The View From 1776
Monday, December 28, 2009
Drifting Into The Darkness
Our nation is like an unmoored skiff, drifting away from shore, into the blackness of a fog-bound night.
Jeff Lukens sketches our predicament and the need to navigate back to home base before it’s too late.
Hitherto the drift has been imperceptibly slow. With the shoreline now out of sight, most of us are unaware how dangerously far we are from our starting point. Obama may paradoxically be doing us a favor with his abrupt, radical, socialist initiatives that awaken us to our accelerating leftward drift.
For a shoreline base point see also The Unwritten Constitution.
The Choice Between Prosperity and Decline
By Jeff Lukens
This land of a free people and a free-market economy has generated a great wave of innovation that has benefited all of humanity. The essence of freedom and prosperity that moved around the world in past 200 and some years has been driven primarily by the United States. With our economy now stagnating, it has become more important than ever to return to the basic Constitutional freedoms that have made prosperity possible.
My son came home from college to visit recently. After some time of catching up on things, the conversation turned to topics that interest him—and that means all things electronic. He explained to me why I needed the latest operating system update for the computer and how properly to configure the surround sound system for the HDTV. I could barely keep up with it. Somewhere in the conversation, it occurred to me that in the long view of human history, we have come a long way in a very short time.
Think about it. In the 1600s, the ships that brought the first settlers to our shores, and tools for tilling the soil they brought with them, were not much more advanced than those used by people thousands of years before. In the relatively short time since their arrival in the New World, there has been an explosion in technology and the standard of living for ordinary people.
Communications, for example, were revolutionized first by the telegraph, then by telephone, then radio, then television, and now by the Internet and the computer. In that same time, the average length of life has been doubled, and the quality of life has been greatly enhanced. Homes, heating, cooling, clothing, transportation, food, education, and medicine have quickly advanced as well.
While people around the globe have benefited and other countries have contributed, the American spirit of innovation and free enterprise has been a driving force behind much of the change. And that change has flowed primarily from the fruits that come from the individual freedoms that the Founders understood and turned loose.
In his book, W. Cleon Skousen calls this American phenomenon “The 5000 Year Leap” that changed the world. Whether it was actually a 5000-year leap forward is hard to say, but it certainly was a giant step in the advancement of human civilization.
The Founders generally agreed that the only reliable basis for sound government and just human relations is Natural Law. The Declaration of Independence called this “the laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” Constitutional precepts such as unalienable rights, habeas corpus, limited government, separation of power, no taxation without representation, were based on Natural Law.
The Founders intended a government that is subservient to the people (rather than the reverse), that rights are not derived by government but by a higher power, that the free market system more than any other provides the best, most efficient and most just opportunity for individual prosperity and for the welfare of the nation as a whole.
It would be wonderful if every American studied writings of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and others that have made our great nation possible, but sadly this is not so. In our collective ignorance, we are becoming hostages to our very own government. As Ben Franklin said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
Has our idea of “rights” become so corrupt that we are allowing the government to become our master? As the health care battle rages on Capitol Hill, could we be seeing a reversal of roles by the government and its citizens?
Today, many in Washington wish to overturn what they see to be outmoded notions of Constitutional law. We hear of conferring new, artificial rights not granted by the Creator, but by other men. The “right” to government-sponsored health care is only the latest example. And in the end, it is nothing more than a ruse intended to empower the state and deny everyone his or her true inalienable rights.
In just the past few weeks, we have seen it all. From grossly irresponsible spending of taxpayer money, to an ever-increasing national debt, to corrupt political payoffs, to expanding entitlements that we cannot pay for, the list goes on. The government corruption and mismanagement of our finances has been going on for decades, and it is getting worse. We must face the possibility that the great wave of prosperity that this nation has known from the beginning could be ending, and that our government is causing much of the decline.
The economic trend lines do not paint a pretty picture. Not to be too dramatic, but the bankruptcy of our government, a collapse of the American economy, and hence the world economy, could happen. That almost happened in the 1930s, and this time it could be worse.
One thing for certain, fixing society’s problems is not accomplished by growing government and the overstepping its constitutional role, but by a return to founding principles. For prosperity and innovation to continue, we must choose to preserve the honest relationship of self-interested individuals working in cooperation with a government of limited and divided authority.
From the beginning until today, the “noble experiment” of free people and free enterprise has produced phenomenal results. There has never been of greater need than now, however, to preserve our Constitutional principles. The future of our children is depending on it.
Jeff Lukens is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets. He can be contacted at www.jefflukens.com