By Paul Bremmer
Many Americans today take their liberty for granted, oblivious to its cost and to the consequences of not protecting it, according to Joshua Charles, who co-authored a New York Times No. 1 bestseller with talk-radio host Glenn Beck.
Charles, who has studied extensively the nation’s Founding Fathers, says Americans today simply have forgotten that morality is essential to the nation’s success.
“I think one of the biggest things we’ve lost is this idea that freedom is only possible for a society that is virtuous, is moral, has a moral compass,” Charles said Monday on Glenn Beck’s radio program.
“And I think what we’re struggling with these days is, among other things, we’ve lost the ability to have a coherent moral discussion. We’re not even on the same planet. We’re in different universes in some cases.”
Charles and Beck coauthored the No. 1 New York Times bestseller “The Original Argument: The Federalists’ Case for the Constitution, Adapted for the 21st Century.” Even now it remains No. 4 in books on the Constitution and No. 5 in political freedom books on Amazon.
Charles, 27, then went solo and wrote “Liberty’s Secrets: The Lost Wisdom of America’s Founders,” which was the product of several years of combing through thousands of pages of speeches, letters, diary entries and lesser-known writings of the Founders.
It’s currently at about No. 276 among all books at Amazon, including No. 1 in books on political freedom and No. 2 in political science.
The book quotes John Adams, who said: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Hear the interview:
“You have a really good way of distilling the things that we have lost and that we used to know and now we really don’t even think about all that much,” Beck told Charles.
Charles, who also writes a column for WND, pointed out the Founders believed in moral absolutes.
“When you read the Founders’ writings, they’re full of words like ‘truth’ and ‘justice’ and ‘righteousness,'” he said. “And while of course not all of them agreed at every moment of every day of every year what exactly that meant, they did believe it was out there. That there was a truth, there was a justice, there was a righteousness.”
Those moral truths were derived from the Judeo-Christian values many of the Founders lived by, Charles noted.
Benjamin Franklin, for example, listed 13 virtues in his autobiography, including temperance, frugality, sincerity, moderation and chastity. This suggests the Founders realized liberty came with a requirement for personal responsibility.
“There was this idea that if you want to be free, then act like it,” Charles said. “For every freedom which is asserted, there is a duty which is put on you. And if you don’t have the duty along with the freedom, then you really don’t want to be free.”
The Founders recognized, Charles said, how quickly their system of government could fall apart.
“Jefferson said that if the Constitution became corrupted, if the central government started doing things it was never intended to do, he said, it would become the most corrupt government on earth,” he said.
The potential for corruption is partly because the Founders set up such a complex system. He said Alexis de Tocqueville, the Frenchman who wrote “Democracy in America,” expressed alarm at how much the U.S. Constitution presumes the American people to be well informed. If the people are ignorant, the system becomes ripe for exploitation.
In Federalist Paper 62, Charles noted, Madison talks about the uselessness of laws if people can’t even understand them.
“It essentially does become a set of two rules, where those who can afford the lobbyists, the attorneys, the high-powered expensive personnel to manage their concerns with the government, well, they do get their affairs managed with the government. But what about the rest of us?”
Charles marveled at how some of the Founders foresaw today’s world. He talked about some of the prophetic gems he uncovered in his book
“There’s absolutely amazing things in there about financial collusion, about what we would today call ‘crony capitalism.’ About the degeneration of constitutional jurisprudence. Jefferson, Madison, those two in particular talked a lot about the idea that words mean something.”
Which was precisely what Justice Antonin Scalia argued in his dissent last June in King v. Burwell, when the Supreme Court ruled Congress could not have possibly meant to create the loophole that threatened to undermine the legality of Obamacare.
“[The Founders] talked about the courts becoming an oligarchy of sorts,” Charles said. “They talked about big banks getting into bed with big government. They talked about fiat currency. That was something that John Adams talked a lot about, in particular. … They talked about the degradation in morality.”
Charles is optimistic, however, that America will rediscover the lost wisdom of the Founders and turn around. But he wants Americans to know they will have to shoulder the burdens associated with liberty if they want to reap the rewards.
“The fact is that liberty is not a risk-free proposition,” Charles warned. “It is inherently risky. But it is that risk which allows the greatest display of human flourishing and greatness in the first place. You can’t have that display of human greatness, ingenuity, you know, increase in the quality of life – you can’t have that if everybody is just worried about being secure. And that’s what I think is happening.”
Rather than worry about being secure, people need to jealously guard their liberty.
“Liberty has always been a proposition which has to be defended in every generation. And if it’s not, it goes away. And there have been times when it’s come back, and our Founders knew that. And so, you know, who knows? But I hope that is certainly the prognosis for us as well.”
Beck advised his listeners regarding “Liberty’s Secrets”: “This definitely needs to be on your shelf and well read.”