Daisy Chain – what an unusual title for an article. Not only is it unusual but It is also a little confusing as to what this article is actually about. Is it nothing more than a clever title? Or is there a real meaning that the reader will see and understand? Well to find out for yourselves why don’t you read Robert Freer’s article to see how he links it together. Why do you even have to ask? You know the answer to that question - Yes that pun was intended. So what are you waiting for? Start reading now. Go…
By Robert E. Freer, Jr., President of The Free Enterprise Foundation
“We have given you a Republic, if you can keep it.” Benjamin Franklin, Sept. 1787
“And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's.” Jesus, Luke 20
I don’t think there is much question after 142 columns in The Mercury that my philosophy of government is that of a strict constructionist. That is not because I am some kind of ogre and wish those who have less to remain in that condition. Nor am I against charity. Many of my columns call attention to the profound generosity of the American people as an example of the private sector ability to ameliorate situations for which the government is an ineffective provider of relief. My governing sentiment comes from long study, many years of life experience and my profound respect for the intelligence and drafting skill of our Founders.
Our Founders were the best men of the age. They were, for the most part, well educated for their times and a few exceedingly well educated. They all had experienced life in the colonies, understood the strengths and frailties of the American people and were acting on behalf of their posterity. They, perhaps better than we today, understood the power of freedom and the lure of a continental wilderness to challenge men to greatness and unlimited horizons in their personal goals. They also had experienced the corrupting power of centralized authority, removed from the cares and needs of a diverse population.
Benjamin Franklin’s comment above, given following the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, reflects the delegates’ understanding that history did not provide much hope that a Republic was an enduring form of political union. The pressure and ability of men to accumulate to themselves power and to push at the fabric of laws to find increasingly innovative ways to get around them was an almost universal proof that it would, in time, be corrupted and fall. Our Founders created a decidedly limited government, strictly founded in law, with countervailing branches and constituent Sovereign States to guard against just that possibility. They counted on man’s nature to make each a sharp guardian of its powers so that adherence to duty by all could cancel out any over steer and guide us in a proper course.
A number of our nation’s founders spoke to this, but John Adams, in 1798 was most eloquent in speaking in the following fashion as to the challenges the nation faced: "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution AS A WHALE GOES THROUGH A NET. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." All men, to a greater or lesser extent, suffer the disabilities of these decidedly human failings. By keeping the national government focused on providing only those essential services described in the Constitution and by counting on the states to be the primary focus of government as to those aspects of public intercourse that would govern citizens daily lives, they were counting that their Republic, their grand “soufflé,” would be as perfect as man can accomplish.
For this recipe to achieve its desired results, all the ingredients had to be as set forth. “Men not ruled by “passions unbridled by morality and religion” is the critical ingredient. A Republic relies on its citizenry to rule themselves. Government’s job is not to provide “Welfare” but the opportunity for man to make his own Welfare better. As part of his civic self, it requires every citizen to act morally, with self discipline and an ethical understanding that his behavior has implications to the limits of our Republic and beyond.
Personal behavior is the bedrock of the Republic. It, not government action, is the engine of welfare for the community. It is not an obligation, nor should it be, for governmental institutions to provide a lot of the services we ask of them today. It is inefficient, costly, creates service at the lowest common denominator of care and adds to those burdens on our governmental structure that cause abuse and decay.
Man today is neither better nor worse than the generation that came of age with our Founders. There were just as many scoundrels and just as many stalwart achievers. What has changed is that we have lost the ability as a nation to accept the guiding principles of the Ten Commandments as our prime directive. Society has accepted an anything goes approach to social mores, and we have lost our ability to be shocked. That must change.
If you are looking where to begin to right the balance, the one thing that has changed the greatest in America in the past two centuries is the role of government. It is what is making us sick. Government as an expression of national commitment almost always reflects the lowest level to achieve consensus. Its actions are not designed for efficacy but to placate all players. Increasingly, as it has grown, it has also become the livelihood of too many of us, further taxing the private sector’s ability to create real wealth.
It may be hard to diagram the “chemistry” that I describe, but if we want to be happier, healthier, and wealthier as a nation, we need to accept that it is our personal responsibility as citizens to live a life controlled by self discipline, morality and religion to restore the nation’s health. For the millions of you who think you are already doing this, I am sure you are. Big government is not your ally. It is your enemy and will thwart your virtue at every turn.
A virtuous nation must reclaim the authority that has been assumed by the national government and return those tasks to the private sector, charitable enterprise and local and state government to lead us out of the wilderness into which we have strayed. Going forward, we must speak the unvarnished truth without concern that it will offend, and we must tackle as a nation the remaining barriers to becoming the nation of our Declaration of Independence without allowing professional agitators to extend their careers at our expense.
The financial mess we have gotten ourselves into should be viewed as an opportunity to clean out our attic of accumulated mistakes, reset our goals and restore individual responsibility and expectation of civic rectitude as the guiding principles for our nation. You can think of yourself as one daisy in and endless chain of responsibility for self and your neighbor as the next... Together we achieve our greatest dreams, apart, there awaits only decay and failure._._
Copyright © 2010 by Robert E. Freer, Jr. All rights reserved
About the author: Robert E. Freer, Jr., is president of the Free Enterprise Foundation. He is also the first BB&T Visiting Professor in Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel. A regular contributor to the Mercury, Prof. Freer may be reached at Robert.email@example.com. If you would like him to appear before your group or organization to speak on any of the subjects about which he writes, please contact him at The Citadel. Copies of his earlier columns may be found at The Free Enterprise Foundation
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