In his brilliant essay, Live Free or Die!, which appeared in the April 2009 issue of Imprimis, Mark Steyn posits, Americans have a choice: “They can rediscover the animating principles of the American [our emphasis] idea…or they can join most of the rest of the Western world in terminal decline.” Steyn defines the American idea as one of limited government and self-reliant citizens free to seize upon myriad opportunities available in a free nation to achieve the greatest success possible.
Accepting Mr. Steyn’s premise is crucial to understanding at what point we are in America today. When discussing the motivations our Founders had when creating America no one argues that limited government and individual liberty were the grand “new” idea, which set the great American experiment as unique in human history. Had our Founders sought to simply create another dominant, powerful, paternalistic government, what would have been the big deal? Every other country in the world had a government of this sort—we may as well have remained under Farmer George.
The question we have to ask ourselves is, are we letting our Founders down? Thomas Jefferson, patriarch of libertarians everywhere, admonished American progeny that, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Are enough of us willing to pay that cost—are those of us who are vigilant doing everything possible under the American sun to maintain the liberty we still enjoy and to reclaim that which has been usurped?
Big government proponents on either side of the aisle obviously no longer hold en masse the principles of our Founders as the preeminent American ideal. The evidence of this is quite plain: Even the tiniest government growth is commensurately matched by individual liberty’s loss. Both Republicans and Democrats have been complicit in and are guilty of growing government, albeit at different rates, but still to the detriment of an ostensibly free citizenry.
Steyn quotes Dutch writer Oscar van den Boogaard, which is one of the most poignant and intellectually honest statements I’ve ever heard from anyone anywhere regarding human liberty. Mr. van den Boogaard said, “I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it.” How many of us does this describe? How many of us erroneously believe liberty is an infinite state?
Our Founding Fathers entrusted liberty to the care of their posterity—us. Let’s not incur the disgrace of being the American generation who lets them down. The end of the American experiment of limited government and individual liberty; what a sad legacy for us to pass on to our posterity.