Although it may not seem like it at times, everyone has a set of principles they live by, a moral code that guides them in their lives. Even the vilest of criminals have them; although their standards may be much lower than those they prey upon.
Before I move forward, let us define the word principle. A principle is a moral rule, or belief, that helps us know what is right or wrong, and influences our decisions and actions. A person whose standards for right and wrong are high is said to be virtuous; have integrity. The lower a person’s standards are and we begin calling them, dishonest, corrupt.
The problem with standards is that there is an Overton Window that dictates what is considered morally acceptable. What is morally acceptable today would not have been considered acceptable when I was a kid, and what was morally acceptable when I was a kid, probably wouldn’t have been acceptable by the previous generation; and most certainly would have been considered immoral by those who lived in the era when our founding documents were written.
When discussing politics, and to a certain extent, political systems, something James Madison said applies: What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? (Source: Federalist 51) James Garfield, who served as our 20th President, once said:
Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature…
Two points can be derived by examining those two quotes. First, if our government is bad, if it is evil, it is just a reflection of the society that chooses who shall inhabit the positions of trust within it. Secondly, all our problems today are not due to the conflicting ideologies of the two primary political parties, the left/right paradigm; they are due to a decline in morals, or the principles we adhere to as individuals.
That is why I do not discuss politics from the position of a conservative or a liberal, a Republican or a Democrat; I discuss politics from the question of whether or not government is serving the purpose for which it is instituted among men to serve – the preservation of their rights to life, liberty and property. If people would just step outside the box that entraps them, if they would just look beyond the animosity that exists between the two political parties, they would see that government, as an institution, no longer serves that function.
As one who understands what rightful liberty is, I would never demand that you do something against your will. However, I would highly recommend that you read a book that was written over 150 years ago; The Law, by Frederic Bastiat. When I first stumbled across that book I was instantly captivated after reading the opening paragraph:
The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!
That single statement describes everything that is wrong with our government today; the law has been turned from its proper purpose and now is guilty of the evils it is supposed to prevent/punish. I don’t care who you talk to, Republican or Democrat, if you boil their core beliefs down to the basics, nothing they believe in adheres to the principle that government exists to secure to the governed their rights, and their liberty.
While I won’t go into the specifics of the platforms of the two political parties, I will say that both of them seemed to be designed to benefit certain groups within society. Those groups could be the poor, minorities, gays, the working class, farmers, ranchers, the point is they are doing things that do not serve to secure the rights and liberty of all.
If the purpose of government is to better secure the rights and liberty of the governed, then every law passed should also serve that function. All the fighting that goes on, all the political debates we see and hear, all are over two different beliefs as to all the things government should be doing on behalf of the people.
Yet neither party will tell you that government is not supposed to help them, provide them with benefits, subsidies, grants, or any other form of assistance; that government should ensure that your rights and liberty are secure, then stand back and stay the hell out of your life; let you succeed or fail based upon your own skill, your own merit. If they did, with the current mindset of people, those speaking such heresy would never get elected.
If you recall, I suggested that one read Bastiat’s book, The Law. In that book, Bastiat addresses that point quite eloquently:
If a nation were founded on this basis, it seems to me that order would prevail among the people, in thought as well as in deed. It seems to me that such a nation would have the most simple, easy to accept, economical, limited, nonoppressive, just, and enduring government imaginable — whatever its political form might be.
Under such an administration, everyone would understand that he possessed all the privileges as well as all the responsibilities of his existence. No one would have any argument with government, provided that his person was respected, his labor was free, and the fruits of his labor were protected against all unjust attack. When successful, we would not have to thank the state for our success. And, conversely, when unsuccessful, we would no more think of blaming the state for our misfortune than would the farmers blame the state because of hail or frost. The state would be felt only by the invaluable blessings of safety provided by this concept of government.
Twenty years after Bastiat wrote his book, a fellow by the name of Lysander Spooner wrote another book in which he said something quite similar to what Bastiat said in his: … it is to be considered that, without his consent having even been asked a man finds himself environed by a government that he cannot resist; a government that forces him to pay money, render service, and forego the exercise of many of his natural rights, under peril of weighty punishments. He sees, too, that other men practise this tyranny over him by the use of the ballot. He sees further, that, if he will but use the ballot himself, he has some chance of relieving himself from this tyranny of others, by subjecting them to his own. In short, he finds himself, without his consent, so situated that, if he use the ballot, he may become a master; if he does not use it, he must become a slave. (Source: No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority – Lysander Spooner, 1870)
The debate between the left and the right in America can be summed up by something else Bastiat wrote:
As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose—that it may violate property instead of protecting it—then everyone will want to participate in making the law, either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder. Political questions will always be prejudicial, dominant, and all-absorbing.
As long as the debate is kept within the confines of that two-party paradigm, government will never serve the function it is supposed to serve – preserving the rights and liberty of all the people.
I am frequently asked what solution I offer to our current predicament; what kind of government would I suggest we adopt in order to cure all that ails our country. While I have my thoughts on the matter, the question is irrelevant as long as the majority of the people cling to their party ideologies. Neither side, not the left and not the right, would go for what kind of government I would propose; which is based upon something Henry Thoreau wrote in 1849:
“That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe- “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.”
No suggestion I might offer has even the slightest chance of success as long as the people refuse to accept responsibility for their own wants and needs in life; to stop relying upon the government to care for them in hard times, or when they cannot achieve success on their own.
How many people rely upon at least one service provided them by government; be it Social Security, Medicare, Welfare, WIC, police protection, or any of the myriad services government provides? How many would be willing to give up those benefits if, in return, they were promised that their rights and liberty would be secure? Not many, I imagine; which is why no system I might suggest has any chance of being implemented.
Yet there is another point those asking me for solutions seem to have forgotten; that being that our rights are individual rights, that our liberty is individual liberty; that it is OUR responsibility as individuals to defend and secure it. Bastiat also addresses that assertion:
Each of us has a natural right—from God—to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. … If every person has the right to defend—even by force—his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right—its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right.
Therefore, if you are looking for a system of government to secure your rights and liberty, or a document protecting them, you do not understand their nature in the first place; it is YOUR responsibility, as an individual, to stand up to any, and all, who threaten to deprive you of those gives bequeathed to you by your Creator.
Therefore, people appear to be faced with a choice. On the one hand, they can live their lives with all the benefits government provides; while accepting that they must obey whatever laws the government passes. This moral conundrum is best explained by something else Bastiat said:
When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.
If you value your rights and your liberty, then you must stand in opposition to those who would take them from you; including those who enforce the laws your government enacts.
That is one choice people can make, the other is to be free of government, or at least have a government based upon the Jeffersonian belief that it should secure our rights, then leave us free to seek success on our own. Anything in between those two is a form of oppression; in which government plunders from one portion of society to benefit another.
Therefore, the real problem in this country is not due to the policies of either the left or the right, it is the belief that the ends justify the means, that to serve the public good, the ‘general welfare’, it is okay to plunder others of their rights, their liberty, or their property. What we face is not a political issue, it is an issue of morality; do you believe it is acceptable to deprive others of their rights, liberty, or property to further your beliefs as to what purpose government should serve?
If you do, then you are the problem, not the Republicans, not the Democrats. If we wish to heal this country, we must begin by respecting the rights and liberty of others; even those whose beliefs differ from ours. We must leave people free to succeed or fail on their own; without taking from those who have, and giving it out to those in need.
In short, if we want to fix what’s wrong in this country, we must gaze into a mirror and ask ourselves what is wrong with us as individuals; what beliefs to we need to alter, and which ones we need to get rid of. Until we can do that, government will continue to be a mirror that reflects the morals and principles of those it governs.
In the meantime, people such as myself will continue to stand for our rights, our liberty, and we will try to show others the fallacy of their positions. We well do this because we understand that it is better to resist tyrants than it is to go along with their tyranny for the false promises of comfort and security. We will do this when it costs us friends, families, and even our jobs. We do this because it is the ‘RIGHT’ thing to do; not what is comfortable, or accepted by society, or our peers.
Finally, as we are the minority, and an ever diminishing one at that, we will suffer the ridicule heaped upon us by those who fail to understand the real problem. We do what we do because we remember the words of Patrick Henry, who said:
For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
So, there you have it. The problems we face in this country are not political in nature, they are due to an erosion of our morality and the degradation of the principles we adhere to in life. The solution can only come when we reverse the trend this country has been on for the past 244 years. No system of government can fix it, it must come from within each of us, and until people recognize that, not a damned thing is going to change.
Until that happens, and that’s assuming it ever does, I will live by the words of Patrick Henry: I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
December 1, 2021
~ The Author ~
Neal Ross, Student of history, politics, patriot and staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment. Send all comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you liked Neal’s latest column, maybe you’ll like his latest booklet: The Civil War: (The Truth You Have Not Been Told). Life continues to expand for this prolific writer and guardian of TRUE American history.