“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments.”
– James Madison
Now that we have a president-elect who seems to understand how government that tried to do too much ends up doing nothing but harm, wouldn’t it be nice if he learned about and talked about the very best kind of government – self-government?
America’s founders knew all about it.
They understood that liberty and justice are possible only in a society that is capable of self-government.
It’s shockingly amazing that we hear the term so infrequently in America today.
It’s more depressing that some of America’s most frequently heard pundits don’t have a clue about what self-government is.
I’ll never forget an appearance I made more than a decade ago on Fox News in which I was debating a July 4th column I had written about how Americans were less free then than they were in 1776. My foil on the show was the ever-progressive Eleanor Clift.
I launched into an explanation of how we have lost the founders’ concept of self-government today – and that without it, the Declaration of Independence and the best Constitution ever devised by man aren’t enough to keep our nation free. I suggested that nine out of 10 Americans don’t even know what self-government means.
Clift jumped in and began her attack.
I can’t remember exactly what she said, but her response indicated to me that she didn’t know what self-government meant.
So I asked her point-blank: “Eleanor, do you know what self-government means?”
She said: “Well, I would point to local communities and I think people are more interested in taking a role in how they are governed in their immediate neighborhoods and cities and towns than they are in how the central government is operating.”
To which I replied: “I think that Eleanor just betrayed that she’s one of the nine out of 10 of Americans who do not understand what self-government is. It’s not about local government, state government or central government. It’s about governing ourselves as individuals, being accountable to God, having a morality that guides us in our actions.”
The War of Independence was fought 240 years ago principally over the issues of sovereignty and self-government.
These are two concepts that have been obliterated from the debate today. The war was fought so that we in America would have the ability and right to govern ourselves as individuals and that our individual states would have sovereignty with little interference from London, Washington or anywhere else.
Do we have that today?
In 1776, Americans were much freer to govern themselves, and the states had less accountability to the crown than they do today to Washington. Today, Washington is God. It will remain so, even under Donald Trump’s leadership, unless Americans take back the responsibilities they have to govern themselves.
Washington dictates policies to the states and local governments and holds individuals accountable to thousands of unconstitutional laws – and declares perfectly constitutional laws invalid with a stroke of the pen. That’s not the way our country was designed.
Does America have the courage to recover the freedom it has lost in the last 200 years?
Freedom isn’t about required health-care plans dictated by Washington. Freedom isn’t about more laws. Freedom isn’t about a false security promised by your federal government. Freedom isn’t about being numbered from cradle to grave. Freedom isn’t about having your wealth confiscated by government before you even cash your paycheck. Freedom isn’t about the government mis-educating your child. Freedom isn’t about the United Nations and global government. Freedom isn’t about more cops on the beat.
Freedom, ultimately, is about the liberation of the individual to run his or her own life with minimal interference from government. Self-government. Period. End of story.
That was the goal of our founders in 1776. It ought to be our goal again today.
The real questions are: Are we capable of self-government today? Do we want that kind of liberty anymore? Are we willing to fight for it, again?
It’s really the only way to make America great again.
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