Saturday, August 30, 2014

Principles of Freedom – What is a Statesman?

There are actually two basic definitions of the word “statesman”. The first is descriptive of those who represent a state in a larger government. The second is a term of honor and recognition that the person is one who puts principle above politics and works for the good of the whole nation as well as caring about the considerations of those in his “state”. The term originates in the Roman republic where the Senators met to deliberate policy and actions that would serve the interests of the nation and the Roman citizens. In our own history, it applied to those who were chosen to represent the states by the legislature of each state. Because they were not elected, they did not have to face re-election, but they did have to fulfill the wishes of their state legislature or they could be recalled or replaced.

Because these people were representatives of the state governments, they were likely to take more time and effort to deliberate about laws and policy. They were a check and balance on the sometimes frivolous or ill-considered actions of the House of Representatives. This is how the second definition came about. Statesmen were those who were wiser and more concerned about the future than they were their careers and getting re-elected. Being called a statesman was a badge of honor and respect. When serious questions arose, these are the wise and thoughtful people you would ask to work on the solutions. Some senators did not fit this description, but many did and our country was better for it.

When people face re-election every two years, they tend to promise many things in order to get re-elected. The Senate countered this tendency because they normally served for six years and had to answer only to the state legislature they represented. This was one of the choices our founders made that was sheer genius. When the House voted for “a chicken in every pot and a car in every driveway” or other such giveaways, the Senate would normally say “Sorry, we can’t afford that” and they would vote it down. Since it requires the approval of both legislative bodies, proposed legislation that was wasteful or careless rarely went to the president for signature. This process kept us out of significant debt and didn’t require taxing the people, and it kept the people free, happy and prosperous most of the time.

Then came the infamous actions of 1913, when the 16th and 17th Amendments and the Federal Reserve Act were passed. We all know that the 16th Amendment created the IRS and the income tax (which was originally a tax of one percent of the top one percent of the people). But the other parts of the plan were to create the Federal Reserve and the 17th Amendment. The Federal Reserve is not a part of the government but is owned by private bankers.  They print money with no backing and then loan it to us.  We are then expected to pay them both principle and interest on what they printed. The 17th Amendment took the choosing of Senators away from the state legislatures and gave it to the voters. Sadly, this removed the last impediment to putting our country into debt and allowing the bankers to control interest rates and inflation. That is kind of like asking the fox to guard the henhouse.

When we say we need statesmen instead of politicians, we are speaking of the critical need for people of vision, thoughtfulness, wisdom and foresight instead of people who serve their own interests, often at the expense of the citizens of our country. Since all of our representatives are now chosen by popular vote, we need to work harder than ever to encourage great people to run for office. Then we need to support them, vote for them and challenge them to do the right things Our current system does not often result in the election of statesmen. We, individually and collectively, need to look within ourselves to see if we are part of the solution or part of the problem. Do we actually take the time to discover what those running for office stand for or do we simply vote without thought or preparation? It’s time to think about it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Principles of Freedom – What is a Patriot?

There has come about a change in the public perception of what a patriot is – and it is not a good change. Most of us have been fans of a certain sports team or television show or type of car. Having an opinion or valuing something we like is a good thing. However it sometimes happens that we get into the mode of thinking that our team or car or show is superior in every way to every other team or car or show. They can do no wrong and everyone that can’t see that is either stupid or misinformed.

So it is with countries, political parties or candidates. A person who says “My country, right or wrong!” or “If you don’t vote for (insert name or party here), you are stupid, incompetent or dishonest,” is not being a true patriot.

A patriot is one who understands the principles of freedom, is always learning and comparing truth and integrity with what is actually being said and done, and is always willing to confront the errors or corruption they see – even if those problems originate with the country, party or person they have been allied with. A patriot requires of themselves a personal introspection and a willingness to see the truth, even when it is uncomfortable. A patriot stands up for the principles that matter, even when it may cost them something. A patriot may be called a traitor or a coward or a criminal by those in power, if their pursuit of truth and principle takes them into conflict with the powers that be.

The greatest patriots we look to in our history are Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison and others of their time. These and others, including the signers of the Declaration of Independence, were called traitors because they dared to criticize and separate themselves from the “home team” of the British Empire. Those who stood up and called slavery a plague and an abomination were ridiculed and hated by some. Winston Churchill was ostracized by many in the British government until he was proven right about the dishonesty of Hitler’s Germany. Gandhi was called a coward because he wouldn’t physically fight against the government who occupied his country. All of them stood in support of truth, principle and the good of their people and of mankind. All were true patriots. All succeeded in making the world better or stopping evil from taking or keeping power.

Patriots are not those who numbly go with the unexamined status quo. They are thinking, caring and informed. They act, speak and vote in support of the principles and people who are doing what they should. My hope is that we all are willing to take the time and effort to be true patriots and not just puppets.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Principles of Freedom – Statism vs. Liberty
This is a topic that could make an interesting book and could take hundreds of pages to explore. In the limited space we have, I will give you the basics. You may want to make a more thorough study of these ideas. A few things you may want to look into include a pamphlet by Eisenhower’s Secretary of Agriculture, Ezra Taft Benson, called “The Proper Role of Government”, and books such as “The Law” by Bastiat, “We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident” by DeMille, “, “The Making of America” by Skousen and “The Federalist Papers”. I also strongly encourage all to read the original Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, even if you have read them before.

In essence, Statists believe that the masses (which means you and me and our friends and neighbors) are not informed or intelligent enough to make our own decisions about important things. They believe we must be “managed” or controlled for our own good and the good of society. They believe that people exist to serve society and, by extension, the bureaucracy of the state which “cares for” the members of society. If left to our own devices and decision-making, they think we will either do foolish things that hurt ourselves and others or we will act with evil intent to damage others or take things from them.

To save us from these evils, they desire to institute controls on the people. They try to force us into their concepts for education, health care, retirement, caring for the poor, management of our lands and property, safety when we drive our cars or motorcycles, the way we produce products and many other areas. They work to enforce these mandates through the imposition of fines, confiscations and incarceration. They attempt to indoctrinate our children to be docile and obedient in government schools which mandate content and curriculum requirements.

In contrast, Liber (the latin root of liberty, libertarian, and other such words) means the state of freedom to choose and act for oneself, assuming the responsibility for those actions. In essence, liberty means the individual is accountable for their choices and is willing to face the outcomes of those choices without asking others to step in or pay the price. By taking that responsibility, they remove the reason for the Statist’s “protection.”  An environment of liberty encourages productivity, industry, success, charity and good will. Statism encourages dependency, lack of productivity and reliance on others to “take care of us”. Those who honor liberty believe the government exists to protect our rights and freedoms and to serve the people, not be served by them.

In reality, we live in a constantly shifting balance between these extremes. That balance was considered by our founders but the emphasis was on personal freedom and responsibility. As we have shifted more and more to the side of control, taxation, debt and management of our affairs by the government, we have become less free, less productive, less successful and more concerned as a society with what we “get” instead of what we can “give”.  John Adams said “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” The decay of our society is specifically linked to our unwillingness to be personally moral and responsible. That is the great challenge of our day – to turn that tide and become again a people that chooses freedom, liberty and all that goes with it.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Principles of Freedom – What’s Right With America?

I will start by letting you know that I understand our freedoms are under attack from a number of sources. We have to actively defend our liberty if we want to keep it. That said, the United States of America is still the gold standard of the world when it comes to individual freedom, opportunity and hope for the common man.

Here we have the freedom to succeed – and to fail. Failure is one of our greatest teachers. Most people who have changed their lives for the better in stunning ways have first attended the school of hard knocks and failure. In many countries, neither is an option as your life and employment are managed to prevent failure and as a result, also preclude great success.

Here we have the freedom to associate, to believe in and worship who or what we want, to make a difference or to become different. We have the ability to teach our children our values and to try to encourage others to change or accept what we believe. We are also restricted from forcing our ideas on anyone else, even if the government agrees with us.

Here we have the freedom to affect the direction and attitude of our nation. We the people are the nation, and its elected officials serve at our pleasure. We can elect them and we can remove them. We can influence their choices in making law and policy. If they are not responsive to what a majority of those they represent feel is right, we can choose new representatives.

Here we have the understanding that many of what we consider “rights” are granted by God and not by government and, as such, are not rightly controlled or removed by government. They are unalienable rights and the government “of the people, by the people and for the people” is duty bound to protect those rights at all times. In fact, it is the purpose of government to so do.

Here we have a document that creates a series of protections of those rights and clearly spells out the proper role of government and precludes or resists actions that do not fall into that proper role. It’s called the Constitution and it deserves our respect, protection and effort to maintain and defend.

It will take constant vigilance and active defense of our liberty and freedom if we want to continue to be the best place on earth for opportunity, hope and liberty and justice for all. It will mean taking the time and effort to learn and teach each other the Principles of Freedom and it will mean actually electing people as our servant representatives that see their time in office as a stewardship and responsibility, not a career or a way to power and riches. It means not only voting, but being well informed before voting. It means challenging our representatives and being aware of what they do in our name. That is how a republic works.