Living Up to Freedom

Second in a series of Articles that appeared in the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript.

By John M. Lord, Jr.


Our first column discussed America’s founding value, freedom, and the top Republican priority of defending it from external threats through a strong national defense. This week we will touch on the obligations incumbent on free citizens and the need to guard our freedoms from inadvertently undermining them ourselves.

The privilege of personal freedom is inextricably linked to the duty of personal responsibility. Just as each of us is free to choose what is best for us and our families, so too each of us must accept and live up to the responsibilities that go with that privilege. This means educating ourselves, supporting ourselves, and living up to our private and civic obligations. In short, we must strive to carry our own weight and avoid burdening others.

Given our freedom of choice, we must also be willing to live with the outcomes of our decisions. At one time or another, all of us have made poor choices that we wish could be undone; but our responsibility as adults and citizens is to bear the result, learn from our experience and try to avoid making the same mistake again.

Sometimes, this necessary link between freedom and responsibility seriously tests our human sympathies. For example, when through impulse or ignorance a child or a friend makes a bad choice, we are tempted to help relieve them of the consequences; but is doing so really a kindness or does it instead lead to a reliance on others to come to the rescue?

All this would be simply an interesting philosophical debate except that the obligations of individual responsibility and the natural, though sometimes inadvisable desire to help others, become manifest in the role of government. Few would argue against laws to protect individuals from harm by others, but what of laws designed to protect people from themselves or from the sometimes harsh realities of life?

Over the last 80 years our federal government has grown increasingly paternalistic, assuming responsibilities that were once distinctly left to the individual. While well meaning, this creeping government “benevolence” has had unintended consequences, including eroding personal liberty and fostering a culture of dependence in segments of our society. Continuation of this trend puts America’s unique brand of freedom at risk. As former Republican Senator Barry Goldwater put it, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything you have.”

Republicans have long resisted the growth of government social programs that usurp personal freedom and absolve people of their responsibilities. But far from being negatively motivated, the Republican belief in small government is an affirmation that every individual has the intelligence, the ability and the duty to act for themselves, and that in doing so we will collectively thrive as a nation. At this point in our history, restoring the primacy of the people relative to government is more important than ever. We say, let freedom ring.