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Will You Fight for Financial Freedom?

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The monstrous Charlie Hebdo massacre has served to renew a broader societal debate about freedom.

While it’s easy enough to show up at a rally in Paris bearing a “Je Suis Charlie” sign in sympathy for victims of the attack and in support of freedom of expression, the defense of freedom is not secured amidst the drama of mass demonstrations. It occurs in the daily decisions people make when not under history’s apparent gaze.

When days after the massacre, the satirical newspaper released an edition on whose cover the prophet Mohammed was pictured displaying a “Je suis Charlie” sign while shedding a tear, it was making a statement that its free speech rights would not be silenced.

When shortly thereafter, the British TV network Sky News refused to show that image—its camera cutting away from a French interviewee trying to hold it up, while the British newscaster actually apologized to the audience for possibly offending anyone—it was narrowing the scope of liberty in the U.K.

The same goes for the Oxford University Press which announced poorly-timed new guidelines to its authors not to use pig, sausage or pork-related words for fear it might offend Muslims and Jews. A British Jewish spokesman quickly pointed out that Jews are prohibited from eating pork, but using words or images of pigs or pig products are unproblematic, as is other people’s pork consumption. A Muslim member of parliament called the guidelines “absolute utter nonsense.”

Once again, small, almost unseen actions that occur every single day account for gains or loss of freedom, and it behooves all of us to act with courage and common sense to draw those lines.

But it is not only freedom in a political sense that is under theat. How are we doing on financial freedom?

I thought about that in reading a provocative interview Research editor Gil Weinreich had with Axel Merk on ThinkAdvisor.

The gold and currency funds manager commented that “substantial economic growth is the biggest threat to the U.S. economy right now,” adding that “if we had gangbuster growth, if we went back to historical average [rates] of financing deficits, we’d be spending $1 trillion a year to finance our deficits.”

Merk noted that for the first time in history both U.S. consumers and the government hold an excess of debt: “The folks that own the debt are foreigners who don’t have a vote, and your clients are holding the other side of the trade.”

Just as certain craven behaviors narrow the scope of political freedom, so too does abject consumerism, or vote-buying as the case may be, restrict our freedom to maneuver financially.

How many zillions of words, how much gnashing of teeth, have been expended on whether the Federal Reserve will raise rates by a fraction, and yet the rate has not budged from its zero bound in over six years!

The same is true of the federal budget—expenditures that can longer be justified are hard to eliminate because of constituencies that will fight vigorously to defend them.

And the same is true at the household level. Kids are trained to think it is their right to bankrupt overindulgent parents with their college or smartphone preferences.

In this battle, financial advisors are first responders. Will you fight for financial freedom?