by Rich Carey
As we look at the multitude of challenges facing our world today, it’s evident that we are in serious trouble. Something needs to be done, and we all know it.
The headlines this week grapple with economics, abortion, gun control, global warming, food safety, gay marriage, and the list goes on. These are all polarizing issues in our nation right now, and there are very strong opinions on both sides of the debate.
Given that for the better part of the past century we have been systematically programmed to depend upon the government for so many of our needs, it is natural for many to look to politicians for solutions. Of course those who crave power are all too willing to create more laws in a vain attempt to legislate away our problems and bolster the illusion that more government is the answer.
Government actually IS the answer. Not more government, but proper government. And given the dismal failure of our educational institutions to rightfully teach government and history, not many people today even know what proper government is.
One could describe the battlefield as progressives, who believe more government is the answer, and conservatives who believe the government has become too powerful already and needs to be trimmed down and brought under control.
Progressivism and conservatism are both rooted in very different worldviews, yet both share the same stated goal – to make the world a better place; they simply have vastly different ideas on how this should be accomplished. Both claim the high road of virtue, goodness and compassion and some on both sides will use scripture to bolster their arguments. Yet, both tend to demonize and demoralize their opponents on the other side, viewing them as mortal enemies to their cause.
On social issues, both progressives and conservatives share a common goal – to use the power of government to force social change. Some conservatives may bristle at that notion, but it’s nonetheless true. Many conservatives who cry for smaller government would favor passing laws that prohibit certain behaviors that they morally disagree with. Examples would include abortion, gay marriage, and the use of recreational drugs to name a few.
Progressives respond by demanding personal choice and freedom in these areas. Yet when we consider topics such as personal firearms, corporate profits and education, suddenly progressives are no longer in favor of so much personal choice and demand more government control in these and many other areas.
There are a growing number of people who don’t entirely agree with either the progressive or conservative agenda and would identify themselves as Libertarians. They value personal liberty above all else. These people believe that more government is almost always bad and just want to be left alone and to be free to pursue happiness. Their motto is “live and let live.”
Libertarian views are becoming increasingly popular among younger voters who are painfully aware of the failures of an overgrown federal government that threatens both their freedom and their livelihood through increasing taxation. However they have also been immersed in a flood of moral relativism and secularism by the education and entertainment industries. And it is in this very arena that we find a crisis looming which we must grapple with, and soon, but this is a topic for later study.
The paradox we must face is that personal liberty often stands at odds with virtue. Many of the problems of our nation are simply the mature fruit of the boomer generation’s revolution battle cry of the sixties – “If it feels good, do it!”. This utopian idea of unrestrained liberty has great appeal, especially to those who lack the benefit of an accurate understanding of history and the lustful nature of man. But unlimited freedom is not the great panacea it appears to be on the surface. Rather, it is the beginning of a vicious cycle that is seen throughout our history as human beings.
The Founders of this great nation were brave men and women who were willing to sacrifice their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for the cause of freedom and personal liberty. These courageous colonists were unwilling to be subjugated by their British oppressors, and thundered this bold declaration from sea to shining sea and beyond:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”
Freedom has become synonymous with America, and we proudly exalt it as our defining virtue. Most Americans take their liberty for granted because they have never lived a day without it. They are blissfully unaware that the abundance of personal freedom and liberty we enjoy today is in reality a very rare and recent blip on the timeline of human history.
Freedom is not a powerful fortress that protects us from tyranny, but is rather a fragile creation that must be tended, closely guarded, protected and carefully passed on to succeeding generations or it will wither and pass away. You see, by its very nature, freedom is self-destructive. Unlimited freedom is a phantom, which can never exist, and those who seek it will be sorely disappointed by the bondage that they actually attain.
Liberty without moral restraint leads to civil anarchy (absence of government). When each man does what is right in his own eyes, it inevitably results in a measure of real or perceived injustice to others as their own rights are trampled upon. Consequently, there arises a cry for justice and protection from abuse and/or resulting retaliation. Because anarchy is incompatible with a civil society, someone will step forward to governmentally right the wrongs through the use of force and laws are put in place. Those who now hold the reigns of governmental power will begin to impose their will upon the masses in order to control them, and the pendulum will have swung to the other extreme (too much government). The oppressed then cry out for freedom, they revolt, and the cycle starts all over again.
We see this pattern recorded in the history of the Israelites after gaining their freedom from their Egyptian oppressors. Unrestrained freedom led to sin, oppression, cries of misery, deliverance, freedom, and the cycle repeated itself over and over. The defining statement in the book of Judges is “once again Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord.”
Thus, the political debate of whether more government or less government is the solution to our problems is flawed because both can be problematic. To be sure, there is a proper amount of government, but size is not really the issue. What is needed to maximize personal freedom and create the best environment for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the proper form of government, which is self-government and personal responsibility.
In a free and orderly society, there are really only two forms of government – external and internal. No man is an island. I will either control my actions and behave properly, or I will be controlled for the benefit of society, because anarchy is the enemy of peace and the vast majority of people want to live in peace and safety.
But this is where it gets tricky – who gets to decide what is right for society? Whose set of morals can be universally applied in a society that values personal liberty and freedom?
Our Founders understood this dilemma and addressed it by acknowledging the Creator and Natural Law. Contrary to what revisionists (who are doing their best to secularize our history) proclaim, the Founders almost universally held the teachings of the Bible in high regard in spite of their theological differences. They acknowledged the struggle between good and evil that is present in the heart of man and crafted this new form of civil government that was utterly dependent upon proper self-government by the citizenry. John Adams succinctly sums it up with this important statement which we would do well to heed today:
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Thus self-government and personal responsibility is a requirement for an orderly society that seeks to enjoy maximum freedom and personal liberty, for they are inextricably linked. Without proper self-government, the inevitable result is an increasing amount of external, or civil government to maintain any semblance of order and justice for all. There will always be a necessary tension between liberty and virtue, and virtue is the lifeblood and guardian of liberty.
This article is an except from an upcoming book by Rich Carey.
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