Liberty and Justice for All

“Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

Porch BuntingOn July 4, we celebrate our independence from Great Britain. While it’s a fine thing to celebrate our liberation from the rule of a man whose claim to authority is inherited, it’s worthwhile to ponder what our freedom means. From what are we free? Power, government, rests upon force; is force. The only question is whether that force is lawfully and justly applied. As a nation, we believe that only government based upon the consent of the governed is lawful. To paraphrase Pogo, we have met the government and he is us. And so, our greatest freedom is the freedom from one another. We have, or should have, our liberty.

The term Liberty has become a bit like motherhood and apple pie. We’re all in favor of it and even if some are not, they’re clever enough not to say so publicly. Certainly, I cannot imagine a politician coming out against liberty, even though government is the very antithesis of liberty; the force that says “thou shall not”.  Liberty is seen as an unquestioned and unalloyed good.

TypewriterI suspect most of us fall into the very human trap of assuming that everyone is basically like ourselves; or rather more than that–everyone is like the person we give ourselves credit for being. The face we present to ourselves in the mirror doesn’t show the scars of secret ugly thoughts, base fears, and the abject failures with which we have come to terms. And so, we believe people are good, just like us. Surely all such right-thinking people will use their liberty wisely and well.

Still, all too often bad things flow from liberty. People make mistakes. We don’t buckle up, we smoke, we drink, we think bad thoughts. Yet, who is qualified to rule us if we do not rule ourselves? Among the oldest remembered tales is the story of Adam and Eve, who alone of the animals were granted free will. No divine force struck the apple from their hands. Religious beliefs aside, the very durability of this tale tells us something of our nature.  As P. J. O’Rourke once said, “There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.”

The alternative dream is the be ruled by the best and smartest among us. Wise philosopher kings will tell us how and what to do and take away consequences by removing our choices. I say that the wisest man on earth is not entitled to drive me to my own good or to his, for if I do not belong to myself, to whom do I belong?  We also know from grim historical experience that we would be ruled in the end not by the wisest, but by the most motivated and most attracted to power. It’s not so much that power corrupts than that the corrupt are drawn to power. If we wish to be free ourselves we must not only tolerate but insist upon the frustrating and maddening freedoms of others.  Old GloryI insist upon the freedom of all so that I too can be free. Others must make their own choices and take their own consequences.

It’s worth remembering all of this when the next politician offers salvation. Lawmakers are excellent salesmen with only one product and  for which you pay with your liberty. If utopia hasn’t arrived, it’s always just around the corner. You just need to buy a few more rules.  And so, each failure becomes the excuse for the next restriction.  Bailouts, anti-obesity laws, entitlement spending; these are all ways to take from most of us to protect some of us from themselves.  I would rather make my own choices and my own mistakes and will not  willingly grant to men a restraint on my will that God Himself does not compel. If  it turns out I’m on the road to perdition, I will be the one behind the wheel. This is the common American faith. We believe in ourselves, in each other, and in our separate pursuits of happiness.

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20 Responses to Liberty and Justice for All

  1. Parsley July 4, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    YOWZA! [me standing up applauding] What an awesome and ‘spot on’ post!

  2. ain't for city gals July 4, 2010 at 6:19 pm #

    Yes, to all the above but what is the solution….you can vote them out but then what? Is there really any difference anymore? Does it matter if they are wearing a blue tie or a red tie? My husband and I have worked hard for everything we have…we take care of ourselves and ours and don’t ask any thing of anyone….but where do people like us go? I am just so tired of all the rhetoric…..

    • Thomas July 5, 2010 at 11:01 am #

      Yes, there is a difference, when we demand one. We have to vote by principle rather than party, be active, speak out, agitate and motivate our fellow citizens.

      When he left the constitutional convention, a lady asked Ben Franklin, ““Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” He is said to have replied, ““A Republic, if you can keep it.” We discover the answer every day. We live in historic times when nearly a million taxpayers, rather than professional protesters and the perpetually aggrieved, took time off from work to protest their government in Washington. Politicians respond to fear for their jobs and reputations.

      For an example of how conventional wisdom can suddenly change in government, I recommend this article by Glenn Reynolds.

      –Thomas

  3. PJ July 4, 2010 at 7:47 pm #

    Enjoyed reading your thoughts…………..I enjoyed the pictures of your 4th of July decorations just as much. Wondering where you got them

    • Deborah July 5, 2010 at 11:36 am #

      PJ –

      Thank you for commenting.
      The fabulous aged old flag printed tags with a hand cut paper rosette, a glitter star with a banner across the center that reads “Let Freedom Ring” in textured card stock atop sparkly red tinsel were purchased from PaperEclectiques on Etsy.
      The banners were purchased a few years ago from Lillian Vernon. We put them up for Memorial Day and don’t take them down until after Labor Day.

      – Deborah

  4. Betsy July 4, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    Amen! God Bless America
    Betsy

  5. Alaina July 4, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    Happy 4th to you! I like that I have the right to make mistakes and learn from them. I enjoyed your words as always, you have a unique way of telling a story even if it is using someone else’s quote. I remembered it was all your info on NJ is what I remember most that made me come back and read more about you.

  6. Zuzu July 5, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    God must have shook his head in disappointment when man starting drawing lines and dividing the world up into little pieces based on what he already had or could take from others by force or trickery. Free will is the reason we are different; why some people are kind and fair and why others are not. And although I love the concept of man’s written words, “Liberty and Justice for All”, I find it hard to believe that it is possible to achieve here on earth.

    I put my faith in God.

    • Thomas July 5, 2010 at 10:50 am #

      Zuzu,

      I’m not arguing that heaven on earth or perfect justice can be achieved. In fact, I think I’m saying the opposite.
      Perfect justice is impossible to achieve and attempts to impose it lead to tyranny and more suffering.
      No one is wise enough or has the right to rule me for their own purposes, the good of others, or even for my own good.
      People must be free to enjoy their own successes and suffer their own mistakes.

      –Thomas

  7. Gwen July 6, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    Wow! Can I vote for you?

    You even mentioned one of my latest pet peeves, the anti-obesity laws. Seriously, why do I have to pay extra or not get to enjoy the foods that I like because people can’t seem to learn how to eat healthy for themselves or eat in moderation? Don’t get me wrong, the rates of childhood obesity are scary, but doesn’t that signal a failure of the parents, not the government to hold your hand while eating?

    Thanks so much for catching up on MurphyGraceHome. I have been a bad home blogger lately and you inspired me to get back to it.

    Let’s see your comments, you are right, the oven stinks. I can’t tell you how many times I have already burned myself because the stove top stays hot for so long. If I had known that, I never would have replaced the exploded one with the same model.

    Tapeworm, no cannabis, blood work and all that is fine. Doc says that I must just be using up more energy and therefore needing more calories. Funny how our body tells us what we need isn’t it?

    Cheers and Happy belated 4th!

  8. Gloria July 6, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    “I…will not grant to men a restraint on my will that that God Himself does not compel.” I love that! Thank you for a very thought-provoking and interesting article. May God richly bless you!

  9. Laney July 6, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    Awesome, awesome post!

    I love this line, “Lawmakers are excellent salesmen with only one product and for which you pay with your liberty.”

  10. Susan G July 7, 2010 at 6:36 am #

    Most provocative thoughts!

    Hope your weekend was enjoyable!
    Susan

  11. the cottage child July 7, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    Love this – we were experiencing full on freedom on the 4th this year (and I say that with sincerity not cynicism) as we moved into our new old home. You wrote beautifully what I think in jumbled pieces every day. Thank you.

    “…a Republic, if you can keep it.” Possibilities abound, if we can keep it. Amen.

  12. Dena Elwood July 7, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    AWESOME photos Sweetie… Love all the red white and blue, and of course your style of writing too.Simply beautiful post as always.
    Blessings and Hugs Dena

  13. Claudia@DipityRoad July 10, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    When I feel the need to be inspired you are one of my top of the listers ; )

    Brilliantly written and so thought provoking.

    Like the commenter above — can we vote you in?

    Enjoy the hot days of summer :)

    Claudia

  14. beth July 11, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    Hope you and your family had a terrific forth of July weekend!!
    Love the photos of your home all decked out for the holiday.
    Have a great week!
    Beth.

  15. Janean July 15, 2010 at 8:03 am #

    i’m with you! politicians = slick salesmen (in general terms).

    true liberty….is….rare, so we should cherish it and defend it.

  16. Denise July 15, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    Very well written!!! My favorite – “If we wish to be free ourselves we must not only tolerate but insist upon the frustrating and maddening freedoms of others.” That’s such a difficult thing for so many to do, but it is, after all, what our country was based on.

  17. Zuzu July 20, 2010 at 11:16 am #

    Dear Thomas,
    I believe we are saying the same thing. Sorry if my comment was confusing. ~Z

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