What Happened?

I’m 51 years old.

When I was a kid, there was an expression I heard all the time. “It’s a free country.” Usually uttered whenever somebody said “You can’t do that.” “Yes I can – it’s a free country.”

I literally cannot remember the last time I heard somebody say this.

And don’t try to tell me that it’s Obama’s fault, or Bush’s, or 9/11 and the Patriot Act. The loss of this expression far predates any of those. I don’t even recall hearing it during…

  1. Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    I second my fellow Ricos at #2, #7 and #8.

  2. Fake John Galt

    I use to say it, then I believed it, I no longer do. Everybody knows it is no longer a free country. We are only freer than some others. Why do you think many of us use Rico handles? Because we fear.

  3. Lord Humungus

    That’s a great question. I use a more modern version of the phrase: “They haven’t banned that yet” or “It’s still legal, I think”.

    I don’t know what can be done about it, but it had better be done quickly; kids look at me like I’m nuts when I talk like that.  And so on….

  4. Fred Cole

    Communism fell.

    I remember this phrase when I was a kid and that was in the 1980s.

    “It’s a free country” is in contrast to being an unfree country, such as the USSR or the countries of the Soviet Block.

    Look, you all know me, I wouldn’t hesitate to answer something brutal and cynical.  But the true answer is communism falling.  Anything else is self serving wishful thinking.

  5. Schrodinger

    1: What happened?

    The left took over our schools and have been teaching the kids that certain freedoms are bad. The MSM supports this indoctrination by lauding the good intentions of the nanny state power grabs.


    2: What can we do about it?


    Then support home schooling, the abolishment of the Department of Education & teachers unions.

  6. Guruforhire

    It became a rationalization and defense to antisocial behavior.  It’s an implicit statement that people have no right to object in any fashion to any negative behavior.

  7. The King Prawn

    Communism didn’t fall. It just got rebranded, repackaged, and, most recently, reelected.

  8. WI Con

    Remember the ‘We reserve the right to refuse service to any one’ signs in businesses?

  9. The Mugwump

    Freedom is lost when government reaches critical mass.  Just as an example, I got a knock on the door the other day.  A man in a uniform was doing a survey for the animal shelter.  I generally support the work of the SPCA (ours is a no-kill shelter), so I didn’t think twice about cooperating.  Yesterday, I got a bill in the mail from the city and a demand that I register my cat in the shelter’s database!  Critical mass, indeed.  There is nothing now beyond the hand of government taxation and regulation.  And it always happens by increments until you wake up one day and find liberty banished.           

  10. Jimmy Carter

    Excellent observation. Excellent question.

    Hell, I can’t remember the last time I said it.

    I’m going to poll ’round to see if any younger ones have even heard of the phrase.

    Very thought provoking.

  11. DocJay

    Government dependence and the wussification of our kids. Instead of climbing up the water tower for a dare it’s unprotected sex while on meth and another round of STD roulette. What can we do ? Break the teachers union, punish crooked politicians, and stop incentivizing poor choices. I made it through the answer without discussing creative wood chipper uses.

  12. Gary The Ex-Donk

    I don’t know where you live but my 16-year old throws that one at me all the time.

  13. Byron Horatio

    When you have to obtain a license to sell lemonade as a child or can’t smoke in public, and when your old nemesis the Russians have a less onerous and less socialist tax system than you do…do you really live in a free country?

  14. Jojo

    Even here on Ricochet there’s disturbing support for moderation in freedom.

    I used to say that too, and I don’t say it anymore either, because I’m not so convinced it’s true.  I am not sure that the country is actually less free; I may just have lost some illusions of youth.

  15. Despair Troll

    The last time I heard it was in geometry class in 1992.  

    I think the reason we don’t say it anymore was because the Soviet Union collapsed.  The phrase highlighted a key difference between the US and its major rival at the time, we being the “free” country and the Soviets were not.  After the fall of our ideological enemy, it was no longer necessary for us to reinforce the idea that freedom separated us from a potentially existential threat.  Freedom went from a precious cornerstone of a culture to a goodwill leisure suit nearly overnight.  When we stopped valuing freedom, we focused our collective value beam other things, like social welfare and self esteem.

    Why would you want to do anything about it?  It’s a free country.  People can say and think what they want.  What do we look like?  Russia?  Come on, man…

  16. MMPadre

    I used to say that all the time (when expressing an opinion amongst expat friends) when I was teaching in the PRC.  Why, yes, I was being ironic.

  17. Jerry Broaddus

    You could start using the phrase, “It’s a free state”, but only if you happen to live in one.

  18. Aaron Miller

    Furry country? I thought that was Germany, where the women don’t shave.

  19. Keith

    Political Correctness.

    You can’t speak a certain way or use certain words.

    You are not free.

    If you dare to act free you will be detained.

    You are not free.

    There is a COC. 

    You are not free.

  20. Amy Schley
    MMPadre: I used to say that all the time (when expressing an opinion amongst expat friends) when I was teaching in the PRC.  Why, yes, I was being ironic. · 12 minutes ago

    What’s interesting though with the PRC is that most of the time, you are completely free.  And when you’re not free to say, research Tibetan liberation movements, you dang well know it. (Probably the single funniest line heard in on my trip to China, “Why can’t I get any websites to come up about Tibet? Oh right, we’re in China.”)

    I’m not sure if it’s better or worse than being slowly strangled in a silk rope like the US.

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