Perhaps you are one of those people who believes, like the song says, that
our country is "the land of the free." Let me disabuse you of that notion.
Our government makes laws. These laws are then implemented by regulations, which are then interpreted by the courts. All three branches of the government have a hand in constricting and constraining freedom.
A little constraint is a good thing. But how much is too much?
In Iceland they have waterfalls larger and more beautiful than Niagra. They have extensive geothermally active regions located adjacent to well traveled roads. Every geyser in the world has been named for Iceland's great "Geyser." You can walk right up to these natural wonders. You can sit on the rocks right next to the waterfalls, and even stick out your hand into the fast moving glacial river as it begins its journey down into the chasm. You can walk right up to the great geyser and stare down into its throat. You can walk right up to waterfalls made of boiling mud.
In the United States these activities are constrained in the name of safety. How close can you get to Niagara Falls? To Old Faithful? In California a water park just closed because, as it turns out, people are not aquatic animals; occasionally people get injured. Safety is a good thing, but so is freedom. What use is freedom if you don't have the right to be an idiot?
Americans often have difficulty in truly free countries. They cannot understand that just because you are free to look down a geyser's throat doesn't mean you should. Americans seem to think that if it was dangerous, it would be fenced off or shut down. Icelander's simply think Americans should exercise self control.
America is not a free country. You reach a deserted crossroads at 2:00 AM. You approach the stop sign. If you run the stop sign and a policeman is nearby, you will be pulled over and ticketed. This is stupid.
In Naples, Italy, if you approach a stop sign or a red traffic light, it is little more than a suggestion. If it is safe to proceed, you do so---no matter what the traffic laws say. However, all traffic laws apply if you end up in an accident. Therefore Neapolitans are free to drive however they like as long as they do not cause injury to others. It seems chaotic, but freedom is like that.
This is not a free country. Every injurious event such as 9/11 or Enron type scandals generates another round of laws which further constrain and control behavior. It is now seemingly impossible to live a life without breaking laws and violating regulations. This is not freedom---it just looks like it to people who don't know any better.
NOTE: This is a modified version of a post at http://bbs.slate.msn.com/?id=3936&m=7183421