The enemies of freedom do not argue; they shout and shoot. Dean William R. Inge
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free. Ronald Reagan, 40th President
Since the general civilization of mankind I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. James Madison, 4th President
Events over the past couple of weeks have made it clear that freedom is hard to earn and even harder to keep. Freedom comes at a cost everywhere it exists.
When autocratic rulers seek to exert control over their citizens, the easiest thing to do is go along and not cause any resistance. Being a subject, allowing those in authority (legitimate or not) to exert that control is easy — all anyone has to do is comply and learn to live under the established conditions. The natural state of most of the people in the world is to do just that: learn to accept whatever is dictated and get along as best as can be done. Throwing off the yokes that control the society and deny it freedom, whether it is in Cairo, Madison or Trenton, takes effort, courage and sacrifice.
The United States arose because its founders had a different idea: freedom was worth the cost. When the signers of the Declaration of Independence pledged ‘our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor’ they committed to freedom and its power to create a new society. Their commitment was not an empty gesture or fruitless pursuit — it forms the basis for our nation 235 years later.
Maintaining that freedom has not been easy through our history, and sustaining and preserving it today will be no less challenging. To do so, we as a society must develop and maintain the strength needed to keep freedom alive. That strength is really composed of five different types of strength — all must be present, and all are interconnected. The five strengths must also be balanced, just as it is with athletes: too much leg strength and mass can slow a runner down; not enough upper body strength will defeat a boxer. The five components of strength are:
- Sovereign: The nation must be strong enough to defend its interests and territory from invasion. When it is strong enough to have true allies, it must also be strong enough to defend them as well. For the US, it is also important to have the strength to defend weaker nations from aggression so that our global trade and interactions which provide economic strength can also flourish. As a sovereign nation, we must also create national strength through effective stewardship of the resources that the nation was blessed to possess, and to use those resources wisely.
- Economic or Financial: The nation must be strong financially in order to have the means to protect itself and restore itself when faced with natural disasters. Large amounts of debt, by the government, commercial firms or individuals is not a measure of strength, in spite of the contention otherwise by Representative Pete Stark. Indeed, the nation should have large reserves of private, commercial and to a lesser extent, government wealth to use wisely when unanticipated events occur. “Saving for a rainy day” was folk wisdom for much of our 18th and 19th Century, and it served our nation well. Our economic strength, arising from free market capitalism, must continue to enable everyone to apply their talents and energies to create wealth for themselves in responsible, moral and legal ways. Without the strength and initiative to pursue our own ideas with our own talents, the overall economy will be distorted and sub-optimized.
- Moral: Forces of tyranny are relentless and tireless. It is easy to succumb and relent in the face of the litany of things that should be done in the name of ‘fairness’ and ‘equality.’ It is easy to begin to bend rules, take shortcuts and believe “it doesn’t matter because everyone is doing it.” But those actions are the road to serfdom and servitude — and it takes moral character to resist and stay the course toward freedom and individual responsibility. The nurturing of moral behavior stems from faith and recognition of the Creator as the source of our natural rights as outlined in the Declaration of Independence. Without that recognition, all morals end up defined by individuals as whatever seems best to them — leading to a breakdown of moral conduct and replacement with ‘whatever feels good.’ With the breakdown of common moral reference points, society becomes weakened and vulnerable to tyranny.
- Physical: Being compliant and passive takes no energy or effort. Relying on yourself and taking responsibility to ensure that the right things get done takes energy, discipline and enthusiasm–things rarely seen in couch potatoes or other forms of laziness. Those that would deny our freedom have a much easier time when we are out of shape, physically ill or without endurance; it is far easier to seek and accept aid and relief in return for a little freedom when you are not physically strong.
- Intellectual: Freedom is gained by ensuring that the electorate is informed and aware of the endless ways that tyranny tries to defeat freedom. An informed electorate is the best means to ensure the continued prosperity of the republic, and that is why widespread education is so important to our nation. However, when education is itself the victim of a takeover of purveyors of soft tyranny and elite hubris, the nation must find a way to break that hold on its future.