About Those Self-Evident Truths

December 15, 2011

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident…” What truths? What has happened to our passion for liberty? I am concerned that we conservatives, instead of making our case as fearless champions of liberty, are too often on the defensive, preoccupied with trying to prove we aren’t the demons the left says we are.

In the GOP primary contest, you’ll hear one candidate scolding the others for lacking compassion, another demagoguing a rival for advocating essential entitlement reform, and another shaming an opponent for being too wealthy.

Shouldn’t our side do a better job of proudly proclaiming our case for what we believe in rather than have our tails tucked between our legs, apologizing for conservatism and all too often neglecting our first principles?

Because we face an existential threat to the nation in our exploding discretionary and entitlement spending, we rightly aim our rhetoric against the deficits and the debt. That’s critically important, but in the process, do we forget to explain that we favor smaller government also as a matter of principle? Do we make the case that we oppose a bigger and more intrusive government because a) it is incompatible with what we stand for — robust political liberty — and b) other than metastasizing and swallowing up the private sector and our individual liberties, government does only a few things well?

Likewise, do we connect the dots between our confiscatory tax policies and the diminution of our liberties, demonstrating a nexus between oppressive taxes and serfdom? Do we protest that we are already overtaxed and that an onerous tax system, enforced by a menacing federal agency, devours our political liberty?

To the contrary, instead of communicating our passion for liberty — the bedrock principle upon which the nation was founded, lest we forget — we spend too much time defending against the false charge that we are evil elitists protecting a tax structure that is tilted in favor of the wealthy. It’s not.

We say we can’t support tax cuts during tough economic times, but are we tacitly conceding that it will be just fine to tax ourselves further into oblivion once the economy turns around? How about saying, “We are taxed too much at every level, and our government’s financial problems are a result of overspending, not of under-taxation, and they will be solved not by increasing liberty-choking taxes, but by cutting spending”?

We conservatives constantly complain — and rightly so — about the chilling effect overregulation has on the economy. But do we emphasize that this frightening explosion of power in mostly independent and largely unreviewable federal agencies represents a grave threat to our individual liberties?

Do we conservatives inspire the American people to reach for the sky, saying that a rising tide lifts all boats and that they should aspire to be the best they can be? Or do we spend too much time apologizing for inequitable distributions of the wealth?

Do we affirmatively champion the virtues of the free market and point out that greater liberty produces greater prosperity and greater prosperity means greater liberty?

When the left incites covetousness and greed by demonizing the “rich” and scoffing at capitalism’s allegedly false promise that the prosperity will “trickle down,” we should remind these socialists that a) it is absurd that we measure material prosperity based on how much more the other guy has instead of how much we have in absolute terms, b) a free market system, by definition, means some will do better than others, c) the idea isn’t for meat scraps to trickle down from the more affluent in a zero-sum economy, but to expand the economic pie with more people producing and succeeding on their own, free of dependence on the government and retaining their dignity, d) our capitalistic system, undergirded by the Constitution and the rule of law, has produced the most prosperous society in world history, and e) the coercive command-control system they champion in the name of equalizing outcomes is antithetical to liberty and thus to America’s founding principles and inevitably leads to

less for everyone except for the ruling class and its cronies.

Have we gotten to the point that we can no longer preach the work ethic? Rugged individualism? Thrift? Individual responsibility?

Let’s passionately attest that America is the only nation in the history of the world founded on a set of principles — the most important of which is that we have God-given, inalienable rights centered in political liberty — that the preservation of our liberty is not on autopilot, and that if we abandon our commitment to liberty, liberty will just as surely abandon us.