I was going to write about government
and taxes. As I started I realized I didn’t have a good definition of
Government. My family and I spent a week traveling about, visiting
places of historic relevance to the creation of the U.S. We learned a
great deal and it’s been an interesting journey.
I’d like to write a few comments about
the Declaration of Independence. I had never actually bothered to
read the whole thing through slowly and with thought about what it
meant. Really, I suppose I just expected it to read something like
“You suck, we don’t need you anymore and we want all of this new
free land for ourselves. So go away!” You know, except with fancier
words. What I found instead, as I read slowly and carefully was a
formal, yet heart-felt, plea for basic human rights and governing.
Let me share a few excerpts that really hit me.
“When, in the course of human
events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political
bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the
powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws
of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the
opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes
which impel them to the separation.”
This was a long way of saying, “Look,
we have to part ways with Great Britain, but let us explain exactly
why we’re doing it so there can be no misunderstanding by others who
don’t know what we’re going through.” In a way, it almost sounds
like a child coming of age and saying “I’m an adult now. It’s time
for me to stand on my own.”
“We hold these truths to be
self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed
by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these
are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these
rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just
powers from the consent of the governed.
This is a mouthful of powerful
statements. First, they are stating clearly their belief that every
man has the right to life, liberty (freedom), and the pursuit of
happiness. What’s interesting to me though is that in the next
sentence they say that governments are instituted especially for the
reason of securing those rights. They’re actually saying that
government, when it’s powers come from the consent of those governed,
can help create freedom.
But how does Government play into
providing this framework for life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness? By enacting only as many laws as are necessary to keep
people secure from those who, for whatever reason, attempt to rob
from them of the ability to grow and become the best they can be. The
danger is, if the government takes on too great a role in
“protecting” it’s citizens, then that role can become that of an
overbearing parent who will not let their child grow into adulthood.
It is a parent’s responsibility to prepare their child for a world of
freedom, choices, consequences, and unforeseeable wonders. It is the
Government’s responsibility to ensure that free and open environment
for all adults to explore this world and contribute to it in their
own unique ways. This cannot happen if there are so many laws and
restrictions that the average person does not even know what is legal
and what is not.
That whenever any form of government
becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to
alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its
foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form,
as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and
When a government
becomes destructive to those ends, the people have the right to
change or remove it. This makes sense, of course, if you really
believe that the government is designed by the people to ensure the
right to life, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness. Another thing I
find powerful in the wording of this is that it implies, in a way,
that the government can not provide these things itself, but can only
ensure that individuals are free to pursue them. If life and
“happiness” are forced upon you for “your own good”, then by
definition you no longer have freedom. And I would say that of those
three items, freedom is the greatest (and most terrifying) of all.
I think of a child who relies on the
protection of a parent. The parent limits the freedom of the child
but still provides room for happiness in that child’s life. This is
done because a child is too young to understand the environment
around them at first. But, in time, the child grows, learns, and
becomes and independent adult of their own. The child leaves the
parent’s protection and experiences freedom along with all of it’s
natural consequences. I think most of us struggled a little after
leaving home and made silly mistakes. All the stories I hear of how
students behave in college pretty much assures me that we all stumble
a few times as we learn to run on our own. But the important part is
that the freedom is there to make, and learn from, those mistakes.
As children, we have our parents to
guide us, teach us, and prepare us for the world. It is an impossible
task because a person can never be truly prepared for all of the
eventualities of life. But with a solid foundation, a child can learn
how to deal with the consequences of choices and learn from those
mistakes. Hopefully learning from the mistakes of others along the
It is true that some children never
grow up and they make miserable messes of the freedom they are given
as adults. But I would say, who is to judge how they choose to live?
I have very strong opinions on how I am to live and how others who
proclaim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior should lead their
lives. But when push comes to shove, I feel more strongly that God
has given us all the right to choose and we have to leave those
consequences in His hands. In practical terms, that means watching my
neighbors treat each other horribly and raise their children in ways
that will very obviously leave them unprepared for the freedom (and
consequences) they will discover in adulthood. But I believe it is
better to be an example and, when possible, speak Love and wisdom
into their lives, than to remove their freedoms with laws.
In order to maintain freedom inside the
confines of a Government, it is vital that laws only be enacted to
keep us safe from others, not from ourselves.
Here here! Bravo!!