The Benefits of Liberty

The Benefits of Liberty

By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist

Liberty and Prosperity has been the motto of New Jersey since 1776. Its message is as true and relevant today as it was then. Only liberty brings prosperity. Tyranny and despotism destroy it. But today, few people know that?they don?t even know the meaning of words like liberty, tyranny, or despotism?words that were so important to the people who created our country.

Most teachers, news outlets, pop culture celebrities and political leaders ignore or disparage America’s unique history, culture, and principles of liberty. That is why we created this organization in 2003. Our mission is to learn and teach Americans to again understand, support, and defend the ideas and values that brought strength, comfort, and security to our country for 200 years.

We begin by answering this question: What is liberty?

Liberty is a culture and system of government that gives you, me, and every citizen, the freedom to do whatever we want to pursue our happiness, and make the most important decisions that affect our lives?but only if we don?t take away the rights of others. This means we pledge allegiance to rules that guarantee ?liberty and justice for all?. And we defend these rules to protect the rights of every citizen?not just ourselves.

That is why ?governments are instituted among men?. We need government to be the umpire or referee. Government makes sure we all follow the rules that protect us all, as each of us tries to win our personal goals in life.

Any type of government that forces people to do things for any purpose other than to secure the ?unalienable? rights of everyone is known as ?tyranny? or ?despotism?. These words come from the ancient Greek words ?tyrant? and ?despotes? which both meant “an arbitrary and absolute ruler who took power by force”. A tyrant or despot has unlimited power.

Some tyrants and despots steal from the people they rule and enjoy lives of leisure and luxury. Others claim to pursue lofty ideals. But the founders of our country knew that even tyrants and despots who claim to advance noble causes always become abusive and corrupt sooner or later. They knew that having power over others corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

America’s schools, media, and Hollywood culture rarely teach that. Instead they focus only on “free elections” and “make every vote count”. They ignore the ugly fact that some of the most evil and dangerous tyrants and despots in history had the support of most of their people. Many, like Hitler and Napoleon, were freely elected. The founders of our country in 1776 knew that unlimited government power in the hands of a majority of the people was even more evil and dangerous than such power in the hands of a king. After all, it was easier to overthrow a king, than a tyrant or despot elected by a majority.

That is why our Constitution does not set up a democracy. We are instead a democratic constitutional republic ?conceived in liberty?. We are democratic only in choosing our government officials by majority vote. However, the powers of those we elect are very limited. They do not allow even an overwhelming majority to take away the unalienable rights of even a single citizen.

How can we recognize tyrants and despots today? Here are three classic clues:

1. Tyrants and despots use the power of government to take wealth from some people, and give it to others (after skimming some for themselves). Tyrants and despots use “eminent domain” to take homes and businesses from some people and give it to others. Tyrants and despots force citizens to spend their tax money on mismanaged private companies they choose not to buy from. Tyrants and despots force most citizens to pay high taxes, but give reduced rates and “abatements” to a chosen few. Tyrants and despots pay the people who work for government more money, earlier pensions, and better health insurance benefits than everyone else.

2. Tyrants and despots make different rules for different people. Tyrants and despots make zoning and environmental laws that won?t let a homeowner put a shed or deck in his own backyard, but will let a developer build a whole shopping center next door. Where there is liberty, laws are simple, easy to understand, and enforced for everyone all the time. But where there is tyranny and despotism, laws are complicated and difficult to understand, since there are different rules for different people, and the rules are always changed. That is so friends of the people who run the government don?t have to follow the same rules they make for everyone else.

3. Tyrants and despots are expensive and corrupt. Constitutional republics that only secure ?liberty and justice for all? cost very little, and have very low taxes. It?s not hard for an umpire to know when there are three outs in an inning, or when a ball crosses the foul line. But tyranny and despotism are very expensive. Even honest people in government never know who can afford to pay more, who needs to pay less, and who needs help from the government. They take expensive surveys and argue over what they mean. Tax collectors spend a fortune taking money from unwilling people who think they are paying too much, while other officials spend a fortune deciding how to pay out money to other people who feel they are not getting their fair share. Where there is tyranny and despotism, everyone must threaten, flatter, lobby, sue, and bribe government officials to change the rules and get a better deal. Why spend years working, building and inventing to become rich, if you can get rich quicker by influencing the people who run the government, or taking control of the government yourself?

What can we do to enjoy liberty, and get tyranny and despotism out of government? The people who founded this country made it easy. They wrote federal and state constitutions that described in detail what government officials can and cannot do. They knew that if government officials followed those constitutions, we would all enjoy liberty. Even if bad people got elected, they would never have enough power to do much damage, and could be quickly and easily removed.

Today, our schools, politicians, and even most members of our Supreme Court say we must give our constitutions a ?liberal? interpretation. That means saying that the clear words of our constitutions don?t really mean what they say. But if we do that, we give our government officials the unlimited power to do whatever they want. That defeats the whole point of having a written constitution in the first place.

If the people who founded our country wanted government officials to have that much power, they would have said that a freely elected President and Congress, or Governor and Legislature, could do whatever they wanted during their terms of office. But they didn?t do that. Instead they spent months preparing lengthy documents, where weeks of debate and discussion went into almost every sentence and paragraph. Our Constitution is our employment contract with our leaders, our long-term lease with our government, and our condominium association bylaws for our country. It is the key to a system of liberty.

But constitutions only work when we, the citizens understand, support, and defend them. In baseball, no American would dare ask an umpire to give his team more than three outs in an inning to win a game. No American would demand a fifth try for a first down in football. But both Democrats and Republicans repeatedly ignore the Constitution to buy a few votes when they control the government. They only demand that we follow the Constitution when they lose an election, and the other side is doing what they were doing.

Why does liberty bring prosperity? When there are low taxes, and little corruption in government, people work harder, and produce, invent, and invest more. This creates more wealth for everyone. The opposite is true when people are afraid that whatever they own or earn can be taken away at any time. When we had liberty in America, every generation of Americans gave its children a more comfortable and prosperous life. But during the past 40 years, we Americans have alienated many of our “unalienable rights”. Because of this, we are the first generation of Americans to give our children a lower standard of living than our parents gave us.

Our mission is to teach Americans to think and act like Americans again.

  • Seth Grossman

    Seth Grossman is executive director of Liberty And Prosperity, which he co-founded in 2003. It promotes American liberty and limited constitutional government through weekly radio and in-person discussions, its website, email newsletters and various events. Seth Grossman is also a general practice lawyer.

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