Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs This Fourth of July, as Americans continue to surrender their freedom to the federal government with barely a whimper, I find myself wondering what the founding fathers would think of our stewardship of the nation they bestowed upon us by means of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
I believe they'd be appalled at how few Americans are conversant in the meaning of those pieces of parchment inscribed with the greatest framework ever crafted for a self-governing society.
I believe they'd be appalled at how our government has twisted the Constitution beyond recognition to fit any outcome that increases the power of the government to control the governed without amending the Constitution as mandated.
I believe they'd be appalled at how the government has usurped our freedom - and our responsibility to be self-sufficient - to a point where the government has grown to a size the Declaration and Constitution were designed to escape and prevent.
Whether you agree or disagree with my belief that the government has trampled the founding principles as set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, I invite you to read a thought-provoking book and reflect upon whether we truly are still a free country as we celebrate the 233rd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
The book is "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto," by Mark Levin. The book sits atop The New York Times best-seller list, as it has for 13 of the 14 weeks since it was published.
That Levin is the author may cause some to overlook the book. Levin is a talk show host whose conservative view is delivered with caustic shtick. His trademark, "Get off my phone, you dummy!" leveled at callers he disagrees with, seems harsh until you get to understand Levin's act. Couple that unorthodox style with the fact Levin is the "F. Lee Levin" that Rush Limbaugh often references, and many will not open their minds to the message because of the messenger.
That's regrettable because behind his gruff radio persona, Levin is one of the nation's brightest constitutional lawyers. He served in the Reagan administration as chief of staff to Attorney General Ed Meese. I've had the pleasure of meeting Levin several times when our paths crossed in talk radio and found him to be a kind man, of deep intellect and quick wit.
With "Liberty and Tyranny," Levin challenges us all - conservatives, independents and liberals alike - to re-examine where we fit in the political spectrum while forcefully arguing that the new dominant political class in the United States is made up of "statists."
Statism is the concentration of economic and political control in a central government at the cost of individual liberty.
Significantly, our founders crafted the Constitution with the goal of preventing statism. As Levin puts it, "The Founders understood that the greatest threat to liberty is an all-powerful central government, where the few dictate to the many." To underscore the point, Levin cites James Madison in "Federalist 51," where Madison wrote, "In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."
Therein lies the rub.
Since the 1930s, we have enabled the government to control us, but we have not obligated the government to restrain itself. We have a government that regulates every aspect of life in exchange for underfunded, unsustainable entitlements paid for by wealth redistribution and crippling debt. As a result, the government now is nationalizing entire industries - financial, automotive, and health care - in a futile attempt to restructure the free market system that made us the economic leader of the world.
In short, America no longer can look itself in the mirror and honestly say it is the country the founders envisioned.
As you celebrate the Fourth, I hope you'll take time to reflect on the meaning of our founding principles and ask yourself whether we, as a nation, remain faithful to those principles. In so doing, I invite you to use Levin's book as a means to challenge your view of the American political system today.
To reach Rob Douglas, e-mail Rob.Douglas@Comcast.net