All Commentary
Friday, February 1, 1980

Sweet Land of Liberty?

Mr. Hood, a businessman in Meredith, New Hampshire, formerly served in the State Legislature.

Liberty, freedom, justice, equality: these are a few of the words olden used to define America. But each time I attempt to associate these qualities with “America is” I find myself more inclined to use “America was”. America is the sum of its people, its government, and its national character. Our government is the people; we elect it and we are directly responsible for its actions. It is a reflection of our national character or lack of it.

How does one sing praises to a government that, having taxed its citizens to the bearable limit, proceeds to inflate the currency in order to finance its grandiose schemes? How does one applaud a government whose principal function has become the redistribution of the wealth and property of its citizens? How does one extol the virtues of a government which preaches human rights while it condones by its actions the most flagrant violations of human rights all over the world and consistently abrogates the individual rights of its own people? How does one glorify a government which at every turn takes steps to reward slothfulness, indolence, and conformity at the expense of industry, initiative, and creativity? How does one honor a government which places political expediency above the very principles upon which it was founded?

America was great. Today America is less great. Tomorrow America will cease to be great—if it continues its present course. Must we forever bungle our way through one unworkable social plan and government edict after another? When will we learn to separate the rational from the absurd; justice from injustice; principle from expediency; the moral from the immoral?

It was not always so. America has risen from an agricultural society of tedious hand labor to a technological monolith of magnificent proportion. It has provided a standard of living for all which was unknown to previous generations. It has accomplished all this by the creative genius of mankind in an atmosphere of freedom and individual responsibility; not by the beneficence of a government whose only legitimate contribution is the protection of individual rights and property. America has proved beyond doubt the efficacy of a system whereby each individual is free to pursue his own goals and enjoy the benefits produced by his own labor, for only freedom is compatible with human nature and man’s infinite range of interests and abilities. It alone is conducive to the fulfillment of man’s enormous potential.

If America is to remain great it must reaffirm and reestablish the principles upon which it was created. We must restore the “free” in free enterprise and learn again the limitations of government as the Founding Fathers once knew them. We must understand that liberty and freedom mean the right to pursue one’s own goals and the right to earned property without government intervention. Freedom does not mean that we should be free of individual responsibility or free of the necessity of earning our own way. We must understand that justice and equality mean equality before the law without regard for color, creed, or sex. Justice does not mean retribution and unearned privilege or favor. We must no longer subordinate the inalienable rights of all to the whims and wishes of an undeserving few.

America was founded on the principles of freedom, not patronage and subsidy. America was built by the creativity and industry of its people, not by its government. America has endured by the strength and integrity of Americans, not by the will of its leaders. America will continue to flourish only by a rededication to its original ideals, not by hopeless dependence on political solutions. No other nation was ever founded on such a moral base and no other nation ever had such glorious potential. In the civilized world no other people have ever been so uniquely blessed as we.