The New York Times has one interesting article and one pointed opinion piece today that I think are more related than they might seem.
The article reports on the differing views of Constitution Day, which is today, September 17. People associated with the Tea Party hold the view that "the federal government is a creeping and unwelcome presence in the lives of freedom-loving Americans." Like most issues that have any political aspect, there is a view that is diametrically opposed. Progressives "see the Constitution not as a limit on federal power but as the spirit behind many progressive laws."
My own take is that the framers were careful wordsmiths. So what is necessary to understand the Constitution is close reading. If that is done, it seems apparent the Constitution is more concerned with liberty than freedom. In fact, freedom is only specifically mentioned in the Constitution in the First Amendment. Religious practice and speech are meant to be off limits from the Congress. However, like the Declaration of Independence, the preamble to the Constitution makes liberty conspicuous. Often liberty and freedom are synonymous. I think there are distinct and important differences in meaning.
Freedom means without any restrictions. I am free to disobey the law. I am free to abuse the power I have over others.
Liberty is more accurately defined by the civil relationship we have to each other. Thus you can take indecent liberties with a minor (the very concept of indecent freedom is unknown). Or a person is not a liberty to share a confidence which they gained in trust. In this more precise sense liberty creates both rights and responsibilities. And any governing document must outline how a civil society will organize so that individual freedom is redirected so that pluribus becomes unum.
This is where the op/ed about food comes in. Joe Nocera describes how any tax on the food industry, even one with wide support meant to fund improved safety throughout the production and distribution systems, is opposed by conservatives as "significant overreach" by the government. The underlying philosophy in opposition to the tax and its use is that food producers should be free from regulation so that they can maximize profits, which will benefit all involved through improved methods. As the recent outbreak of listeria linked to cantaloupes proves, this is not how things work in the real world.
I believe that in our system everyone is at liberty to profit from their efforts and investments. However, those of us who buy products, especially products as essential as food, are justified in expecting that same liberty requires a high-level of safety that can only be coordinated by the government that the framers created with the Constitution we celebrate today.