Unfashionably Free

I don’t recall being either particularly conservative or libertarian in college. I do recall having a vague notion that most of what people do is none of other people’s business. Hence it amuses me both now and in retrospect that ideas of liberty were pooh-poohed by many of my classmates.

One time I was discussing Ford vs. Carter with a friend. Barely cognizant of politics at the time, I offered up the view that “compassion,” a trait my friend thought Republicans were sorely lacking, was not a proper guiding principle for a political system. My reasoning, of course, was not that compassion is a bad thing, but that under the shallow guise of helping others, we are often tempted to make stupid policy.

For example, there is a clean, fast, and effective system for assuring economic equality, at least for a time. Simply take everyone’s money (all of it) and distribute it equally. Problem solved. My friend would not likely have agreed to that scheme, but he did buy into redistribution of some sort. Carter, he argued, was a better President than Ford because he “cared.” He could not (or perhaps would not) see that fewer social programs might be the best thing that could happen to the poor.

This was my first real lesson in dealing with the liberal mindset. Anything that happens after a fantasy is fulfilled is null and void. There is little point in showing a liberal how redistribution removes the very mechanisms that make distribution of economic goods possible in the first place. To a liberal, that doesn’t count. Obamacare is good because someone somewhere who they can imagine vividly will get a doctor–nevermind the potent abstraction of hundreds of thousands who will croak for lack of people entering medicine.

Yet for all the strength of these and similar arguments against the entitlement state, they miss the essential point–it is not just economically wrong, it is morally wrong. On this Independence Day I chose to revisit the Declaration of Independence. As always, it struck me just how radical this document was. Human beings stating outright that Kings are illegitimate and that proper government requires the consent of the governed was bold, powerful, and good.

Such notions of freedom are considered quaint by the Anointed Class, however. Global warmists want to dictate how we get our energy, food police want to limit our sugar intake, and both rightists and leftists want to limit our speech. Aside from the outright stupidity of most do-gooder interventions, they are an affront to individual liberty. Jefferson in his eloquence noted that government exists, not because of Divine Right, not because of “what God wants,” and most certainly not because of what some self-righteous set of numbskulls* wants. Government exists solely to protect the rights of the governed.

Today, we have lost the presumption that a law is illegitimate when it is not based on that principle. King George had no intention of honoring any such idea, and the Founders asserted their rights in response. Today, we find ourselves in a similar stew, having government from every quarter assault our freedom to choose. We also find ourselves in a position similar to that of Jefferson, who listed the numerous affronts that the Colonists had patiently borne. He noted that the Declaration was not a whim, but the inevitable long-term result of a tyrant who had turned a deaf ear to their just grievances. We too have suffered long, and we will soon suffer more.

The time is approaching when we will have to ask ourselves whether our own government retains the only just characteristic of any government–its defense of individual liberty. If the answer is no, we will have to look at one another as did the Founders and decide whether to remain under the yoke of an illegitimate government or cast it off. I dearly hope such a day does not come, but I grow less optimistic with each passing day.

Should that day come, it will mean bloodshed the likes of which the world has never seen. It will break apart families, crush our institutions, and leave us tattered, ragged, and hungry. It will test us for our commitment to a life of freedom. Let us search high and low for ways to beat back the Leviathan before we have to draw our swords. Let us leave no peaceful strategy untried and yet avow our unwavering commitment to live as free people. Let there be no doubt whatsoever what we are willing to do in order to remain free. And then, let them decide. Will they acquiesce or will they force a fight? If the former, let us rejoice that our arms lay unused. If the latter, let us know fully that to which we commit ourselves.


*There is no evidence that Jefferson ever used the term “numbskull,” but I am guessing he would if he were alive today.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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2 Responses to Unfashionably Free

  1. David Marx says:

    Liberals operate in a world of good intentions, always failing to see the consequences of their actions. Those of us that live in the real world have compassion, are generous, and understand the limitations of government to bring about any good in the world. We also understand that a nation build on the idea of individual responsibility and liberty, as well as quasi-free market capitalism, provides the best hope of lifting people out of poverty and promoting prosperity for all.


  2. madboy says:

    WTF is “quasi-free market capitalism?” Seems like it’s either free (not that that even exists) or it is not.


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