To understand why liberty is imperiled in our country today we must first state clearly and unequivocally what is liberty. Then and only then can we understand what is necessary for its preservation as well as see what is undermining it today. Liberty is the absence of coercion and the freedom to act upon your own will within the perimeters of not infringing the freedom of action of others. The only way that has been found among the societies of man to ensure, promote and protect liberty is through the rule of law.
The rule of law means that government is not allowed to coerce an individual except through the enforcement of a previously known and explicitly stated principle of limited government. This principle places a limit upon the power of government to legislate by calling into question what sorts of laws are legitimate and which is not. This looks beyond individual statutes to the very nature of legislation itself. This differs markedly with the modern notion of the rule of law that holds as long as all the actions of a government comply with the law it is meeting the standard. It is well to remember that under this definition both the Nazis and the Soviets operated under the rule of law.
This modern definition is actually an oxymoron. If a government passes a law which says that it can do whatever it wants than everything it does is legal. Hitler passed the Enabling Act and accomplished this in one fell swoop.
Because the rule of law is an absolute limitation on all legislation it cannot be a law of the same order as that passed by a legislature. No Legislator can effectively limit himself through legislation since he can always amend that legislation at a later date. Constitutions can make the infringement of pre-decided basic principles more difficult; however, as we have seen in our own Progressive land of the Living Document limitations can be re-defined away through courts and tradition.
The rule of law can only prevail where its basic principles are an organic part of the culture of the people. They must be part of the commonly held beliefs and standards of a majority of the people or they will be jettisoned as soon as they restrain that majority from following the path of least resistance and living as they believe they should. For if the rule of law is the common belief it will be followed closely and guarded jealously. If it is seen as impractical or as an impediment to life as the majority wish to live it, it will be soon rejected and replaced. Such a society will gladly embrace tyranny and arbitrary rule as long as they are convinced that they can now live as they want to live.
In our nation we have built a rather impressive framework to restrain the government: our Constitution. Though it has been interpreted into meaninglessness in many ways it is still given lip service and is still the penultimate law of the land. However there is one glaring hole that is currently being exploited to make an end-run around its remaining provisions: the rise of the Federal Bureaucracy.
We have gone to great lengths to limit what powers the elected officials of our government possess and left open the door for appointed officials to run rough shod over our lives. The legislature passes vague thousand page laws and then the bureaucrats interpret them any way they desire with little or no oversight. Elected officials, even the perpetually re-elected gerrymandered creatures of today come and go. The bureaucracy lives forever. When the elected officials cannot find the power to impose the Progressive agenda they do it through the bureaucrats they have appointed.
When they couldn’t pass Cap-N-Trade, they imposed it through the EPA. When they can’t pass gun restrictions they have their bureaucrats buy up all the ammunition and make it almost impossible for the people to obtain any. When they can’t pass amnesty they impose it through regulations and edicts. The control of private land is taken through wet lands regulations. Between the out of control legislators-for-life and their appointed regulators we are told to do everything from what kind of light bulbs to buy to how many gallons we can use to flush a toilet.
Liberty is being eaten away inch by inch and day by day, legislated, and regulated into oblivion. When our government can’t pass laws or impose regulations they will utilize the IRS, the NSA or anyone of a hundred of their alphabet agencies to spy on us or intimidate us into silence. Common Core is coming for the kids. Amnesty is coming for the jobs. Political Correctness is coming for free speech.
Unless patriots stand-up the country will fall. It will still be called the United States of America. People will still say the pledge of Allegiance. They will still sing the national anthem and salute the flag but will it be the same country that our forefathers fought and died for? Will it still be the land of the free and the home of the brave? Or will it be something else: a place where the rule of law once protected its citizens from the rule of men until the laws of men overwhelmed the laws of nature and of nature’s God?
Jean-Jacques Rousseau one those who inspired the Framers of the Constitution reminded us, “Free people, remember this maxim: we may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost.”
Barry Goldwater said, “Equality, rightly understood as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences; wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.”
The enemies of freedom also speak of liberty. Vladimir Lenin said, “It is true that liberty is precious; so precious that it must be carefully rationed.”
Benito Mussolini said, “The truth is that men are tired of liberty.
The controllers of men may try to use the language of liberty to subvert liberty however, the God given spirit of man shall always strive to become what God meant for us to be, free people in a free world.”
Norman Vincent Peale said, “Once we roared like lions for liberty; now we bleat like sheep for security! The solution for America’s problem is not in terms of big government, but it is in big men over whom nobody stands in control but God.”
Winston Churchill told us, “If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”
And every school child should know that Patrick Henry famously said, “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
Why does liberty die? Because the people allow it.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion. He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2014 Contact Dr. Owens [email protected] Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens