by Jeremy N. Choate
This essay is a bit of departure from my usually reasonable and logical approach to important issues. That’s not to say that the essay isn’t well-reasoned and is bereft of logical argumentation, but I freely admit that it’s polemical, in nature. Sometimes you’re just pissed, and you need to vent. Here’s my vent…
Lately, I must admit that my hostility towards your political ilk has ramped up, pretty dramatically. No, it’s not because we, at this point in my life, have a half-black president in the White House, and I’m some closet racist who is becoming increasingly frustrated at the prospects of the White Man’s power slipping through my fingers. I know that you’ve accused our side of such nonsense, and the thought keeps you warm at night, but I can assure you that it is a comfortable fiction of which you should probably divest yourself.
Now before I waste too much of your time, let’s establish who I’m talking to. If you believe that we live in an evil, imperialist nation from its founding, and you believe that it should be “fundamentally transformed”, lend me your ears. If you believe that the free market is the source of the vast majority of society’s ills and wish to have more government intervention into it, I’m talking to you. If you believe that health care is a basic human right and that government should provide it to everyone, you’re the guy I’m screaming at. If you think minorities cannot possibly survive in this inherently racist country without handouts and government mandated diversity quotas, you’re my guy. If you believe that rich people are that way because they’ve exploited their workers and acquired wealth on the backs of the poor, keep reading. Pretty much, if you trust government more than your fellow American, this post is for you.
First of all, let me say that we probably agree on more things than you think. Even between Tea Party Patriots and Occupy Wall-Streeters, I’ve observed a common hatred of the insidious alliance between big business and big government. As Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) so correctly noted, government should never be in the business of picking winners and losers in corporate America, and no person, organization, union, or corporation should have their own key to the back door of our government.
Second, contrary to popular belief, conservatives really are concerned with the plight of the poor in this nation. You accuse us of being uncompassionate, hateful, racist, and greedy, but studies have shown that when it comes to charitable giving, conservatives are at least (if not more, depending on the study you read) as generous as liberals in caring for the poor. The difference between us is not in our attitude towards the problem — it’s our attitude towards the solution. We believe that the government does practically nothing well (since without competition or a profit motive there is no incentive to do well) and has made the plight of the poor far worse than it would have ever been had government never gotten involved. For a stark example of this, look no farther than the condition of the black family in America since the “War on Poverty” began. You believe that more government is the answer, and that if we only throw more money at the problem, the problem will go away. We believe, as Reagan so aptly stated,
Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.
Third, as people who might actually have to avail ourselves of a doctor’s services at some point in our lives, we are just as concerned with the condition of America’s healthcare system as you are. While we believe that America has the world’s most capable physicians, has the world’s most innovative pharmaceutical industry, and is on the cutting edge of medical technology, we also understand that the delivery system is far from perfect. However, unlike you, we see a grave danger in turning the administration of that delivery system over to the same entity that is responsible for giving us the United States Postal Service. There are private sector solutions that should certainly be explored before we kill the system, altogether, by giving it to the government to run.
Now that we’ve touched on a couple of points of common ground, allow me to explain my aggressiveness towards your efforts to implement your progressive agenda. First, let’s talk about the word “progressive”, since you now seem to prefer that word to “liberal”. In order to label something as progressive or regressive, one must have some idea as to what constitutes progress. What is the ideal towards which you are striving? An idea is considered progressive if it moves us closer to the ideal and regressive if it moves us further away. So, what is your ideal society?
Though I can’t begin to discern the thoughts of every liberal who may read this, nor can I assume that every liberal has the same notion of an ideal society, in my arguments with liberals over the years, I couldn’t help but notice the influence that FDR’s Second Bill of Rights has had in shaping the beliefs of the modern liberal with regards to domestic policy. The rights that FDR cited are:
At this point, you’re probably screaming, “Right on!!”, and who can blame you? What sane person in the world doesn’t want everyone to be gainfully employed, adequately fed, smartly clothed, appropriately sheltered, and properly educated? These are the goals of every moral society on the planet, however we cannot ignore the fundamental question of, “At what cost?”
I’m not sure whether FDR was a shallow thinker or simply a shrewd, Machiavellian politician, but the fact that he framed each of these ideals as a human right should be troubling to every freedom-loving person in America. After all, what does it mean for something to be a human right? Doesn’t it mean that it’s something to which you are entitled simply by virtue of your being human? Let’s think about some of the basic rights that the real Bill of Rights delineates: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to petition the government, freedom to bear arms, freedom from illegal search and seizure, etc.
If you’re moderately intelligent and intellectually honest, you’ll quickly see what separates the rights laid out in the real Bill of Rights from those laid out in FDR’s misguided list — none of the rights listed above require the time, treasure, or talents of another human being. Your right to speak requires nothing from anyone else. Your right to practice your religion requires nothing from any of your fellow citizens. Your right to bear arms means that you are allowed to possess weapons to defend yourself and your family, but it makes no demand that a weapon be provided to you by anyone. A true human right is one that you possess, even if you’re the only person on the entire planet — and it is unconditional.
FDR’s list is no “Bill of Rights”. It’s a list of demands. If I have a right to a job, doesn’t that mean that one must be provided to me? If I have a right to adequate food, clothing, and recreation, doesn’t that mean that I am entitled to those things, and someone should provide them to me? If I have an inherent right to a decent home, once again, doesn’t that mean it should be provided to me, regardless of my ability to afford one or build one for myself?
You might protest that FDR only meant that we have the right to pursue those things, but that’s not what he said, and why would he? If we live in a free society, our right to pursue those things is self-evident, is it not? Besides, if he only believed in our right to pursue those things, he would not have felt the need to implement the New Deal.
You may be getting anxious, now, wondering what FDR’s Second Bill of Rights has to do with my antipathy towards your political philosophy. It’s quite simple — your political beliefs are a threat to liberty — not just for me, but for my three boys and their children as well. I care much less about the America that I’m living in at this very moment than I do about the one that I’m leaving Nathaniel, Charlie, and Jackson.
How does your political bent threaten my and my sons personal liberty, you ask? In your irrational attempt to classify things such as clothing, shelter, health care, employment, and income as basic human rights, you are placing a demand upon my time, my treasure, and my talents. If you believe that you have a right to health care, and you are successful in persuading enough shallow thinkers to think as you do, then it will place a demand upon me to provide it to you. If you believe that you have a right to a job, and more than half of America agrees with you, as a business owner, I am obligated to provide one to you, even if it means making my business less profitable.
The fact is, you can rail against my conservatism all you wish. You can make fun of my Tea Party gatherings, and you can ridicule patriots in tri-corner hats until you wet yourself from mirth, but one thing is for certain: my political philosophy will NEVER be a threat to your freedom. If you feel a burning responsibility to the poor, conservatism will never prevent you from working 80 hours per week and donating all of your income to charity. If you feel a strong sense of pity for a family who cannot afford health insurance, my political philosophy will never prevent you from purchasing health insurance for this family or raising money to do so, if you cannot afford it, personally. If you are moved with compassion for a family who is homeless, a conservative will never use the police power of government to prevent you from taking that family in to your own home or mobilizing your community to build one for them.
However, you cannot say the same for liberalism. If I choose not to give to the poor for whatever reason, you won’t simply try to persuade me on the merits of the idea — you will seek to use the government as an instrument of plunder to force me to give to the poor. If we are walking down the street together and we spot a homeless person, using this logic, you would not simply be content with giving him $20 from your own pocket — you would hold a gun to my head and force me to give him $20, as well.
Everything that modern liberalism accomplishes is accomplished at the barrel of a government rifle. You do not trust in the generosity of the American people to provide, through private charity, things such as clothing, food, shelter, and health care, so you empower the government to take from them and spend the money on wasteful, inefficient, and inadequate government entitlement programs. You do not trust in the personal responsibility of the average American to wield firearms in defense of themselves and their families, so you seek to empower the government to criminalize the use and possession of firearms by private citizens. Everytime you empower the government, you lose more of your personal liberty — it’s an axiomatic truth.
What angers me the most about you is the eagerness with which you allow the incremental enslavement to occur. You are the cliched and proverbial frog in the pot who has actually convinced himself that he’s discovered a big, silver jacuzzi. Somehow, you’re naive enough to believe that one more degree of heat won’t really matter that much.
I have the utmost respect for a slave who is continuously seeking a path to freedom. What I cannot stomach is a free man who is continuous seeking a path to servitude by willingly trading his freedom for the false sense of security that government will provide.
I am reminded of Samuel Adams’ impassioned speech where he stated:
“If ye love wealth (or security) better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, — go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”
Servitude can exist in a free society, but freedom cannot exist in a slave nation. In a free country, you have the liberty to join with others of your political ilk and realize whatever collectivist ideals you can dream up. You can start your own little commune where the sign at the front gate says, “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need”, and everyone can work for the mutual benefit of everyone else. In my society, you have the freedom to do that.
In your society, I don’t have the same freedom. If your collectivism offends me, I am not free to start my own free society within its borders. In order for collectivism to work, everyone must be on board, even those who oppose it — why do you think there was a Berlin Wall?
In conclusion, just know that the harder you push to enact your agenda, the more hostile I will become — the harder I will fight you. It’s nothing personal, necessarily. If you want to become a slave to an all-powerful central government, be my guest. But if you are planning to take me and my family down with you, as we say down here in the South, I will stomp a mud-hole in your chest and walk it dry.