THE RESTORED REALITY: INDIVIDUAL SOVEREIGNTY AND RESPONSIBILITY
The overaching objective of the American Revolution was to throw off the shackles of a government that viewed itself, rather than the people, as sovereign and to erect in its place a government of limited powers where ultimate sovereignty lay with the people. Reflecting on this concept in January of 1800 in his Report on the Virginia Resolutions James Madison observed that “the People, not the Government, possess the absolute sovereignty. The Legislature, no less than the Executive, is under limitations of power.”
The Tea Party movement is based on this Madisonian principle—that the people, not the government, must be sovereign. Of late, the intoxication of unbridled government power gave many in elected office the sense that they could do virtually anything they wanted and not account for it. The electorate has caused a sober sensibility to replace that fantasy, at least for a time. The lust for power and personal aggrandizement, however, is at the core of most politicians and compels an eternally vigilant electorate perennially to remove the head strong at the ballot box.
Inherent in the concept of sovereignty is that of responsibility. Responsibility is often portrayed by modern politicians as a burden to be dispensed with by government and at others’ expense. It is by assuring people that they need not be responsible that those who favor ever larger government succeed in seducing voters. Now, however, there appears to be a reawakening in the public to truths from the American Revolution: If we give up freedom on the notion that we may be relieved of responsibilities associated with it, we end up enslaved with neither choice nor opportunity. We then must live off the unwholesome scraps that elected officials care to pitch our way from their own sumptuous tables (paid for at our expense).
While it is sometimes hard to exercise freedom because it comes with costs, it is nevertheless essential if we are to remain sovereign, and it is far preferable to the enslavement that comes from looking to government as a solution for every problem.
The American mind set differs fundamentally from that of Europe. There, many, but certainly not all, view individual sovereignty and freedom as non-essential. They do not recoil from government takeover of industry but view it as a means to an assured outcome (employment, social security, retirement). We, on the other hand, have a long history of distrust for government, born from origins in which we learned through difficult struggle that those who would function as our governmental parents all too often leave us impoverished, under constraints, and without opportunity to achieve self-fulfillment and advancement.
Americans have again asserted their revulsion for tyranny. We will not give up our sovereignty in exchange for false promises of security. We will not give up our freedom of choice in exchange for false promises of safety. We will not give up our private sector opportunities in exchange for false promises of assured outcomes. We will not sacrifice our hopes and dreams for an America unparalleled in its greatness worldwide on the false supposition that our best days are behind us, that we must reconcile ourselves to viewing the United States as a superpower in an inevitable state of decline, and that we must accept an ever expanding welfare state as the best way to minimize the pain associated with our fall from supremacy.
We remain a people born of freedom whose history of achievement surpassed all others precisely because we protected freedom and opportunity. There is no power on earth capable of restraining the survival and success of our great bastion of liberty so long as we ourselves keep the door to markets open, the people sovereign, and the rights to life, liberty, and property protected.
The astute American eye perceives the hypocrisy that dwells in governors. When we are told that government will eliminate poverty, we know that no power in government can eliminate poverty because government can only do so by taxing heavily the most productive and thereby reducing productivity and increasing poverty. When we are told that every American will receive quality health care, we know that no power in government can assure quality equal or superior to that achievable through the workings of a free market that fosters innovation. When we are told that employment opportunities will be expanded, we know that no power in government can create sustainable private sector employment and that any jobs created by government spending and planning ultimately come from taxation of those who would with those dollars create true employment producing goods and services that aim precisely at satisfying consumer wants and needs.
We may be fast approaching a new awakening in which traditional American concepts of individual sovereignty, individual responsibility, hard work, self-reliance, and revulsion for welfare and big government reappear. Indeed, the puffed up idea that we may create an ever expanding government without sacrificing the private sector clearly appears to many as mythical. The American people once again appreciate that government is a corrupt institution, filled with false promises, and is never able to do either as well or as fully what the private sector can do if only freed from regulatory constraints and tax burdens.
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We are benefiting enormously from a restored reality, where once again we appreciate that Americans are nothing unless they are free; that this nation must always be a bastion of liberty, must lead in liberty, and must show the world how a free people can achieve heights unattainable by those less free. We have taken the correct turn at a pivotal moment in a time of crisis. We could have continued on into the abyss of state control and mediocrity, but the American people have rejected that course and have listened to the teachings of the nation’s founders. If we can but hold onto that restored reality, we may yet see, as Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, that “America’s best days are yet to come.”
© 2010 Jonathan W. Emord - All Rights Reserved