L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 193, October 7, 2002
Lady Liberty Dropped Her Torch
Special to TLE
Unfortunately, an idea has taken hold amongst the populace that America is great because America is great and that America is and always will be free. Therefore, whatever conditions currently exist in America define freedom and we should be grateful for them.
This explains why, when it is suggested that the American government is less than perfect, someone offers as refutation some variation of the following argument: "America is the best country ever. So, quit complaining and be grateful for what freedoms and luxuries you do enjoy."
This argument is necessarily based upon two premises. First, government grants liberty to the people whom it rules by force. Let me dispel this myth immediately. Liberties are inherent in the nature of man. The human spirit existed before government and it will exist after government. Government, an entity which controls people by force cannot grant liberty. To quote George Washington, "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master." Liberties continue to exist only to the extent that government's fire has not yet engulfed that particular area of human endeavor.
The second premise of this common argument is that since the American government is better than the government of every other country, Americans should be satisfied with merely being the best. However, as soon as complacency dims the spirit of the best - at anything, some competitor overtakes them. Truly great entities do not settle for merely being the best, lest they allow the inferiority of others to define the extent of their achievements.
Americans should not be content that they currently enjoy more freedoms than Kurds in Iraq, Christians in China, or Kalifornians.
America is the greatest country in the world because it is the freest in the world. It is the freest in the world because it is the only nation in the world founded, not upon race or ethnicity, but upon an idea. That idea, the founding act of American government, is a declaration that whenever government becomes destructive to the ends of liberty it is the right and the duty of the people to alter or abolish it. In short, an American is defined as someone willing to defend freedom, even if it means abolishing the current governmental order.
However, today as Americans wave Old Glory, like little infants with flags in their fists, politicians are expanding the realm of government's power; eroding away once cherished bedrock freedoms.
Lady liberty dropped her torch. A fire, which George Washington feared, rages across the fruited plain. The flame which once lit the way to freedom for the entire world now threatens to engulf liberty in an American holocaust.
Americans are at a crossroads. We can continue on the current path, until only a privileged few souls can, on their deathbeds, reflect upon what it was like to breathe free air. Or, we can pick up lady liberty's torch, carry it high above our heads, until America once again appears as a shining city upon a hill -- lighting the way for the rest of the world's people.
It is more than O.K. to love your country and hate your government. It is the definition of an American. For, the American credo -- that government is best which governs least -- dictates that patriotic Americans continue to work to reduce the amount of power which governmental agents can exercise.
When you criticize the American government and some fool with an American flag, sewn by child slaves in some far off land, condemns you for being unpatriotic, hold your head high. You are part of the true spirit of America.
When a politician fans the flames of patriotism in an effort to reduce the freedoms you enjoy. It is he who is demonstrating his hatred for America. By defending liberty, you are demonstrating your love of America.
A true American does not blindly wave the red, white, and blue. Rather, he works to defend liberty -- no matter how unpopular the contemporary political winds may make the eternal quest of man's spirit.