At the Crossroads

No people will tamely surrender their liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and virtue is preserved. On the contrary, when people are universally ignorant, and debauched in their manners, they will sink under their own weight without the aid of foreign invaders.  -Samuel Adams

Red or blue, have or have not, we all meet today at the crossroads of state and freedom. These roads have not been, and will never be congruent. Will they now tear America apart as they diverge into the horizon? We must take this time to understand and wisely discern which of our prospective leaders accept our natural freedom to prosper and which will legislate our servitude.

One camp peddles an alluring vision that clutches at our need, the other a noble and ageless ideal that fades like a dream under derelict custodians, while it is asserted that traditional principles are but shades and shadows. The truth is that this “alluring vision” is revealed as a political nosferatu, and the purported ghosts of old are as alive as every citizen who believes that the spirit of freedom is the beating heart of the American constitutional republic.

First, let’s look the state, or more specifically, the socialist state.

In 1848, Alexis de Tocqueville described the enduring traits of the socialist bête noir that has again awakened in our time to feed on our faltering republic.

He asked his fellow French citizens 162 years ago, “I must know, the National Assembly must know, all of France must know — is the February Revolution a socialist revolution or is it not?” He continues, “It is not my intention to examine here the different systems which can all be categorized as socialist. I want only to attempt to uncover those characteristics which are common to all of them and to see if the February Revolution can be said to have exhibited those traits.”

Now, the first characteristic of all socialist ideologies is, I believe, an incessant, vigorous, and extreme appeal to the material passions of man. Thus, some have said, “… man must be paid, not according to his merit, but according to his need,” while, finally, they have told us here that the object of the February Revolution — of socialism — is to procure unlimited wealth for all.

A second trait, always present, is an attack, either direct or indirect, on the principle of private property. From the first socialist who said, fifty years ago, that “property is the origin of all the ills of the world” to the socialist who spoke from this podium and who, less charitable than the first, passing from property to the property-holder, exclaimed that “property is theft,” all socialists — all, I insist — attack, either in a direct or indirect manner, private property.

A third and final trait — one which, in my eyes, best describes socialists of all schools and shades — is a profound opposition to personal liberty and a scorn for individual reason, a complete contempt for the individual. They unceasingly attempt to mutilate, to curtail, to obstruct personal freedom in any and all ways. They hold that not only must the State act as the director of society, but further, it must be master of each man, and not only master, but keeper and trainer. For fear of allowing him to err, the State must place itself forever by his side, above him, around him, better to guide him, to maintain him — in a word, to confine him. They call, in fact, for the forfeiture, to a greater or lesser degree, of human liberty, to the point where, were I to attempt to sum up what socialism is, I would say that it is simply a new system of serfdom.

There is nothing in the Revolution which forces the State to substitute itself in the place of the individual’s foresight and caution, in the place of the market, of individual integrity. There is nothing in it which authorizes the State to meddle in the affairs of industry or to impose its rules on it, to tyrannize over the individual in order to better govern him, or, as it is insolently claimed, to “save him from himself.”

We must now ask ourselves the same questions and make the same observations regarding the American Revolution. Was it ever supposed to be the socialist one now looming over us?

For the observant, it is clear that our government is now defined by these same attributes — wealth for all, state ownership and regulation of business (aka “state capitalism”), scorn for individual liberty and property — the fruits of our labor, particularly for those deemed “rich” — in a bureaucratic nanny-state where czar after czar is lined up to save us from ourselves through authoritarian and unconstitutional regulation.

Despite many historical examples and current news of failed socialist states, this generation of “progressive” elite believe that they are finally the chosen ones who will invoke the success of their cause, oblivious that they are chasing a will o’ the wisp that has lured them (and America) deep into a quagmire of economic decay, cultural dissolution, and possibly to their stated plan for liquidating those Americans who bitterly cling to the ideals in the U.S. Constitution.

And now the answer, the crux of freedom — the individual.

In her illuminating book, The Discovery of Freedom, Rose Wilder Lane writes, “The American Revolution had no leader.  Hundreds of thousands of men and women who lived and died unknown to anyone but their neighbors, and now are completely forgotten, began the third attempt to create conditions in which human beings can use their natural freedom.

This fact is the hope of the world. For only unknown individuals can create and maintain conditions in which men can act freely, conditions in which human energy can operate to improve the human world. Only an individual who recognizes that his self-controlling responsibility is a condition of human life, and fully accepts the responsibility of a creator of the human world, can protect human rights in the infinite complexity of men’s relationships with each other. Only this individual protection of all men’s rights can keep their natural freedom operating on this earth.

Living men and women create the human world. Every man is responsible for the stupidity, the cruelty, the injustice, the wrongs of which he complains. Let him take the beam from his own eye. Have I never been stupid, have I never committed a cruelty, an injustice, a wrong against another person?

If we can understand and live this idea, the pack of charlatan saviors who have led us astray will fade in influence, to be replaced not by more authorities, experts, or elites, but by citizens who will step forward, do their duty, and then be strong enough to surrender power’s corrupting addiction. It is these we must choose.

Tocqueville’s Critique of Socialism (1848)


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