Liberty and respect

It doesn???t seem like our government thinks very much of us these days.  We???re not trusted to handle our own health care.  Our market judgment against various industries has been over-ridden.  Our desire for reliable and affordable energy has been ruled out of order.  Uncle Sam says it???s our fault that he???s $16 trillion in debt, because we aren???t ???contributing??? enough of our money.

Power is increasingly centralized, not just in Washington, but in the executive branch.  The deliberations of our elected representatives are derided as ???gridlock,??? and bypassed by orders from a unitary executive who claims to speak for us, and has decided ???we can???t wait??? for our Constitutional system to function as designed.  Power is drained from state and local governments, often for the express purpose of ensuring that citizens cannot evade the judgment of the ruling class.  Much of that power is now held by bureaucrats who will never face voters in an election.

Our behavior has long been shaped by tax policy, much of which no longer has any logical relationship to efficiently funding the government.  We now confront the brand-new threat of a ???tax penalty??? for failure to engage in private commerce the State has decreed should be mandatory.  Waivers from these policies may be granted at the whim of the government, but the citizens cannot demand them in the name of personal liberty, or even religious conscience.

It is often said that we get the government we deserve.  We deserve to be trapped in this dying statist system if we cannot improve our view of one another.  The State grows as our faith in each other diminishes.  Much of our government???s bulk exists because citizens have conceded that they require greater protection from each other, far beyond the security of their common, inalienable rights.

For this reason, compulsion has tainted many things which would be virtuous, if they were voluntary.  Investment becomes ???stimulus,??? charity becomes welfare, and employment becomes assignment.  We are far too willing to grant collective, compulsory action an automatic presumption of virtue, believing that even when government programs fail, their architects deserve credit for good intentions.  Meanwhile, we have become equally willing to presume unacceptable, destructive ???greed??? as the driving force behind every private initiative.  This is a pure expression of the idea that American citizens no longer trust each other.  We assume benevolence only for appointed officials and their elected leaders.

It is childish to believe that freedom is a bright and positive force that people naturally and easily embrace.  In truth, freedom is a very complex idea, and it???s not really that difficult to frighten even American citizens into giving it up.  A true embrace of liberty requires a great deal of faith in our fellow citizens, expressed as an abiding respect for the pursuit of their ambitions.

That doesn???t mean we have to be gullible.  Any given population contains predators, who will violate the basic rights of their neighbors ??? even their right to life ??? for their own benefit.  We have laws against criminal wrongdoing, and most of us take prudent precautions against theft and assault.

But we must get beyond assuming that all of our fellow citizens are criminals and predators, at a systemic level.  Respecting others means honoring their right to pursue their ambitions, within the framework of the laws that guarantee our individual rights.  It???s shocking how many Americans have become casually willing to accept government as the arbiter of ambition, deciding that this person ???deserves??? something, while that person is selfish and greedy, when no one involved has broken any laws.  It is dismaying to watch so many of us transfer the full measure of our respect and trust to the State??? which has proven quite willing to defraud, loot, and abuse us, on a scale that no private entity could envision.

No one deserves respect who will not grant it.  No one is free who judges others unworthy of liberty.  Great ideas are sold, not imposed.  Don???t we hold the notion of ???consent??? sacred in America ??? sacred enough to feature it prominently in the Declaration of Independence that changed the course of human history?  Well, consent demands the integrity to take ???no??? for an answer, and show full respect to the conscience of dissenters.  Only in that way can dissent be more than an abstract exercise in speech??? action instead of mere noise.

Freedom is an act of faith, a leap from the lion???s head.  Such faith is not found in the absence of courage, which is why the meek are forever doomed to be servants.  America is not ???the land of the free and the home of the brave??? by coincidence.  Only the home of the brave can be the land of the free.

Strip away the layers of our massive government, return money to the hands of private citizens, and you will see countless enterprises blossom across a nation that retains mighty human and natural resources.  Some of those enterprises will invite your participation, as employee or customer.  Some of them will fail.  Does that prospect leave you fearful, or exhilarated?  If the former, then you lack sufficient respect for your fellow citizens to call yourself ???free,??? so you should at least have the honesty to stop using the word.