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Thoughts on Freedom, Self-Sufficiency, Dependency, and the Future of the United States

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about my daughter's future.

And since my daughter's future is inescapably tied to the future of our country, I can't help but wonder if she will experience the demise of self-sufficiency as America once knew it.

It should be clear to just about anyone who’s been around for the last half-century or so, that the attitude of many Americans has been changing from one of self-sufficiency to one of reliance on government.  Some people even have a notion that "Uncle Sam" should be their caretaker from cradle to grave.

It's disheartening to think that an American - whose very identity was once synonymous with freedom - could ever believe that the government should be responsible for taking care of everyone, rather than everyone taking care of themselves.

Unfortunately, this distorted notion seems to be promoted by certain influential intellectual elites who believe that most Americans aren’t smart enough or responsible enough to manage their own lives and make their own decisions.  It's those same elites who want the government to have more power to control and regulate our lives - for our own good, of course.

Whenever I think about government control, I think about the United States in its infancy, when the founders and the citizens of our country had a spirit of self-sufficiency and a desire for limited government.  Specifically, I think of Thomas Jefferson, a founding father, our third president, and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson articulated his concerns about government's potential to thwart the people's pursuit of happiness when he declared, "I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."  He also clarified his disdain for government power when he proclaimed, "I am not a friend to a very energetic government.  It is always oppressive."

And that brings me to why I'm currently worried about the future of the United States.  As the government gradually gains power over us, we gradually lose the freedoms we have come to take for granted - including our unrivaled freedom to choose how we live our lives.

It's bad enough that Americans are losing their spirit of self-sufficiency, but at the same time the country's influential elites are promoting the idea that bigger government is the solution to all our problems.  Whenever I think of bigger government as the solution to any of our country's problems, I think of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, who was arguably one of the greatest advocates of personal freedom in recent times.

During his lifetime, Friedman rallied against the misguided faith many seem to have placed in the ability of government.  Two "Friedman-isms" which have not been sufficiently appreciated - but with which I am confident Thomas Jefferson would concur - are these:

1) One of the great mistakes is to judge [government] policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results; and

2) The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem and very often makes the problem worse.

It would be wise for every American to carefully consider these two interconnected Friedman-isms because they form the keystone for the case of self-sufficiency over reliance on government.

Even an obscure, unelected United States president, such as Gerald R. Ford, was wise enough to observe that "a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have."

I'm certainly not ready to surrender my self-sufficiency in return for the government taking care of me - even if the government thinks it's for my own good.  So for the future, I'm adopting the following "battle cry" attributed to Thomas Paine, one of the American Revolution's most provocative authors and philosophers: "It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from the government."

But how does a patriot protect his country from the government?  I'm still considering all my options, but my first reaction is to more vigorously exercise some of my First Amendment rights (particularly those of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances).

My thinking is that our Constitutional rights are analogous to our bodies’ muscles; they require exercise to maintain their tone and increase their strength - and that strength may become necessary to prevent the government from overpowering us.

Copyright 2010 by R. M. "Bob" Burton