The Democrats' hostility to the freedom of American citizens is palpable. It is disguised by attacks on those who have most successfully used their freedom ("the rich"), but those attacks are also a warning to those who have similar hopes and dreams of doing well.
Even the staunchest defenders of freedom have tended to be more sure about the virtue of freedom in itself than its beneficent consequences for individuals and societies. The truth is, freedom is both good in itself and for what it makes possible.
Freedom was intended to be secured by the government established by the Constitution. But it was not a creation of the Constitution, for it is rooted in human nature. No one imagines that our body's capacities are conferred by the government. Neither should we imagine that our freedom is a gift from any source except God.
Human beings have minds to direct their bodies, which minds have the remarkable capacity not only to choose among alternatives, in everything from household matters to affairs of state and our purpose as human beings. No decent government would presume to usurp the role of each person to pursue happiness by means of moral and intellectual virtues that achieve that end.
Those who treat enterprising people with disdain and regard their wealth as an unlimited national resource to finance their utopian dreams, are moving us day by day toward a despotic government. There is no discernable limit to their projects for substituting the decrees of government officials for the considered judgment of individuals.
Reflect on the shocking fact that our federal government spent $3 billion annually in 1933, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office, and spends more than $3 trillion today. Originally, FDR justified expansion of government's power to combat the Great Depression, but government has metastasized well beyond that limited object and extends into every nook and cranny of our lives.
The arrogant assumption behind that expansion is that we cannot be trusted to make good decisions. But is that true? Is it an accident that the form of government that promised to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity" has made possible the greatest prosperity for any people in the history of the world?
FDR himself acknowledged this while running for President in a speech to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco in 1932. He said America was a productive nation, but then he added that the problem had become one of distributing wealth equitably. In other words, the free exchange of goods and services among Americans had given us great wealth but some people, he believed, had more than they deserved and others less.
It has become such a national habit to attack Big Business (not to mention Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Insurance, et cetera) that we seldom credit the intelligence and determination that it took to build up these enterprises. Yet our experience with the most recent business successes in the technology field clearly reveals that they had humble beginnings, nurtured by great ambitions, that found the funding, the talent and the market for computers, cell phones and Ipods that no one knew they needed or wanted until they were mass produced and priced to sell.
Freedom requires taking responsibility for decisions and actions. Of course, freedom can be — and is daily — abused by those who employ force or fraud against others. But freedom is not for the faint of heart. Those who achieve their dreams and contribute real benefits to others have to discipline themselves and work assiduously at their chosen tasks.
Successful business people did not get that way by sitting around and musing about what might be. Nor do they sit on stacks of cash which they selfishly refuse to share with the poor and the downtrodden. Instead, they generate opportunities for what used to be called employees and are now called associates to share, to the degree and extent to which they are able, in enterprises that serve the public.
All of this activity is voluntary, not compulsory, unless the necessity for feeding, clothing and housing ourselves is somehow compulsory in the same way that laws and regulations imposed by the government are. The question is not whether we are going to care for ourselves. It is whether we will do it in cooperation with other like-minded persons or whether a government elite that has a low opinion of their fellow citizens will force them to do it.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of " Taking Journalism Seriously: 'Objectivity' as a Partisan Cause" (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.