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THE INDIVIDUAL VS. THE GROUP The United States of America is considered a free country. It was founded on religious freedom, and the freedom of the individual that humanity deserves. We may be considered a free country but in reality we are many times not so free. We seem, in many ways, to have lost the individual freedoms that we were promised as a nation, or were we missing them from the start? Since the country was founded it has lacked the individual freedom on which it was built. Most laws that invade our freedom were made because people did not agree with certain actions made by some others, such as prostitution, or they thought that God did not want people doing certain things such as being a homosexual. If someone's actions do not infringe on another's rights, such as suicide, then why should others care? Who has the right to tell people how to run their lives? Nobody can tell anybody else that they do not have the right to do certain things just because they are harming themselves or because somebody else would not do it. Democracy developed in this country after years of Britain infringing on our rights. We wanted the freedom to do what we wanted with out persecution, which at the time basically had to do with religion. Now it is as if out own government which was built on freedom wishes to oppress us by taking away freedoms that we should rightfully have. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were both classic American writers who believed strongly in the individuals rights. Emerson partly discovered and partly invented his religion, Transcendentalism. He left the Unitarian church and created his new religion where he felt God through nature. Transcendentalism was based on traits that had always been held most dearly amongst the American frontier society, self reliance and individualism. Thoreau stood up for the individual rights he though he had when he refused to pay his poll tax. The tax was going towards the Mexican War which Thoreau was against. By trying to stand up for his beliefs, Thoreau was put in jail until a friend paid the tax for him. Unfortunately these traits of the individual, many times, have no outlet because the government decides to make our decisions for us, and tell us what is "bad" for us and therefore illegal. "No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature." Even in Emerson's time there were laws that restricted individualism. When was it decided that people could not make their own moral decisions, and that laws needed to be made to help them? Emerson, one of the greatest all time American writers, a very respected man, said these things: "Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members." "My life is for itself and not for a spectacle." Truer words have never been spoken; why then is society so bent on watching everything every one does? It is as if they think people are children who do not know what is best for themselves. Women can be arrested, in some states, for buying sexually stimulating devices. How is the individual expected to grow as a person with out making his/her own decisions and not having a government or society telling them what to do? It is every person's God given right to make his own decisions on what they do to themselves. Smoking cigarettes is becoming a crime. You cannot smoke in any public building, unless it is a bar, throughout the united states, and taxes on cigarettes are becoming very high to discourage smoking. Smoking marijuana already is a crime. It was legal up until the late 1920's or early 30's and now there are very strict laws against it, when it is really not more harmful than cigarettes or alcohol. Speaking of that, drinking alcohol was a crime in the twenties until finally the government had to give in to the public demand for the drug; that is one occasion where the people were able to win back one of their rights. All these things harm the individual and no one else - unless used improperly such as drinking and driving - so there should be no reason for others to care. In most states prostitution is a crime, and whom does that hurt? Any girl can go anywhere and have meaningless sex for free, but as soon as she gets paid it becomes illegal. If both parties are consenting adults then what harm is caused? No one else gets hurt. Marijuana is used by a very large percentage of Americans these days. At least California has re-legalized marijuana for medical purposes, but still millions of Americans use it each year and the laws are very strict. People can go to jail longer for growing marijuana than things like theft and even murder. That fact is morally wrong. Why should somebody's lives be ruined and basically finished because of something that harms no one, and should be his own choice; especially when killers are in for less time. There was a man once who was a very successful, respectable business man who was growing a few small marijuana plants in his basement. The police raided his house and he was sent to prison for a sentence of ninety-three years; his life was ruined. Murderers have gone to jail for less time than that. O. J. Simpson never went to jail. Some of the largest causes of crime these days are because of laws that infringe on our rights. When we cannot do things that we have the right to do, we end up creating an illegal market which can be very dangerous. We get powerful drug dealers monopolizing whole neighborhoods. If another dealer wants to have a piece of the market the only way to settle the deal is for one of the dealer to be killed. If drugs were legal this would not happen. People would not have to buy from these dealers anymore; they could go to the local convenience store

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