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America is often called the “Land of the Free” We hear this phrase almost from the time we’re born, in our anthems and our sacred constitutional documents.

This weekend, I came across two news items that caused me to ask: “What is the cost of freedom?”

First, as most of you know, Lauryn Hill announced her return to music with a new deal with Sony in the midst of legal troubles stemming from tax evasion charges.

In an open letter to her fans, she said:

“I’ve been fighting for existential and economic freedom, the freedom to create and live without someone threatening, controlling, and/or manipulating the art and the artist, by tying the purse strings.”

Think about that for a minute. The woman who took the world by storm and earned great fame and fortune ―what others would surely regard as ‘The American Dream’― is basically saying she felt enslaved by her success and by the government.

Hill is not the only one, think Dave Chapelle, who walked away from $50 million, think about that controversial book on black athletes entitled 40 Million Dollar Slaves.

Okay, the second news item was an article from CNN called, “Is Big Brother coming to your job?”

In it, contributor Bob Greene discusses how software developed to allow college professors to monitor students’ work will likely be adapted to the U.S. workplace to allow bosses to monitor workers online.

Greene describes such software as a tool “corporations everywhere have been waiting for… a way to stand over the shoulder of every employee, 24 hours a day, and keep track of exactly how much time he or she is really spending on his or her work.”

This goes beyond just when you log in or log out of your workstation. This software tracks page views, time spent on a document, notes taken, bookmarks used, and whether or not you even opened a document at work or at home.

All of this makes me wonder, here in the Land of the Free, how free our freedom actually is.

Yes, Lauryn Hill certainly owes back taxes, but what does it say about our society that she may lose her physical freedom because of her artistic desire to be free?

Why does David Chapelle feel so much more free without an extra $50 million? And why do we have to pursue our own American Dream in a monitored corporate environment where we are constantly reminded how un-free we really are…?

So, my question today is this: Would you accept a million dollars if it locked you into a situation where you felt unhappy, trapped and unable to express yourself freely?

I’ll leave you with this from writer William Faulkner… he says:

“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” 

The Cost of Freedom  was originally published on