For decades, Americans have skated though what we call education without basic information about the founding of this nation and the principles of liberty that our Founding Fathers taught. We are vastly more familiar with the shallow thoughts and embarrassing deeds of Hollywood celebrities and athletes than we are with those inspired geniuses who gave us unprecedented liberty. It is painfully sad to watch this nation reach a point where we think that it progress when we surrender personal liberty to allow a massive and nearly bankrupt government pretend to take care of us. What happened to the fundamental ideals and principles that made America great? Where is the shock at the thought of a government eroding its currency by creating money out of thin air? Where is the concern when vast new powers to control and destroy are appropriated without explicit Constitutional authority? Where is the horror at the thought of forcing someone else to work for us, or at the thought of forcing others to turn over their goods for our comfort? When we believe that a vote of a majority justifies taking anything from or doing anything to a minority or that a majority vote allows the winner to do whatever the majority supposedly wants, we have utterly abandoned the principles of the Republic that was given to us at such great cost.
If you doubt the widespread ignorance behind the apathy I refer to, walk into a crowd of college graduates and ask them to explain the difference between a republic and a democracy. Ask them what the source of rights and government authority is in the eyes of our Founding Fathers. Ask them why the rights protected in the 2nd Amendment mattered to them. Ask them what grave dangers were in their mind when they gave us the cumbersome checks and balances in the Constitution. Ask them what the 10th Amendment means. Ask them when the last time was, if ever, that they had a class where the details of the Constitution were read and studied. Ask them if they have read it.
We live in such ignorance that modern journalists and “thought leaders” like the highly celebrated Thomas Friedman can openly wish we could be a dictatorship for a day, giving government unlimited power to just do what needs to be done, without being seriously challenged by their peers. We live in a day when government officials can openly declare that they support the principles of communism or Marxism without being challenged by the mainstream media and without being thrown out of office. We live in a day when citizens would rather have bread and circuses than freedom, when politicians of both parties can work to enrich themselves and spend us into oblivion in crass violation of the Constitution without much of a peep of protest. We live in a day when we have forgotten that the spirit of freedom led early Americans to reject the tyranny of Big Government and elitists rulers, and demand that government be small, accountable, and strictly limited.
We live in a day much like those in the Book of Mormon before the First Coming of Jesus Christ, when Kingmen tolerate or collaborate with external enemies to pull down liberty and amass power for themselves. When was the last time you had a healthy discussion about the lessons of the Kingmen threat in Book of Mormomn times, or the role or pervasive “combinations” in eroding liberty? We tend to treat the Book of Mormon far too superficially.
These are dangerous time – they have been for many years. We need to remember the captivity of our fathers – one of the biggest themes of the Book of Mormon. We need to return to the principles of liberty and throw of our ignorance of our history. We must review and internalize the lessons of history from the founding of this Republic and the lessons of liberty in the Book of Mormon, especially those in the books of Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, and 3rd Nephi, in the amazing era before the First Coming of Jesus Christ.
These are not matters to take lightly. When liberty is eroded, and we’ve been losing it gradually for some time now, you reach a point where you don’t just go back and fix things with an election. We need to throw off our ignorance now and preserve liberty while we still have as much as we do. When you become Cuba for a day, it will be a very long day indeed.
126 thoughts on “Preserving Freedom: Hard to Do in Ignorance”
All well said. If you haven't done so already, you may wish to read my monograph (www.mormonprophecy.blogspot.com) entitled "Living the Nephite Nightmare." We have been blithely sauntering down the same tragic path the Nephites trod. The earmarks are easily identified, if one cares to study their history carefully. I wrote a book about this same issue over 20 years ago, and the saints ignored it as much as they do the Book of Mormon itself. Our condemnation will be greater than the Nephites, however, because we had their history to warn us. Sadly, we've ignored it. Yes, we've treated that sacred book far to superficially, as Pres. Benson repeatedly warned us, and now we'll pay the price.
Great stuff. This is exactly how I feel. Jeff, you should read lewrockwell.com. What are you doing to hedge against the coming inflation?
very well said. Unfortunately, I am a recent college graduate and I must admit I don't think I've read the Constitution (maybe once in high school) but I'd like to think I know a little more about these things than the average grad.
We live in a crazy political landscape. Just reading the articles about the forthcoming November elections is telling enough.
The media seems to do nothing but fuel the fire. It doesn't help with the ignorance issue, either.
I'm not for the Book of Mormon as a historical document, but your post reminds me of a quote I read somewhere:
"the only thing we learn from history is that we never learn from history."
I've read and studied the Constitution, know it quite well, know the history quite well and am still GASP! a dreaded librul hippie commie terrorist-lover… or something.
"It is painfully sad to watch this nation reach a point where we think that it progress when we surrender personal liberty to allow a massive and nearly bankrupt government pretend to take care of us."
Um, what personal liberty have you lost dude?
" What happened to the fundamental ideals and principles that made America great?"
Dunno. What ARE the fundamental ideals and principles that YOU think made America great that are suddenly gone and don't make America great anymore?
"Where is the shock at the thought of a government eroding its currency by creating money out of thin air?"
Hmm, nothing wrong with printing more money if it is done judiciously. Seeing that the dollar is rising again, not sure what the hubbub is all about.
"Where is the concern when vast new powers to control and destroy are appropriated without explicit Constitutional authority? "
Which vast new powers to control and destroy have been appropriated without explicit Constitutional authority? And why don't you challenge them in court? That's what courts are for, right? Feel free.
"Where is the horror at the thought of forcing someone else to work for us, or at the thought of forcing others to turn over their goods for our comfort?"
What does that even mean?
"When we believe that a vote of a majority justifies taking anything from or doing anything to a minority or that a majority vote allows the winner to do whatever the majority supposedly wants, we have utterly abandoned the principles of the Republic that was given to us at such great cost. "
Because the filibuster is such a Constitutional tool…oh wait.
"If you doubt the widespread ignorance behind the apathy I refer to, walk into a crowd of college graduates and ask them to explain the difference between a republic and a democracy. "
Have you done this?
"We live in such ignorance that modern journalists and "thought leaders" like the highly celebrated Thomas Friedman can openly wish we could be a dictatorship for a day, giving government unlimited power to just do what needs to be done, without being seriously challenged by their peers. "
No argument there. I have no idea why anyone would ever listen to what Thomas "Suck on this" Friedman has to say.
"We live in a day when government officials can openly declare that they support the principles of communism or Marxism without being challenged by the mainstream media and without being thrown out of office."
Huh, I didn't know this was a Constitutionally set offense to be thrown out of office. Here you are railing against those who apparently don't know the Constitution and you say this? Do YOU know the Constitution?
"We live in a day when citizens would rather have bread and circuses than freedom"
What freedoms are lost?
"when politicians of both parties can work to enrich themselves and spend us into oblivion in crass violation of the Constitution without much of a peep of protest"
Take them to court dude! Oh wait, courts are corrupted too, right? So what's next? A violent revolution?
"We live in a day when we have forgotten that the spirit of freedom led early Americans to reject the tyranny of Big Government and elitists rulers, and demand that government be small, accountable, and strictly limited. "
Really? They rejected Big Government? I thought the rejection was taxation without representation. I don't recall them worried about size or anything. They just wanted to be represented. You're projecting upon our founding fathers something which they didn't believe themselves.
"We live in a day much like those in the Book of Mormon before the First Coming of Jesus Christ, when Kingmen tolerate or collaborate with external enemies to pull down liberty and amass power for themselves."
Ah, like Thomas Jefferson collaborating with the French to undermine John Adams… right, that never happened. Who are today's Kingmen? Name names dude. Don't talk in the abstract.
"When was the last time you had a healthy discussion about the lessons of the Kingmen threat in Book of Mormomn times, or the role or pervasive "combinations" in eroding liberty? "
When could you EVER have a health discussion about this topic? It always takes the form of a polemic, just like your piece here. This is not a health discussion on the topic dude.
"These are dangerous time – they have been for many years."
Yeah, a black man with a Muslim name is in charge of America!
"We must review and internalize the lessons of history from the founding of this Republic and the lessons of liberty in the Book of Mormon, especially those in the books of Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, and 3rd Nephi, in the amazing era before the First Coming of Jesus Christ."
What lessons must we learn?
"When liberty is eroded, and we've been losing it gradually for some time now, you reach a point where you don't just go back and fix things with an election."
Once again, what liberty have we lost? You never get specific. You're purposely vague to incite fear. Stop inciting fear.
I'm fascinated that you don't discuss the dangers of corporate powers, but then again, your concern has never been about the real threat to "freedom" but just the undermining of Democrats and liberals. It's okay if corporations limit freedom and liberty. They're on your side.
Dan, you may be new to my blog. I've spent far more time in the past couple of years bemoaning the abuses of power by banksters and the Bush administration than I have about Obama, who is simply continuing much of what Bush and his predecessors have been doing, but at a much faster pace, more obviously. It has not been about Democrats alone, or about one administration alone, and nothing in this post should imply that.
Nice of you to play the race card so quickly. Thanks for the considerate reply.
Jeff, nice post, as usual.
Dan, you replied:
"Really? They rejected Big Government? I thought the rejection was taxation without representation. I don't recall them worried about size or anything. They just wanted to be represented. You're projecting upon our founding fathers something which they didn't believe themselves."
My guess is that niether you nor I recall them worrying about shoes or boots but I am sure they wore them and I bet you are, too. "Taxation without representation" was an excuse, a catchy phrase. What they really wanted was to maintain the freedom they had in America.
What freedom? The origen of the New England colonies was the desire for religious freedom. England had a state church. As England started exerting pressures and controls on American soil, some colonists recalled their reasons for colony existence in the first place and did not want to lose their hard-earned liberties.
Today, there are religious persecutions by school staff (government-paid officiaries) against students who dare to bring the bible to school.
If you don't believe, you ought to do your homework. Personal freedoms are a result of the religious beliefs of this nation's founders.
Dan, rather than talking to college graduates, might I suggest you talk to someone trying to run a business that they've started to learn about the layers of federal and state regulations that threaten them at every turn. Try, for example, to start a business lending money to people or building homes or providing a healthcare service. Until you actually face the weight of bureaucracy, it's hard to appreciate how it crushes opportunity and limits freedom for people to do what would seem to be fair, logical, and honest uses of their own resources. That's just for starters.
Bush's Patriot Act substantially limited freedoms of US citizens. See http://www.nyclu.org/pdfs/eroding_liberty.pdf for some exciting details.
But Dan, let me ask this. Can you imagine that a bigger government, with more agencies, more regulations, more officials, and more taxes, must on the average tend to limit what individuals can do relative to a government that is smaller? For example, can you imagine, hypothetically speaking, that a government with dozens of agencies, hundreds of officials and thousands of regulations regulating speech (print, radio, web, etc.) is more likely to limit freedom of speech than one with much less of that? If not, we may need to cover more basics in answering your question.
Oh, Dan, and about size of government. Read between the lines. The constitution has just enough white space to see limitations on gonvernment functions in each ammendment of the Bill of Rights and in the seperation of powers with the states controlling the Senate (although that check on government size has since been destroyed).
"Size" has at least two types of meanings: breadth of reach, as in the size of a blanket; and total volume, as in fluid ounces. Sometimes the two are somehow related. For example, the breadth of reach you want for a paint job on your house will determine the volume of paint you buy. By attempting to limit the scope of operations (reach) of our federal government – one sort of "size" – their success would likely limit government staffing.
The founders clearly wanted a government of small proportions.
"Once again, what liberty have we lost? You never get specific. You're purposely vague to incite fear. Stop inciting fear."
Dan, you have miss read the minds of our founding fathers and I believe you have miss read the mind of Jeff as well.
Jack Kemp of the Reagan Administration reported the results of a study. Unfortunately, I do not recall the exact figures but apparently 2/3 or 3/4 of the cost of housing was due to government regulations. Today, in some states people are not free to live in homes of their own design and standards because they cannot afford the extra costs of that state's regulations. And where some states have been slack on taking away our freedoms, the federal governments seems increasingly willing to oblige. And as Jeff already replied, this is not a criticism of an administration or race of a current nature only. This increase in willingness has known no boundaries of time or political label.
Just because Jeff didn't give specifics here does not mean he doesn't know of too many to mention. For example, by my giving one specific in this reply, I do the disservice of giving you the opportunity of impuning me by suggesting that I know only of one. Hopefully you won't fall for that temptation.
Most of Jeff's readers would see through it anyway. Most of us are a pretty educated group, either by degree or better yet by reading, discussion and experience
Cheers, Ben. Thanks for stopping by and come again.
While I agree with many of your points, Jeff. I disagree with some of the sentiment that seems to go with them. There are many opinions on what makes the most sense for government and you seem to be calling anyone with a different approach then yours misinformed, ignorant or worse. It's not a very constructive way to go about things, IMO.
That said, I would certainly agree that it seems like current spending habits would have to inevitably lead to massive amounts of inflation, and it is certainly more then a bit worrisome.
I also long for the liberties that the founding fathers enjoyed. Before the nasty liberals got involved, I could own my neighbor for the right price (as long as his skin was a different color). I'm not sure why we ever decided to let non property holders get a vote. What about women? Things were much better before we let them have a say in politics. Just look how much more likely they are to vote non conservatively than the much wiser men.
Things are definetly much worse now. I also hate that the goverment forces (through regulation) businesses open to the public to serve all the public. The days when people could post "whites (non jews) only" were so much more free. I long for the days when the refinery I work for could route its excess crude into a big open unlined pit (circa 1960). Fuel standards for cars!?! Where is my freedom? Stupid housing regulations. It was much better before we had building codes and earthquake codes. We could put all the saved money into rebuilding after each earthquake/fire. Maybe even set up a trust fund for all the people that needlessly lost their lives (hey at least they had cheap housing).
I guess I wish we could get a balanced budget as much as the next guy, but I have to laugh out loud when people lament at how far we have fallen from the days of the founding fathers. Things were much better back then (as long as you were a white, male, property holder).
Jeff, I read your blog from time to time, but don't recall reading your political posts before. This particular post seems to advocate basically a "Tea Party" position, citing Book of Mormon support. Am I missing something? Do you agree with the proposition that the Tea Party has a resonance among some Mormons that it might not among other groups?
Dan, I replied hastily yesterday in the few minutes I had. I should have begun with a different part of your reply. You said: ""Really? They rejected Big Government? I thought the rejection was taxation without representation. I don't recall them worried about size or anything. They just wanted to be represented. You're projecting upon our founding fathers something which they didn't believe themselves." Recognizing that you are an educated person who cares about America and American politics, I hope you'll not be annoyed with what I am about to say for I mean no offense and am not pointing fingers at you but at our educational system. I hope that one day you will appreciate that this statement helps make my case regarding the inadequate treatment that our schools give to fundamental issues about our nation's origins, for it shows that they have errantly taught that our form of government is all about democracy – about voting as the fundamental right to protect – rather than creating a government that avoids the crimes of mob rule and protects fundamental rights from tyranny the tyranny of government. The Federalist Papers and the many conversations and expressions of intent behind the founding of the Republic teach what they were trying to achieve, and unlimited, big government was indeed a primary enemy to avoid.
I'm not going to try and respond to everyone's response to my comment. I await the answer to the one burning question I still have of Jeff.
What liberties have we lost?
So let me get this straight, you are saying that government inhibits your right to design a home as you please. You're saying, for example, I should be able to design a home without a bathroom, if I really wanted to. I should be able to design a home that can easily burn to the ground because of shoddy electrical wiring. Even though, both of those things could be a detriment and danger to the community. (Unsanitary conditions due to a lack of proper plumbing could lead to an increase in rodents and diseases, and of course, fires threaten neighbors too).
I'm curious, exactly what freedoms are taken away again? The freedom to design a home that could be a danger to your neighbor? Frankly, I don't want that freedom, because I don't want that liability.
What is the other freedom Jeff talked about? Ah, starting businesses. I don't know about y'all but it seems, downturn in the economy not withstanding, our small business world seems to be doing just fine. Again, I am at a loss to see what freedom is lost because of the government.
I should point out, as a contrarian here, several freedoms gained that were not present in the days of our founding fathers.
1. Women can vote.
2. Blacks are free and not considered 3/4ths of a person or something ridiculous like that.
3. Anyone over 18 can vote, not just land owners.
4. Homosexuals are not executed for being homosexual like they were.
5. I charge that religions are far more free today than ever before. Could you imagine a Wicca religion back in the day? oh wait, yeah, they use to throw those women into rivers and drown them to death or burn them or hang them. Nice religious freedoms…
7. Through federal pell grants and stafford loans, more people who could not get a collegiate education are now getting it, and getting jobs they would never have been able to.
The two examples you too bring up so far do not even come close to matching the freedoms gained since the times of the Founding Fathers. Even if counted as losses of freedom (which I don't think you've mustered enough evidence to show loss of freedom), they don't even change the balance against the examples I show here.
by the way, does anyone know of any research that actually tries to answer the question of what effect governmental regulations actually has on the survivability of a business. I'm not talking polemics. I'm talking actual research. What was the 3 year survivability rate of businesses begun in the 1810s versus those of, say, the 1960s, or the 1990s. What was the rate of business per capita (how many businesses were there in the population) in the 1810s compared to the 1990s. Frankly, WHO could open a business in the 1810s? Could women open businesses then? Certainly blacks could not. Was it only white men who could open and own businesses back then? If so, then today, people are more free to do business then back then.
Don't you see, Dan? Because of Big Government, I've lost the liberty to dump dioxin into my neighbor's groundwater. I've lost the liberty to use lead paint in manufacturing baby cribs. I've lost the liberty to automatically assert my God-given superiority over women and gay people. I've lost the liberty to get into elite colleges without ever having to compete with women applicants (you know, like John Roberts)–I've lost the liberty of my 100-percent-quota-for-males! In California recently, I came this close to losing my liberty to tell the gay-affirming Metropolitan Community Church whom they can and cannot marry! (The MCC has to kowtow to my religious doctrine instead of its own. Why can't you see that as a victory for religious liberty?) I've lost the liberty (so crucial to the original Constitution) to buy and sell slaves. I've lost the liberty to use tax money to shill for my own religion in the public schools. Heck, I've even lost the liberty to ethnically cleanse those pesky Lama…I mean Native Americans–who for so long stood in the way of making this country the great nation that it is. From sea to shining sea and all that. (I don't see why bleeding hearts insist on reminding us of things like slavery and genocide. It's not like slavery and genocide were important in our history. Not at all! We're a great nation only because of those shining values which today we have lost.)
Anyway, what you have to understand, Dan, is that the best way to describe a democratically-elected government passing a law I don't like is as a loss of liberty. Any time that same democratically elected government adopts a law I do like (even if it actually is a loss of liberty, I mean, you know, for people whose liberty doesn't count), it's an affirmation of the fundamental values that made this country great.
Get with the program already.
Anonymous, perhaps you're unaware that "Big Government", principally the Clinton administration, is responsible for taking away many of our GLBT brothers' and sisters' rights–most notably in the form of a federal amendment banning gay marriage. And, of course, the *lovely* "don't ask, don't tell" rule (which many Conservatives are working hard to repeal right now). Obama, meanwhile, supports both a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and the "don't ask, don't tell" rule.
Then, of course, there's the Patriot Act–which, as another poster correctly pointed out, basically guts our 4th, 5th, and 6th amendment rights. And, I'd argue, makes serious inroads into our 7th, 9th, and 10th.
The bottom line is, civil rights should NOT be a partisan issue. Civil rights are, by definition, for everybody–regardless of what they believe. Once we tie rights to "lifestyle", or "morality" concerns, they're no longer rights at all. Rather, they're tools to create (and promote) a protected class.
Civil rights should NOT be a partisan issue. Hey, I agree with you about Clinton, though it seems ludicrously, uh, partisan to associate Big Government principally with him. There's plenty of blame to go around. And FWIW, I agree with you about the Patriot Act. That's a setback to be sure. But despite such setbacks, Dan is right that far more Americans enjoy far more liberty today than back in the day.
Civil rights are, by definition, for everybody–regardless of what they believe. Once we tie rights to "lifestyle", or "morality" concerns, they're no longer rights at all. Rather, they're tools to create (and promote) a protected class.
Look. Proposition 8 effectually limits access to certain government benefits to heterosexuals. How in the world would extending those benefits to gay couples establish gay people as a "protected" class? Would you support an amendment that said "The right to marry the adult person of one's choice is hereby extended to everybody"? If that were proposed as an amendment to the California Constitution would you support it? If you answer yes, then I can conclude you really meant it when you wrote that "civil rights are, by definition, for everybody." Otherwise, not so much.