Liberty Lost in America
Declaration of Independence
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . . " These words, from The Declaration of Independence of The United States of America, are the foundation of our nation. They do not declare that our rights come from the government, as many today seem to believe. They declare that God, the Creator of our Universe, endows us with these rights. And that the government, by our consent, is to ensure these rights are inviolable—particularly, that our individual Liberty is not violated by the Government itself.
What is Liberty?
Liberty is the state of being a person within society free from restrictions upon one's way of life imposed by authority. Liberty is the right to act according to one's own will. Liberty differs, however, from licentiousness or libertinism.
Liberty has been severely eroded in America in the past 100 years. It has happened so gradually that, like the proverbial frog in the pot, many may not have noticed. Liberty has been diminished by the terrible increase in the power of the Federal Government. This has myriad causes and crucial moments but the four key players in this tragedy, in the public eye at least, have been the Supreme Court; Woodrow Wilson; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; and Lyndon Baines Johnson. But there is a power underlying this institution and these men. And this power seeks to control everything we do, the words we speak, and even what we think—except for the freedom of licentiousness or libertinism; this is the bone they throw the dogs to placate them.
In the 19th Century, an American could safely ignore the Government and decide for himself on virtually all matters of behavior. Consider, for a simple example, that throughout human history, if a man was hungry, he would go to a lake, river or stream, cast his line, catch a fish, and eat. About 100 years ago, this simple affair became subject to a license from the government. This sounds rather non-intrusive but it meant that a man was no longer as free as he once was. At the same time, building codes began to spring up, taking away the freedom of a man to build a dwelling as he saw fit. It was not many decades after this, that a lack of housing for the poor came to the forefront. After all, many of the poor could not afford to build shelter for themselves that met the building code. About ten years after building codes came to be, zoning laws were created, meaning, that no longer was man free to build his home or have a little business wherever he wanted. These laws eventually drove up the cost of real estate—beyond the means of the poor—because governing zones of land use, naturally reduces the amount of available land for various activities, making it scarcer and as with anything else, scarcity is a determinate of price. Surely the day would come when the government would have to provide housing—giving it thus the power to decide whom could live where; a loss of Liberty.
Federal Income Tax
The Federal Income Tax was made law in 1913. Since it was unconstitutional to confiscate part of a person's earnings, the 16th Amendment was passed in order that the government might seize a portion of each person's productive labor. This was a great loss of Liberty. Until this time, each person kept 100% of whatever they earned. There are only two paths to the acquisition of wealth: the production of goods and services that are voluntarily exchanged for the goods and services produced by others (the Free Market); And the seizure of another man's fruits of production by force. A predatory state may then inflict burdens upon some citizens; while granting subsidies and privileges to others. This results in a loss of Liberty for both classes of citizens—though obviously more so for the tax producer, because this man has the results of his labor confiscated against his will. But also the tax consumer must forfeit some of his Liberty to "qualify" for the largess. Obviously, this loss of Liberty can only be accomplished if the citizenry can be persuaded that this confiscation is not only benign but beneficial. This persuasion has been the prime function of the "Progressive" intelligentsia in America for the past 100 years.
The New Deal
The New Deal of the 1930s really got the ball rolling. The Federal Government seized control over many aspects of the lives of the citizens, including the national economy, the supply of money, agricultural production, and the prices of goods. The government assumed the ultimate power to restrict the Liberty of some groups for the benefit of others. Now, a lot of these programs were said to be temporary but in reality: Liberties surrendered are rarely reclaimed, except by force. For the first time, for example, the Federal Government took control of farming and—of all things—the Arts. One must understand that most losses of Liberty happen in small steps. During the 1930s the Government began to tell farmers what to plant, how much of it to plant, and what they could sell it for. And paid some farmers not to plant anything at all. In 2007, farmers were paid $1.3B not to grow food. This may sound normal to some postmodern people, but the fact is, human beings have been farming since time immemorial with the Liberty to grow whatever food they wanted to grow; and sell it to whomever they wanted, whenever they wanted, for whatever price both sides decided was a fair exchange.
Under FDR, the Arts were funded by the Government for the first time. Now, this may look, on its surface, to be a good thing, but the fact is this: money was confiscated from some people; and given to others to produce art that, those people whose funds were confiscated, may not have wanted produced. This is a loss of Liberty to choose what Art you exchange the fruits of your labor for. And who chooses what Art is worth the taxpayer's money and what Art is not? Even the consumer of Art has lost Liberty; the Liberty to pay for the Art one wants to pay for and none other. I made my living as a professional musician for 20 years and I never got a government grant for my Art.
The Great Society
Fast forward to the 1960s, because I am running out of time for this short-attention-span generation. The Great Society. Sounds like a good idea. A chicken in every pot. The unenlightened may think the Great Society was good for the poor. The Truth is that poor were among the victims of the Great Society—along with those who pay for it. By the 1970s most Americans, through these various schemes, were dependent upon the Federal Government. If you are dependent , you are not free. You have lost the Liberty that our Founding Fathers said was God given, not granted by other men or your government. The only way to convince the American citizens to go along with this scheme has to be to convince them, through indoctrination by the public schools—and the increasingly government subsidized university system—that there is no God. Because, my friends, if there is no God: your inalienable rights in The Declaration of Independence actually come from the State. This was not easy to accomplish in America, once by far the most religious nation on earth, believing as we did in the Christian God. But: if the government schools and government subsidized universities could convince children, while they are impressionable, by the authority of the state, that they descended from apes and were therefore nothing more than highly accomplished animals—and not beings created in the Image of God—perhaps they could be persuaded to surrender their Liberty to the State.
The Government could then convince the unknowing, that America is still Free, when in fact Freedom is nearly gone, replaced by a Government that controls its society right down to their will, actions, speech—and if they are able to determine them: even their thoughts. After all, if people are granted the freedom to unlimited personal licentiousness—and provided with enough bread and booze—they just might surrender, one small piece at a time, their sovereignty as individuals that our Founding Fathers envisioned for us.
But the only way this can be fully realized would be through a huge national bureaucracy—unelected, serving for life, and free to make law that they call "regulations" without the Will of the People—through its elected Representatives— considered whatsoever. One might think that, in 2009, we have three branches of Government according to the United States Constitution. Think again. The 4th branch, not in our Constitution, is the Bureaucracy, a self-serving and corrupt entity whose motives, objectives, policies and standards are removed from the authority of the People—an incredible infringement on Liberty. If you fail to realize how powerful the Bureaucracy is, get in the wrong line at the Driver's License Bureau.
The Bureaucracy now has usurped most all Liberty that Americans, before they became helpless sheep, once took for granted. This Bureaucracy employs three million people who decide how much Liberty you will have. They decide who can and under what rules all Americans can do almost everything we do. The reach of this Bureaucracy includes: walking, bicycling, horse riding, driving cars, boating, flying; farming, gardening, eating; building, business, trade, commerce, travel, housing; local education, university education, job training; working, hiring, compensation, benefits, working hours, working conditions; buying, selling, trading, transporting; transfer of funds, inheritance; trucking, highways, railways, waterways; camping; lending, borrowing; use of land, fishing, hunting, mining; use of alcohol, drugs, firearms . . . need I go on? Because I could go on all day. My point is that none of these violations of your individual Liberty existed 100 years ago.
But, to placate us we have been given a few new Liberties that our Founding Fathers not only never envisioned us having; but would have recoiled at the thought of us desiring them. The Government has the power to destroy the basic unit of human life enshrined in our Liberty—The Family—by promoting unfettered divorce; the rendering of the role in human history of the father as superfluous, by granting the State the power, through Family Court, to separate a man from his children for any insinuation, thus making the woman and the children effectively wards of the state and the father merely a financial benefactor of them through threat of imprisonment; the elimination of the traditional role served by the Church and religion as the guardrails of human behavior; to eliminate the freedom of an employer to hire whomever he wants as was always accorded through human history; to destroy the intimate connection charity always had throughout the centuries between the giver and the receiver, by making the government the arbiter of charity; to remove God from the public square; to remove from landlords the wisdom to choose their own tenants; to force upon lenders whom they will loan money to, regardless of creditworthiness. Oh God, I could go on for weeks about the losses of Liberty in this country in the last 100 years.
Conclusion: To Be Continued
But I must stop at some point. To really examine the effects of the Great Society and the last 40 years of rule in The United States by Radical Liberals I will need another Hub (blog post) because I am sure that as I have run out of energy recounting this horribly sad tale, you have surely run out of attention span reading it. It is an immense story of the loss of human Liberty in what was once the most free nation in the history of the earth, the United States of America.