at lunchtime, went to McDonalds instead of the school cafeteria. No one cared, provided you made it back in time for the next class.

Some of my classmates had trucks with shotgun racks… which held shotguns. In the school parking lot. 

“Lock downs” only happened in prisons.

You could buy an airplane ticket with cash. Did not have to show ID. Could get to the airport 5 minutes before departure time, and as long as you made it to the gate before they closed the plane’s door, you were ok.

Busybodies were generally disliked.

People who talked constantly about “safety” were considered ninnies.   

Kids rode their bikes – unsupervised and without helmets – to baseball practice or to their friends’ houses.

You did not have to “buckle up” unless you felt like it.no helmets

There was privacy

It was not considered legally “suspicious” to possess cash – and even if a cop was suspicious, he couldn’t (legally) just take it from you.

Banks did not inform the government of your deposit and withdrawal activities.

Your employer didn’t try to tell you couldn’t smoke at home.   

Cops carried revolvers.

There was no such thing as a Tazer.

It was not asking to be shot to get out of your car when pulled over for a traffic offense, walk up to the cop’s car – and try to talk your way out of the ticket.

There were “head” shops – places where you could buy bongs and such. (The same way people buy beer steins and such now.)

If they caught you with a bag of pot, it was a relatively minor offense.

You were not required – threatened with violence – to buy “health care.”

In many states, car insurance wasn’t mandatory.'70s stews

You could buy/drink liquor when you turned 18.

The government wouldn’t have dared to publicly admit it tortured people – as policy. 

The idea of being compelled to piss into a cup as a part of a job interview would have been risible back in 1985.

It was not a career-ending offense to say or write something an aggrieved minority found “hurtful.”

Push mowers did not shut off when you stopped for a minute to grab a glass of water.

If you owned a bar, and wanted to let your customers smoke, you could. Those who didn’t appreciate smoke were free to not go in (or leave) but couldn’t force you to accommodate them in your place.

Our correspondence was not read without a warrant – and if it was and we found out about it, there was hell to pay.

If anyone had called America the “homeland”back in 1982,, eyebrows would have raised; the person  would have been thought a former camp guard from Treblinka or some such.

That’s a snapshot of what life was like to be a Gen Xer growing up in the America of the ’70s and ’80s.

Millennials – who came next – grew up with less freedom but my bet is they also look back on a freer America relative to the America of today. And those who came up before either of us can remember an America that – by the standards of either GenX America or Millennial America – was a veritable paradise of liberty.

Nevertheless, the trend remains the same.




  1. MASH, a TV show about a bunch of insubordinate anti-authoritian army doctors, was the number 1 show in the country and syndicated episodes ran 4 times a day.

    • Boy, I remember those days… when MASH was a popular show and most people liked the anti-authority doctors. In contrast, at the same time, there was the dickhead authority figure (Neidermeyer, with his chromed plated helmet) in movies like Animal House, who were reviled.

  2. If you knocked up your girlfriend, she couldn’t get an abortion – at least not without some travel expenses.
    If you didn’t find your marriage “emotionally fulfilling”, you couldn’t get a divorce – it required a showing of adultery, abandonment, or abuse.
    You couldn’t marry your “same sex” partner.
    No one looks down on you for having a hundred sexual partners, shacking up, having children out of wedlock (if you aren’t a deadbeat dad, Moms can just get on the dole).

    That is the definition of “freedom” today – sexual license. Was it worth the trade?

    Note that a number of things on your list either haven’t changed or are ignored here in Wyoming – there are bars where you can smoke (owner’s choice, except in Casper), Many open carry (the rest CCW), have small arsenals in the back of their truck, The police generally leave you alone if you aren’t a nuisance. Also true of other areas here “out west”. Christian ethos, but “leave you alone”, not busybody.

    No one has to wait for the second Tuesday in November to vote with their feet. The question is do you value freedom more than whatever your existing location provides (I have Amazon Prime and Gigabit Fiber).

    Maybe “The Free State” project will work out but it will take a few years for them to reboot liberty in New Hampshire. I wish them well. But will people even move there because they prefer freedom to pampered, safe, slavery?

    • Except this sexual freedom comes at the expense of others. It’s about socializing the costs of everything from birth control to children. Women don’t have to marry decent productive men any longer should they not want to be left fending entirely for themselves and their children. The state will take their resources from them and transfer them to the women if they don’t want to put up with such a boring man. So what we end up with is a sexual freedom for players and women. Everyone else, well go to work and pay, it’s for the children.

      Ultimately however this freedom will become chains. It will ultimately break society, break family bonds, and there will only be the state. Loyalty to the state and the state alone. The state will have all the resources and allocate them.

      The state also exploits family loyalties and economic control to keep people from moving.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here