Liberty: A dangerous, ‘esoteric’ idea?
Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie claimed that those who oppose the National Security Agency spying on Americans are engaged in “esoteric, intellectual debates.”
To the contrary, questions about the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and the role of government itself cannot be confined to the political science classrooms. These questions have vital implications.
For instance, the Anti-Federalists were not engaged in a mere intellectual exercise when they demanded a Bill of Rights be added to the newly proposed federal Constitution. They thought that the Constitution, in its original form and without a more explicit set of restrictions, granted too much power to the federal government.
These were men who had recently fought a war against the most powerful military in the world in defense of their liberties. Ever vigilant, they took threats to their prized liberty seriously. Most of all, they understood that their own government represented the greatest menace to that liberty.
How unfortunate that so many Americans seem to have forgotten this fact. Instead of viewing government with a skeptical eye, the state keeps growing, it becomes more involved in every facets of our lives, while shrugging off the traditional bulwarks that have limited the government’s power.
Americans have bought into the nostrum that, given enough power, there is nothing from which the government cannot protect us. Not foreign enemies, not the vicissitudes of a free market economy, not even our own vices.
After decades of this perverted experiment, the evidence is clear: The world is a more dangerous place than ever, and American foreign policy seems hopelessly confused, arming the same groups in some places that we fight in others. The economy is in shambles. Obesity and drug abuse are epidemics as the state has replaced the family, civil society, and churches as our moral axis.
Nevertheless, Christie sees the “strain of libertarianism that is going through both parties right now” as a “dangerous thought.” What sort of Bizarro World have we entered when a potential Republican presidential candidate frets over those who want to limit the state and respect the Bill of Rights?!
On the other hand, President Dwight Eisenhower understood that total security can only be obtained at a terrible price when he said, “if all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison. They’ll have enough to eat, a bed and a roof over their heads. But if an American wants to preserve his dignity and his equality as a human being, he must not bow his neck to any dictatorial government.”
What those who argue that we must give up our liberty for the sake of security fail to mention is: who protects us from our protectors? The recent scandals plaguing the Obama administration, especially the IRS debacle, illustrate that this question is not a strictly academic one.
The principles of freedom Christie fears are literally the bedrock foundations of our country. The “strain of libertarianism” that Christie believes is so dangerous aims at nothing more than restoring the rule of law, once again shackling the federal government with the chains of the Constitution.
For those seeking unchecked political power, such a change is quite dangerous. For the American people, it is a welcome relief.