Like many Americans I am concerned with the progressive growth of the federal government. However, unlike many of my fellow Americans, I don’t blame any party, business or particular person; rather I blame the American individual. From our nation’s inception the government was designed with the bottom/up model – “a government for the people and by the people.” To better assist the people the Constitution and Bill of Rights were written to specifically limit the powers of the federal government. Clearly the Founders realized a society produces the most when it has the most freedom possible and the only body that could limit this freedom was the federal government; if you read The Federalist Papers you’ll see how concerned the first thirteen states were. I think it is reasonable to argue that ‘freedom’ can be classified as an untangle resource, like truth, love, morals, etc, because where one finds freedom in abundance one will find a prosperous nation; and you’ll notice if you look back into history mankind has traded freedom for things. This also leads me to ask what has been a big contributor to the growth of the federal government and how does one take back and renew freedom?
Now surveying American history I notice a very clear link between warfare and American freedoms and the general moral/ethical condition of the nation. Beginning with the War of Independence, Congress had a very hard time funding, organizing and keeping troop levels up to supply the war. After the providential victory, Congress ensured they would be better prepared for war by expanding its power to fund and supply. America next had smaller wars with, for example, Native Americans and Mexico but none of these would compare to the inevitable Civil War over slavery. The American Civil War took some 500,000 lives and witnessed a relatively large growth of the federal government to ensure the Union stayed together; and to pay for it the federal government instituted the income tax.
The link between warfare and statism can no better be seen than in the 20th century during WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, the Cold War, Korea/Vietnam. In just 100 years America has suffered all of these wars and even today in the 21st century we are at war. Each event marks a progressive growth of the federal government to answer the war which is needed. Honestly if America did not fight in WWI or WWII surely all of Europe would be under, at the very least, some form of Nazi government; and possibly Russia. Today we don’t regret these two great wars and for all that they cost in money and life we realize it was necessary because today American see the fruits of our grandparents’ sacrifices. Europe and Japan have more freedoms today because of America. During the Great Depression FDR began the “New Deal” which funded federal programs to employee Americans and slowly bring the nation out of the hard times. Prior to and after WWII the government continued its growth by increasing federally funded programs such as social security; all with taxes. Today with the War on Terror this freedom is continuing to be exported directly to Afghanistan and Iraq. I can’t argue with the fact that the people of these nations have more freedoms now and more hope; but logically at the cost to me, my fellow American and the soldiers’ life, which is a piece of freedom. Therefore, in a real sense American “freedom” like a resource has been exported to other nations throughout history.
It is very much necessary during times of hardship (economic or war) for the people of a society to come together and pool their resources for the benefit of each other. The early Christian Church and the Plymouth colony, for example, exercised a form of socialism to ensure everyone survived; so I understand the importance of this socio-economic structure. America also had to do this during its many hardships. However, the problem is the federal government did not relinquish its power once the hardship was over and the people were capable of providing for their needs. This fact of not demanding the freedoms back I blame on the American citizen and I also believe this is where the moral/ethical condition of America plays into the growth of the “nanny state.” As people have moved away from self government they have naturally turned to the State government because they are lazy and would rather trade their freedom for security; they like the idea of not having to work as hard to pay for their living. But like what Benjamin Franklin said:
For those who are willing to trade freedom for security deserve neither.
Only freedom guarantees security. Too bad the people who are complaining about the failure and shortcomings of all these State programs don’t understand this. Therefore, the answer to turning back the wheel of socialism in America and taking our freedoms back is with self-government – with limited federal government. It is my argument that the level of socialism is determined by the level sin, therefore, we’ll always have some level of socialism, but the goal is to have the least. We will clearly always need government to protect our border, make war and treaties, deal with issues between states, standardize things such as money and food quality, check monopolies, etc. This leads me to the final question: In order to renew the resource of freedom how is one to self-govern?
I think it is very reasonable to consider our founding Fathers as a good starting point to determine this because they are the ones who best understand the ideal of self government and freedom; they lived it.
• “ The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.” – John Adams
• “[July 4th] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.” – John Adams
• “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” —John Adams in a letter written to Abigail on the day the Declaration was approved by Congress October 11, 1798
•”I have examined all religions, as well as my narrow sphere, my straightened means, and my busy life, would allow; and the result is that the Bible is the best Book in the world. It contains more philosophy than all the libraries I have seen.” December 25, 1813 letter to Thomas Jefferson
•”Without Religion this World would be Something not fit to be mentioned in polite Company, I mean Hell.” John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, April 19, 1817
•”God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel” – Benjamin Franklin. Constitutional Convention of 1787
“ The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend to all the happiness of man.” – Jefferson
“Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern which have come under my observation, none appears to me so pure as that of Jesus.” – Jefferson
“I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.” – Jefferson
It is quite clear that self-government entailed believing in a higher power, the God, our Father, Savior, Holy One and Christ, in order to know how we should conduct ourselves; even Jefferson and Franklin believed in a higher power. Also by the Constitution it is clear the Founders wanted the people to mediate the moral/ethical standards and not the State. I’m not about to begin the debate over whether or not one religion is superior to another (although I will declare my bias of believing the Holy Bible is superior to all other works) but I will say due to history we should attribute the success of America in regard to developing a society of freedom to Christianity; broadly speaking because all of Europe was influenced by it. In contrast let us look at the fruits of humanism, atheism, pantheism, etc. The horrific events resulting from Nazism and Communism under Hitler, Stalin and Mao come to mind. Furthermore, the bloody history of Egypt, Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire come to mind. I am not dealing in absolutes but statistics and in this context Christian influenced cultures have been the least violent; even though so many ignorant people believe religion is the source of war.
Freedom is indeed a resource and it is renewable by self-governing with preferably the word of God. Now I know would have a heart attack over this and begin foaming at the mouth because they confuse the Bible with bad experiences as a child with lukewarm Christians or a bad church. What I am stating is that God’s word is the source of self-government and not the imperfect people who attempt to live it out. Is there a problem with the Ten Commandments? Which ones and why? I have many questions and there are things of which I do not have an answer for but it is not reasonable to require oneself to be omniscient (about the Bible) before accepting what is being said. I realize this is the point, as it is always, where people are not willing to do what it takes for the sake of freedom. However, mark my words this is the only means to permanent freedom.
Wars, natural disasters, economic hardships are guaranteed to happen again and again and deplete our resource of freedom, as well as others, but what will determine the future prosperity or downfall will be whether or not Americans renew this resource by self-government because the only source of limitless freedom is to follow the Holy Bible; which doesn’t mean you have to be a Jew or Christian or go to Church. At the very least just following the instructions will enable self-government; the later part, being a Christian, enables one to have a deeper understanding and eternal life. It sounds unreasonable to many but it’s more than just another book because it speaks of a rich history of people who’ve gone through fundamentally the same as we have; it is very personal and applicable.
In conclusion, I’d like to say that I realize this is hardly a thorough dissertation of history, government, morality, religion, etc and there are many premises which I presuppose – such as the very definition of ‘freedom’ (Another post maybe). I honestly don’t have the time and patients to break it down because while we’re bickering over the premises while the structures of America are falling down around us. I’m a keen observer of history and its patterns, more than a philosopher, and history points in the direction of which I am arguing for; the specifics can be figured out as we go. I just wanted to introduce the concept that freedom is a resource, America has seen the exportation and depletion of this resource, and that it is possible to renew it by obeying the Holy Bible.