Some readers of this column may very well remember the late ‘70s-early '80s sitcom, Mork and Mindy. Mork, played by Robin Williams, was an alien from the planet “Ork” who had been deployed to Earth in order to discover more about the ways of its inhabitants. At the end of each week’s episode, audiences would watch as Mork relayed his findings to “Orson,” his superior. Now, imagine if a Mork-like being were to visit our planet for the sake of acquiring knowledge regarding America’s politics. What would he discover?
Well, within minutes of his spacecraft landing he would determine that those beings who call themselves “Americans” have something bordering on an obsession with what they call “liberty.” At virtually every turn, it is impossible to go for long without hearing the language of “liberty” and “freedom” spring from their lips.
Being the inquisitive sort that he is, it is only natural that this alien should want to probe more deeply into the character of this “liberty.” So he does. Our sociologist from another planet, so as to keep himself from becoming conspicuous, would first try to discern its meaning by listening carefully to the inflection and intonations of the voices of those speaking of liberty. In doing so, he would become hopeful that he would before long get to the bottom of it all, for what he would detect is that talk of liberty is almost invariably accompanied by excitement and enthusiasm — as sure a sign as any that this “liberty” is something to which these Americans attach no small measure of importance. Liberty, that is, isn’t just a good, as far as the Americans are concerned; it is quite possibly the greatest of all goods.
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Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. (photo)