Empowering Free Men
Although it stands in contradiction to much of the world’s history, man can and must govern himself. This is the underlying principle of the American experiment, and from this one principle has sprung the greatest advances and successes in the history of civilization. However, this principle does not come from unbridled, chaotic democracy but from a moral and responsible populace capable of self-discipline and restraint. It also resides in the selection of leaders who empower and serve the best of society, not those who pander to its worst instincts.
The simplest definition of freedom comes from the fundamental truth that Man is God’s creation and has been granted the inalienable right to choose his own path in life. These choices are not just for mundane physical things, but involve the most important aspects of government, religion, law, and culture.
The founders of America knew that they had to take a risk in promoting individual freedom as the basis for national government. This idea was not universally accepted because some of the founders believed that a strong central government was needed. Fortunately, the idea of limited national government held sway.
Buttressed by the enumerated powers in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, both of which were intended to constrain the tendencies of politicians to amass power and distance themselves from the citizenry, limited government was the rule throughout much of the 19th century.
Unfortunately, the 20th and 21st centuries revealed the truth of George Washington’s forgotten caution that Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Massive and destructively complex political power concentrated in a centralized national government has become the norm, and many American citizens have been rendered powerless and dependent as a result.
It ought to be obvious why religion is so important. It is the profound connection between God, man and the very morality needed to prevent the abuses of individual freedom. Without it, men and women all too often focus on selfish and counterproductive pursuits. One lesson of history is that no society can permanently exist when all war against all on the battlefield of moral uncertainty.
The greatest damage done by the historical revisionism of the socialists is to the Judeo-Christian foundation of the American nation. Students are taught that America was founded as a secular nation, yet virtually every colonial and revolutionary constitution, charter, law and course of education depended on religion as the basis for a moral American society. Even the supposedly least religious of the founders, Ben Franklin, defended the importance of religion in commenting to Thomas Paine about his book, “The Age of Reason”.
I have read your manuscript with some attention. By the argument it contains against a particular Providence, though you allow a general Providence, you strike at the foundations of all religion. For, without the belief of a Providence that takes cognisance of, guards, and guides, and may favor particular persons, there is no motive to worship a Deity, to fear his displeasure, or to pray for his protection. I will not enter into any discussion of your principles, though you seem to desire it. At present I shall only give you my opinion that, though your reasons are subtle, and may prevail with some readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general sentiments of mankind on that subject, and the consequence of printing this piece will be, a great deal of odium drawn upon yourself, mischief to you, and no benefit to others. He that spits against the wind spits in his own face.
But were you to succeed, do you imagine any good would be done by it? You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life, without the assistance afforded by religion; you having a clear perception of the advantage of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing a strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common temptations. But think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security. And perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. You might easily display your excellent talents of reasoning upon a less hazardous subject, and thereby obtain a rank with our most distinguished authors. For among us it is not necessary, as among the Hottentots, that a youth, to be raised into the company of men, should prove his manhood by beating his mother.
I would advise you, therefore, not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person, whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification by the enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a great deal of regret and repentance.
If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it.
Is it any wonder that those forces opposing man’s freedom also oppose man’s freedom of religion? Their intent is to make moral teachings quaint and insignificant. Their goal is the elimination of religion and God, and their replacement with the dictates of a one-world international socialist state.
What these socialist forces do not appreciate is that a common morality supported by religion is the foundation for their much needed individual discipline and self-restraint. The errant socialist thought is that a myriad of laws and a phalanx of police will provide sufficient control of criminality. However, laws are impersonal and the police are agents of government. They work after a crime is committed.
In the bigger picture, what good is it when the murderer is hung and the victim is dead? Far better that a potential murderer constrains his own tendencies out of moral considerations.
Man is not a flawless being. From Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, through Noah, and even Jesus, it is obvious that man strives and fails often. But in his failure is the seed of a new success. Unfortunately, when the state steps in to compensate for failure, it compounds that failure and valuable individual lessons are lost.
Among the more consistent lessons from the Bible are the ones that outline the rise and fall of mankind and mankind’s leaders. Even in the face of direct advice from God, the people and their leaders invariably stray off the path of righteousness and success. The decline of the state and the loss of individual freedom is the result.
Notably, the loss is often dramatic and swift, while the rise to freedom through the application of moral absolutes involves a very long and hard road.
Liberty versus License
George Washington also noted that Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness. In other words, irresponsible abuses of individual liberty lead directly to the abuses of government power, and invariably those abuses are more restraint on freedom of individual action. Again, this is why religion and the moral imperatives that flow from it are so important to America’s citizenry.
Regrettably, the American culture has been undermined to the point where this particular lesson of history has been ignored, ridiculed and subsequently discarded. It is astounding that the average American knows more about the bizarre behaviors of Hollywood actors and actresses than the way in which their government was designed and actually works.
And make no mistake, the socialist politician is more than willing to create policy in a knowledge vacuum that does not and cannot benefit the free individual or even the nation.
Charity versus Welfare
One of the demands placed on the free individual is the requirement to help others. When freedom is used in a moral way to help those less fortunate, both he who gives and he who receives is enriched. Selfishness is not God’s way.
Unfortunately, man often turns over his responsibility for charity to the state. Even worse, socialists see it as their duty to demand that the state confiscate the wealth of others and redistribute it per some politically correct formula.
Certainly charity is not perfect. It can favor too much of one type of need and fail to support the most urgent of needs. However, in the aggregate, the charity of free individuals has proven far more effective than the welfare the state delivers.
A charity is accountable directly to donors. Welfare becomes part of a budget with many competing demands. Charity allows the free individual to criticize abuses and withdraw support. Welfare simply averages the good with the bad and is subject to great waste, fraud and political chicanery. Charity accounts for the dignity of man. Welfare has proven to enslave generation after generation of the poorest Americans.
Speech and Assembly
The keys to man’s exercise of his inalienable rights are freedom of individual speech and freedom to assemble.
Without the ability to speak all dissent is crushed no matter its importance. Without the ability to assemble it is impossible to test the simplest of ideas or complaints. Those nations that restrict speech and assembly are for all intents tyrannies. No matter how benign, when the legislature, courts and the executive conspire to control these rights, individuals as well as their families, communities and society suffer.
One critical concern is the political abuse of a legitimate national issue. Take for example the civil rights laws. The original intent was to aid black citizens still suffering after a century or more of racism. Unfortunately, laws were concocted to aid every presumed victim of racial, religious, gender and even behavioral discrimination. Thus the original intent to end racial discrimination was lost on the altar of political manipulation and thirst for power.
The press and the gun protect the individual’s absolute rights against the abuse of government.
The press, however, has never been a perfect protection. Journalists, reporters, managers of news, and corporate executives are often co-opted by their own self-interests and biases. This was the case in the beginning of the new American nation and it is the case today.
The gun, therefore, is the protection of last resort for individual rights. When the press fails, the individual can assemble and with force of arms challenge the state. The second amendment in the Bill of Rights is for self-defense, therefore it is always under attack from the forces of socialism who seek a more docile and subjugated populace.
By way of reminder, there is a difference between a citizen and a subject. The former is expected to challenge the state when it is wrong. The latter is expected to do what the leadership of the state says, and do it without question.
The Castles of Liberty
During the last few hundred years of recorded history, a man’s home was his castle – a sanctuary wherein the least of man was safe from the most powerful. Thus the search and seizure of a man’s home and his possessions was to be done under the greatest of restrictions placed upon government.
In 1760, William Pitt (the Elder) made his famous declaration of this right. The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the force of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake, the wind may blow through it. The rain may enter. The storms may enter. But the king of England may not enter. All his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.
A more absolute statement about the property rights of a free man cannot be found. However, the Supreme Court of the United States of America has progressively re-interpreted these rights.
The state can now take the poorest man’s cottage and give it to another man in the interest of community betterment. No longer is such a taking limited to the direct needs of the state for public roads, public schools, and municipal buildings.
Who is to decide what community betterment is? The answer, of course, is the state. Corruption, bribery, extortion and unbridled greed cannot help but be the result.
The Free Market
The free market is the free man interacting with other free men to create and provide things of use for all humanity. But make no mistake, the free market is a brutally competitive place. Lesser ideas are quickly crushed, and the creative destruction of prior success is the norm. Nevertheless, the free market is the place where the greatest and most glorious of mankind’s material and intellectual advances occurs.
The state, however, does not like the messy behavior of the free market. A great success can be an embarrassment, a great failure a basis for ridicule and condemnation. The state’s response is to tax and regulate the “greedy capitalism” that results from the interactions of the free market. It is likely that an international government would strive to eliminate the free market altogether.
What is important in all this is an examination of the successes and failures of societies. The freest men produce the greatest societies. The most enslaved men produce despair. Of all the lessons of recorded history, this is by far the most important.
The Rarity of Free Men
The Constitution’s Bill of Rights derives directly from the creator’s endowment of the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But who defends this inalienable set of rights?
Since the state cannot be depended upon to constrain itself, it falls to the various institutions in society to support individual freedom.
The first institution, and one that is under the most socialistic attack, is the family. A strong family with moral values builds a strong and free individual beholden to the law but bowing to no one. A strong family also tends to surround itself with friends who uphold consistent moral principles. Essentially, the strong individual is surrounded by those who are generally good, and warned about those who are potentially evil. To a great extent family and friends are the defense against the intrusions of those who would damage an individual freedoms.
The second institution is the church. By providing a pathway to God, it also provides a focus on man’s inalienable rights and his responsibilities associated with moral absolutes. (It has often been noted that the freest of men and women are those who willingly submit to the bondage of their religion.)
Religion, of course, can be perverted, and when that perversion is evident the very church organizations involved will inevitably decline. Beware the church that substitutes the political correctness of ever changing and modern culture for the founding principles of the faith.
The third institution, and one that often extolled by the socialist because it is a natural counter to family and friends, is the community. However, a community is a cultural battleground and may be as dangerous a territory for the socialist as for the free individual.
To affect community standards, the socialist operates within academe and the media to promote ideas counter to constitutional principles and moral absolutes. Such activity extends to the entertainment industry where supposedly family friendly shows focus on the dysfunctional.
It is important to note that community does not provide the close personal interaction of family and friends, and that is why the socialist embraces the idea that it takes a village to raise a child.
The fourth institution is the government that is closest to the people. Local government can be far more easily observed and assessed by citizens than the remote and overpowering central state. The greatest concern is when the national government mandates that the local government take action in direct contravention of the will of the local people. This is an increasing occurrence because the central state can pass a law that applies to all, regulate through bureaucracy in an arbitrary fashion, and back it all up with judicial and police action.
To guard against the abuses of the national and even state governments to usurp the roles of the various institutions noted above, Americans must participate with knowledge and foresight in the process of government. This means being aware of how government works of, by and for the people and becoming active when government is not serving and empowering the citizenry.
Freedom is a rare and precious commodity. As the American founders knew, it is worth fighting and dying for. The final line of the Declaration of Independence reads:
… with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
The Oft Forgotten Key
That portion of the Declaration of Independence that is most often quoted talks about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But that line would have little meaning without the teeth that follow:
“… That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. …”
History has shown that leaders who ignore the implications of these words are soon punished for their ignorance. In America, that punishment takes the form of the vote. However, it must be remembered that this is a nation born in violent revolution and sustained by bloody civil war. In each instance of internal strife, the ultimate issues were ones of individual freedom and individual rights.
Free men and women see each other as unique creations, each with a soul accountable to God and a physical presence accountable to government. As Jesus is reported to have said “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesars’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”.
When the free individual interacts with the socialist, he needs to be aware of the fact that the socialist fundamentally sees world in a utilitarian frame of reference. People are elements of a great machine and individuality is an inconvenience to the efficient working of that machine.