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Citizens should be represented not governed

Who decides? Is this not the quintessential question that the American experiment is attempting to answer?

Are decisions made “by” the individual or “for” the individual? Is it the individual or is it the collective who decides how we live your lives, conduct our affairs, control our property? Are our freedoms and rights inalienable or are they subject to the capricious whims of those who have managed to garner enough votes to win elective office?

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Those are the words of Patrick Henry that ignited the fires of revolution that lead to the creation of the greatest nation in history.

Liberty was the dream the Founders risked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to attempt to achieve. It was the driving force behind the sacrifices required to sever the political ties with the most powerful nation on earth at the time, England. The objective of the Founders was to create a social order based on individual liberty. And thankfully, they achieved that goal.

It is now up to us, the inheritors of those gifts, to fight against the forces of ignorance, convenience and complacency that are rendering us incapable of meeting the challenges of defending our liberty. Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” To fight against those who would strip us of our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is our duty as free people. Should we shirk this responsibility, would be to deny future generations the right of self-determination that we have enjoyed, allowed us to prosper, and that we now take for granted.

The maximum absence of coercion defines the foundation this nation was built upon. Many of us were not taught, or didn’t pay close attention, to those lessons of citizenship that are required to create a knowledgeable electorate needed to keep this country from sliding into tyranny.

Thomas Paine, author of “Common Sense,” the pamphlet stating the moral and political arguments in support of independence from Great Britain said, “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” Thomas Jefferson added, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” We create governments to conduct the affairs that we ourselves cannot do individually. National defense, fire and police protection, roads are all examples of the legitimate role of government in a free society. The plethora of rules and regulations that spew from the alphabet soup of bureaucracies and unelected bureaucrats is the antithesis of what the Founders created.

The economist Fredrick Hayek coined the phrases “Secret Knowledge” and “Fatal Conceit” to describe the erroneous belief held by our elected officials that they know better how to conduct our lives than we do individually. Our founders never meant for the citizens of America to be governed. They meant for us to be represented. They believed the adage, “The bigger the government the smaller the individual.”

John Stuart Mill, author of “On Liberty,” said, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized society, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.” Mill added, “He cannot rightfully be compelled because it would be better for him to do so… because it will make him happier” or because, in the opinion of others, “to do so would be wise, or even right.”

Finally, Mill said, “These are good reasons for remonstrating him, or persuading him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with an evil in the case he do otherwise.” John Locke, another enlightenment philosopher stated, “The legitimate role of government is to perpetuate a state of freedom.”

Samuel Adams said, “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”

Adams, founder and leader of the Sons of Liberty a secretive group of patriots established to undermine British rule in colonial America, could not have said it better.

While we cannot expel from our midst those who would enslave us with the shackles of big government and socialism, we have the power to remove them from the levers and switches of government. Let us not shun this obligation to posterity in the name of civility, as it is not civil to ignore the multitude of threats to our freedom seemingly around every corner. It is time to confront these enemies and not to conform to the politically correct bovine excrement that has permeated our culture.

The political discourse over the past 100 years has done little else but attempt to answer the question: is it the individual or is it the government who decides how we will live your lives, how we will use your property? The future of America rests on who wins this debate.

Jack Loesch is an area resident and Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Akron for the past 27 years whose columns appear periodically in the Salem News.

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