Steamboat Springs If there ever was a time to quote one of Ben Franklin's gems, it would be now. "Those would give up essential liberty to gain some temporary security deserve neither security nor liberty," he said.
Nothing like Independence Day weekend to go back to basics, something as a society we seem to be doing less and less. Everything is looked upon as an ad hoc moment to do whatever it takes to negotiate the current crisis.
Particularly at this moment in our history, when so many citizens have voted for change - or chains - the legitimate question would appear to be whether the founders of the American experiment were as brilliant in structuring a democratic government as most have agreed until recently. The corollary question is whether we still value the freedoms they imparted to us or would rather opt for that security mentioned above. The fact is that we are well on our way to abdicating virtually of our adult responsibilities to the government. It has incrementally been moving in that direction for decades. If we truly trust the government to provide all the basics of our lives, then we certainly should have no quarrel with them taking the lion's share of our income. As Thomas Jefferson said, "a government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have."
Indeed, some liberals have argued that, in essence, society as a whole, aka the government, really owns everything, and it is its job to parcel it out to whomever it thinks deserves it the most. Allowing some to keep more of their own earned income is labeled a "tax expenditure." This kind of convoluted thinking is reminiscent of the recently departed Soviet Union, where the state was the master and the people its subjects : not the other way around. We're heading there.
Does this sound extreme? Would that it were so. Founding Father and second President John Adams, known as the Atlas of the Continental Congress that produced the Declaration of Independence, noted: "There has never been a democracy that has not committed suicide." Not conquered by foreign powers or a hostile insurrection but by just plain apathy and irresponsibility to their citizen duties. The thinking that because our freedoms are here now, it always will be thus, is incredibly short-sighted and empirically false.
My particular take on this is that a great number of us simply want someone else to pay the bill. If we ask for the government to provide something rather than paying for it ourselves, that's precisely what we're doing. So the ultimate question is, just who is going to pay? If the answer is the so-called "rich," this precipitates a couple of more questions: Is that fair? And even if they could afford it, are we shirking our own responsibilities in a free society by relinquishing them to the iron hand of the authorities to capture from others what we think we want and deserve? How does this auger for the future of our country, that citizens refuse to accept their basic responsibilities?
President Barack Obama has been proclaiming since entering public life that redistribution of income is his primary goal. This also is redistribution of freedom: less for us, more for the government.
Other great words from John Adams: "A people that does not value independence will search among themselves until they find someone willing to lift that heavy burden of liberty from them forever."
Gary Hofmeister is the owner and operator of Hofmeister Personal Jewelers in downtown Steamboat, a company he founded in 1973. He is a director of the Conservative Leadership Council of Northwest Colorado and a former Republican nominee for Congress in the 10th District of Indiana. He made 18 trips to the former USSR to teach democratic capitalism during the 1990s.