Life, Liberty and Property. I cannot repeat that enough. I have covered Liberty, touched on property, but let’s talk about life. I believe life is about individualism, individual liberty, the right to live as I choose. We have touched on these concepts in previous posts. It is important that my actions do not infringe on others rights. I can own my property, my labor, the fruits of my labor, take care of myself, all without infringing on others. A right requires nothing from someone else. Life should require nothing from someone else.
Self-interest and responsibility are truly what made this country great. As people worked to create a better world for themselves, they produced, participated in free trade, innovated, employed others who produced and participated in trade and the cycle continued.
The economic welfare of all our people must ultimately stem not from government programs, but from the wealth created by a vigorous private sector. – Ronald Reagan
Because of liberty and the freedom to pursue our own self-interests, this country has created great innovation, great wealth, raised the standard of living of everyone around us. No magic. Just self-responsible people making a better life for themselves, working hard to produce a better outcomes and we all benefited.
A rising tide lifts all boats. – John F Kennedy.
This is the path of enlightenment that our founders traveled and ultimately passed on to us. Our founders read about government and philosophy in the works of great minds like John Locke, Lord Acton, Voltaire, Descartes and Bacon. During the Enlightenment or Age of Reason of the late 17th and 18th centuries there was a transition to reason and individualism instead of tradition, the traditional lines of authority, the church and the rule of man, kings. I have quoted some of these authors in my posts. The end of this period saw the beginning of the United States and could almost be thought to culminate in the thinking that created our constitution, protected our liberty and is embodied in this great nation, setting us on a course to be the greatest most powerful nation on earth. Individual rights and liberty, powerful concepts! Our farming fed the world, our industry created the products and innovations that changed the world, our science and technology informed the world and made the unthinkable reality.
Milton Friedman in 1979 when asked if he ever doubted capitalism when he looked around and saw a world of “inequality” (I would love to hear the definition of inequality in that context) The only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about, the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worse off, worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that. So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear: that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by the free-enterprise system.
Our government was formed to protect individual rights through the rule of law, stopping infringements on our liberty and protecting us from force and fraud. I believe James Madison embodied the spirit of the enlightenment. Madison helped write the Virginia constitution in 1776 and created and presented the Virginia Plan in 1787 at the constitutional convention, most of which formed the basis of our constitution and earned him the title of “Father of the Constitution.” Madison spent years reading and studying history, philosophy and political theory looking for a framework of government that would create a stable nation that protected individual liberty. Historian Douglas Adair said of Madison’s work “probably the most fruitful piece of scholarly research ever carried out by an American” Madison focused on the concept of an extended republic, our republican form of government with checks and balances. Read Federalist 10 and 51. One that would have the effects of self-interested factions work against each other as checks and balances instead of trying to regulate or eliminate those factions. Same with the various parts of the government. Competing interests can provide great balance and often lead to far better results.
Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built. – Abraham Lincoln
This is much different than selfless, self-sacrifice, beholden to the public good, the collective, equal outcomes and social justice, enacted through the force of government. Mandated charity and collectivism. In order to have equal outcomes and social justice, there must be unequal and arbitrary rules. Someone must decide who does with less so another can have more to even the results. That is the rule of man. That is not equal protection of the laws, not a level playing field. Redistributing money from one group of people to help another, lessens one group while making another dependent on the redistribution. If redistribution comes from government, people become dependent on the government. How can that ever be considered liberating or a legitimate use of government and force. Remember, government is force.
Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. – William Pitt
In 1887, Democrat Grover Cleveland vetoed the Texas Seed Bill, stating: I do not believe that the power…of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering… A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power…should…be steadfastly resisted… Though the people support the government, the government should not support the people. Charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly… demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents…among our people of that kindly sentiment…which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.
It will be in our self-interest to help our neighbors, to extend the fruits of our labor to our family, friends and neighbors in order to create a better world for ourselves. As Grover Cleveland said, we have seen repeated demonstrations of self-instituted charity, we are also the most charitable nation on earth. While there will always be those that choose differently, we must focus on our own lives and responsibilities and do our part in raising the tide.
The 10 cannots: (some falsely attribute these to Lincoln, but reflect there meaning in today’s political climate)
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
You cannot build character and courage by destroying men’s initiative and independence.
And you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.
Wealth and liberty cannot come from government. The best government can do is redistribute, take wealth from some and give to others. At its best it can protect liberty, but gets its power from infringing on liberty. As a people we can insist on and hold on to our liberty and freedom, be productive, act in our self-interest, create wealth and create a larger economy, a bigger pie, for all to participate in. Participation being key.
We all need to find our path to enlightenment and learning, our strengths, our contribution to the production of this great nation. That is life: learning, growing, producing and enjoying the fruits of our labor! I will write a future post on “Take care of yourself, do what you said you were going to do and don’t harm others.” To me that is what our founding principles are, that and protecting us in that pursuit. The pursuit of happiness.
The tagline of this blog; A People who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. – James Madison
I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them – Thomas Jefferson.