Can a man truly experience or even appreciate liberty if it is “given” to him without consequence?
What I mean by that is this: can a man truly know liberty if he seeks to take from others via any method other than earning it, whether legally or illegally, by theft, deception or the creation of non-natural “rights” (i.e. a “right” to government provided healthcare, unemployment compensation) or is liberty only found in independence and achieving productivity enough to positively contribute to society?
Can a man even be “given” liberty or must he earn it? Can he even understand the value of it if he does not earn it?
I am of the opinion that he can’t.
I believe that liberty is an active proposition, not a passive anticipation.
It has been my observation that in life, gifts given and opportunities unearned are not treated with the same degree of reverence as those achieved by hard work, personal sacrifice and sweat. Perhaps the greatest examples of this are the lottery winners who fritter away millions because they simply cannot appreciate the opportunity that they have and government waste where agencies spend taxpayer dollars like there is no tomorrow.
One of the aspects of the outcome of the last election is that there are apparently a majority of people in America who think liberty is something that can be given, can be bestowed as if it were some kind of title handed down by a medieval king. The mistake they have made is confusing security for liberty.
I am reminded of something that has been said in the comments here on the blog back in March:
I think people, and I do include me, want a big brotherly government to take care of mundane matters, such as our health care, our retirement, overseeing the quality of goods and services, so we can concentrate our collective minds on American Idol and the exploding Kardashian population.
The latter comments about American Idol and the Kardashians were sarcasm, the former were not. Wishing for Big Brother to take care of “mundane matters” so we can be “free” to do other things is not liberty, it is security or safety. Those are not the proper roles of government as enumerated in the Constitution…again, it says that government’s role is to “promote the General Welfare”, not to provide a general welfare state.
If you believe, as Obama does, that in order to have liberty for all, money, property or opportunity must be taken from those judged to not “miss it because they will still be wealthy”, you are participating in the reduction of liberty for every man, woman and child in the United States. You may rationalize to yourself that taking more taxes from anyone simply because they have more than you do is about increasing your liberty and freedom but when you accept that “gift” back from government, you have just placed yourself under the coercive power of the government – you have done two things: you have just became more dependent on government and you did so at the expense of someone else.
The famous quote attributed to Ben Franklin in 1818 Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin (page 270) speaks to this condition:
They, who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Since government has no assets or powers other than what is granted to it by the people, receiving “gifts” from government in exchange for this “safety” necessarily comes at a cost. That cost can be expressed in a net reduction of liberty for all Americans because with every law passed, with every regulation promulgated, a little liberty dies.
You cannot create more liberty for yourself by taking it from someone else.