October 30 was the 50th anniversary of the death of Rose Wilder Lane, one of the past century’s most ardent proponents of liberty. For the occasion, Ashley Wright told her fascinating story in “Rose Wilder Lane: Writer, Journalist, Rugged Individualist” (FEE, 10/30/18). However, I would have liked there to be more examples of what she wrote that so inspired people to see the supreme importance of liberty.
Therefore I invite readers who are fans of Lane’s writing, as well as those who are not yet fans, to consider some of her most powerful words on liberty and government as we consider an election with every possibility of expanding government at the expense of liberty:
"The need for Government is the need for force; where force is unnecessary, there is no need for Government."
"Government does not produce food from this earth; Government is guns…To get butter, they must use guns; they have nothing else to use."
"Government is a use of force, it is the police, the army; it cannot control anyone, it can only hinder, restrict, or stop anyone’s use of his energy."
"When men set up an imaginary Authority armed with force, they destroy all opportunity to exercise their natural freedom."
"Rebellious Americans…[once] saw how absurd it is to believe that a Government can give anyone liberty."
"Since every individual is self-governing, the men in public office have no natural authority over anyone but themselves. Any authority that they exercise over any other man must be granted to them by that man."
"The “Bill of Rights” in American Constitutions is a statement of the uses of force which American citizens do not permit to men in American Government…If Americans ever forget that American Government is not permitted to restrain or coerce any peaceful individual without his free consent, if Americans ever regard their use of their natural liberty as granted to them by the men in Washington or in the capitols of the States, then this…attempt to establish the exercise of human rights on earth is ended."
"American Government is a permission which free individuals grant to certain men to use force in certain necessary and strictly limited ways; a permission which Americans can always withdraw."
"The true revolutionary course which must be followed toward a free world is a cautious, experimental process of further decreasing the uses of force which individuals permit to Government; of increasing the prohibitions of Government’s action, and thus decreasing the use of brute force in human affairs."
"The men who began the Revolution created and bequeathed to every future American the tools for progressively reducing the use of force in human affairs…The American who leaves Government to the politicians… to increase their power and use it upon other Americans for his benefit… is trying to evade his responsibility."
"In demanding that men in Government be responsible for his welfare, a citizen is demanding control of his affairs by men whose only power is the use of force...Then the citizen must lose the use of his natural human rights; his exercise of free action…must be checked and curbed and prevented, by force."
"Weakening the Government, hampering the use of force in human affairs, is the only way to permit individuals to use their natural freedoms."
"Legally restricting Government’s action to its smallest possible minimum reduces (to the smallest possible minimum) the use of force in human affairs, and thus permits…individuals to speak and act with the greatest possible freedom. Precisely by restricting Government, American Constitutional law permits Americans to act more freely than any other people on earth."
"Every American politician is constantly assailed by small groups fiercely determined to make the men in this Government exceed the Constitutional limits of their use of force…And whenever they succeed… they reduce the area of every American’s free action. And they weaken the only legal protection of every American’s property and liberty and life."
"[Man] can act most freely when no other man uses force to prevent his acting…Therefore, the best conditions are those in which Government is restricted to the smallest possible minimum; and further progress toward greater use of freedom is in further reducing and restricting Government."
"The protection of an American’s liberty is not in voting, it is in the Constitutional restriction of the office-holder’s interference with individuals; and in every American’s vigilant defense."
"The more Americans believe that Government is a controlling authority, the more this Government is compelled to use force to hinder and restrict the exercise of natural individual freedom."
"Human energy…works effectively only to the extent that Government is weak, so that individuals are least prevented from acting freely…All history shows this fact. Every detail of common experience today proves it."
"Nothing but force obstructs the free action…of human energies."
Rose Wilder Lane has brought many to see the paramount importance of freedom in human lives and recognize the more common tragedy of freedom’s absence—government abuse of force. That is a lesson every generation needs to relearn. And there is no better time for that lesson than as we contemplate who we will put into government and what we will allow them to do to us.