I hope this node will be a repository for the ideas formerly expressed in Americans enjoy the greatest freedoms in the entire world.

In the United States, we are trained to believe that we possess the most freedom of any people in the world. I fact, we are trained to believe that 'America' and 'freedom' are synonymous, and even that freedom is an American invention. I suspect that a similar process might occur in other western nations.

In this node, let's discuss how valid these ideas and conclusions are. Are some nations freer than others? What is the situation in your country?

Being an American, I am most qualified to comment on the situation in my own nation. As a freedom loving person, I worry that we fall short of other western nations in the following areas:

1. Probable cause and seizure
a) In Canada and other places, the police must have probable cause to detain someone, whereas in the US anyone can be detained for any reason and it is only the formal designation of 'arrest' that requires probable cause.
b) In no other western nation can one be arrested and held for up to 36 hours following a minor traffic offense, with no justification or explanation needed whatsoever. We can thank a recent ruling of the Rhenquist court for this one.

2. Speech and expression
a) In no other western country are schoolchildren required by the state to begin their day reciting the words "Under God"
b) There's only one western democracy where it is punishable by jail time to merely hyperlink to a web site that explains how to crack copyrighted material...and it's the one south of Canada.
c) I'm not aware of anywhere else where it is a crime to possess written descriptions of pedophilic activity, as it is in several U.S. states.

3. Personal sexuality
a) In western Europe, and in Japan and Australia and Canada, homosexual sex between consenting adults is not a crime, as it is in 15 or more states of the U.S.1
b) In none of these nations is heterosexual anal or oral sex illegal as it is in several U.S. states.1
c) I'm not aware of any other nation in which it is illegal to 'use a dildo for its intended purpose,' as it is in at least one U.S. state. Read about that here.
d) An adult paying another adult for sex is not illegal in many countries of Europe, and is decriminalized in others. Not so in America.
e) In many countries of Western Europe, and in Australia, committed homosexual couples can be married and receive the same benefits under the law as committed heterosexual couples, as they cannot in the U.S.

4. Personal drug use
a) In many countries of continental Europe, possession of a small quantity of marijuana is not a felony punishable with prison time, as it is in most jurisdictions of the U.S. Some nations have even gone so far as to decriminalize it entirely.
b) In no other western country is possession of a gram of any drug punishable by a life sentence, as with crack cocaine is in the U.S.
c) The drinking age is not 21 anywhere else.

5. Random stuff
a) In Texas, it may soon be illegal to bicycle in groups of three or more on public highways. (http://www.bicycle-law.com/txaction.htm) 2

I reluctantly conclude that the United States is not the bastion of personal freedom, and that bastion must be somewhere else. I'm grateful for the freedoms that we do have, I just wish we lived up to the ideals in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill Of Rights and had more.

1 As of August 2003, the Lawrence V. Texas Supreme Court ruling has struck down laws against Sodamy when applied exclusively to homosexuals. Still, the ruling allows laws against heterosexual and homosexual sodomy, which are on the books in four states.
2 I have been informed that this bill has been defeated in the Texas legislature for this session. Lance Armstrong is safe for now.

If you are American and disturbed by the flaws I point to in our land, do not respond with some example from the Middle East or China or somewhere like that of a ridiculously oppressive regime. Reread the title of this node, paying close attention to the penultimate word.