Posted by: Harold Knight | 04/03/2012

Sometimes it’s better to let better voices speak

Am I being a drama queen when I speak of my grief for the loss of the love of freedom in the United States. Oh, I’m not talking about government regulation and tax breaks. I reference the most basic of our freedoms as outlined in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Perhaps those freedoms have never been important except in theory. But there was a time when our leaders at least spoke of them whether or not they believed what they were saying.

Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to Isaac H. Tiffany (4 April 1819)

He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.
– Thomas Paine, in First Principles of Government (1795)

It is incorrect to think of liberty as synonymous with unrestrained action. Liberty does not and cannot include any action, regardless of sponsorship, which lessens the liberty of a single human being. To argue contrarily is to claim that liberty can be composed of liberty negations, patently absurd. Unrestraint carried to the point of impairing the liberty of others is the exercise of license, not liberty. To minimize the exercise of license is to maximize the area of liberty. Ideally, government would restrain license, not indulge in it; make it difficult, not easy; disgraceful, not popular. A government that does otherwise is licentious, not liberal.
– Leonard E. Read, in The Freeman. Leonard E. Read (September 26, 1898 – May 14, 1983) was an American economist and the founder of the Foundation for Economic Education, which was the first modern free market think tank in the United States.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
– Ronald Reagan, in an address to the annual meeting of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce (30 March 1961)

Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders. . .  The Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the David of the microchip.
– Ronald Reagan, in The Guardian [London] (14 June 1989)

What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure.
– Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William S. Smith (13 November 1787)

What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it… What is this liberty that must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not the freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check on their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few — as we have learned to our sorrow.
– Supreme Court Justice Learned Hand, in “The Spirit of Liberty” – a speech at “I Am an American Day,”  New York City (21 May 1944)

I believe in only one thing and that thing is human liberty. If ever a man is to achieve anything like dignity, it can happen only if superior men are given absolute freedom to think what they want to think and say what they want to say. I am against any man and any organization which seeks to limit or deny that freedom … the superior man can be sure of freedom only if it is given to all men.
– H. L. Mencken, as quoted in Letters of H. L. Mencken (1961) edited by Guy J. Forgue, p. xiii.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to Archibald Stewart (23 December 1791)

It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others: or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own.
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Rush (21 April 1803)

[Has our own government become Ronald Reagan’s “Goliath of totalitarianism?”]



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