Freedom is Not a Pendulum

The periodic swings from one party to the other in control of our government often give rise to the analogy of a pendulum. A pendulum swings from one side to the other, always passing through the equilibrium position at its center. This flawed analogy leads to the illusion that our country’s political swings from left to right also pass through a stable center that is fixed and permanent.

History belies that illusion. Throughout the history of civilization, there has never been a government that did not eventually come to an end, either through defeat in war or corrosion from within. The Roman Republic lasted 500 years before it gave way to the Roman Empire, and that too collapsed after a few hundred more years. Ancient history? Yes, indeed. But the rate of social, political, industrial, technological, and cultural changes on the global scale have accelerated, not decelerated, from ancient to modern times. Change happens much more rapidly than it used to.

We think of our government, and our nation, as permanent and impervious to destruction from without or within. That is a comfortable, but naive and historically insupportable, perspective. This country has only existed for a couple of hundred years. It will not exist forever. It too, like all other governments and nations, will someday decline or be overthrown by an enemy. Most of us cannot conceive of the demise of our country and the way of life we’ve taken for granted from birth, so we don’t believe such a thing could happen, — at least not in our lifetimes. But nobody ever realizes they’re living in a historically significant period until it reaches the tipping point and cataclysmic change is suddenly thrust upon them.

In spite of the dire, and oft-repeated, warnings of our founding fathers, the size and scope of our government has continually increased from the founding of our nation until now. For the first hundred and fifty years, the expansion was slow and gradual, with each incremental transfer of power to centralized authority a result of prolonged deliberation and strenuous debate. In the last half century, government expansion has accelerated dramatically, and continues to accelerate at an unprecedented rate. The president and Congress now sign bills into law without even bothering to read them!

Along with the increasing momentum of government expansion, we’ve also seen a pronounced trend toward more and more socialist programs and policies. By that, I mean state control of production and distribution, and increasing regulation of industry and of individual rights. The “pendulum” may still swing to one side or the other, but the center point is moving, and it’s moving ever more rapidly. We are straying further and further from the principles on which our founding fathers established this nation. When government takes power away from the people to determine what’s in their best interests, that power does not swing back to the people, like a pendulum. The balance of power is permanently shifted from the people to the government, making it easier for government to usurp even more power in the future.

History informs us that the decline and fall of our nation will eventually come to pass. But history doesn’t tell us when or how. We are on a trajectory toward the termination of the greatest and most successful experiment in freedom the world has ever known. We could stand back and idly watch it slip away and, afterward, wonder where it went. Or we could wake up and start waking up our friends and neighbors, and impress upon them what is at stake.

In his farewell address on March 4, 1837, Andrew Jackson said:

But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government.

We, the people, may have it within our power to stave off the inevitable expiration of our nation by exchanging complacency for vigilance, and apathy for involvement. How long we can maintain it is unknown. But it rests with us to at least pass it on to the next generation. What happens after that is up to them.


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What Have Progressives Got Against Progress?

Liberals don’t want to be called liberal anymore. They prefer to be referred to as “progressive.”

Conservatives don’t mind being called conservative. In fact, most conservatives are proud to be conservative (and equally proud to be American). And why not? Starting with the vision of our founding fathers, the traditional conservative values of independence, individualism, and self-determination motivated the early settlers and pioneers and, later, the industrialists and entrepreneurs who built this country into the greatest and most powerful nation on earth.

But why are liberals suddenly ashamed of the word liberal? Why do they feel the need to redefine themselves as something else? And why have they chosen the singularly inappropriate term “progressive” to describe themselves? It almost seems as if they’re begging the question. After all, what is progress? Reviewing the history of civilization, progress has traditionally been marked by significant advances that made the cultures that developed them more efficient and productive, enabling them to prosper and to expand their territory and culture.

More advanced civilizations often used their technological sophistication to conquer less advanced civilizations and, historically, it was largely as a result of war that progress spread from culture to culture. The conquering armies have not always been the aggressors. It was Japan that attacked the U.S. in WWII. But Japan would not be the major economic power it is today if the U.S. had not defeated it, and rebuilt it as a modern industrial/technological nation.

There have been episodes in history when more advanced civilizations have been overrun by less advanced civilizations that were more focused on military progress. That’s one reason why a nation should never allow itself to become weak militarily, no matter how advanced it may be in other areas. Mr. Obama recently promised to “cut investments in unproven missile defense systems,” “slow our development of future combat systems,” and make “deep cuts in our nuclear arsenal.” Conservatives cringed, but liberals loved it.

All types of progress entail tradeoffs. As vast tracts of land are cultivated, the native species on those lands must either find new environments, adapt, or die. The extraction of raw materials from the earth causes disruption of habitats. The production of metals, plastics, paper, and the manufacture of goods all cause various forms of pollution. But without these trade-offs, civilization as we know it would not be possible.

Liberals don’t believe in trade-offs. They continually seek to enact regulations to curtail any kind of progress that impacts the environment. They want to sequester vast extents of land into national wilderness areas, preventing the extraction of natural resources like minerals, timber, or oil. They want to enact cap and trade regulations that will jack up the costs of the energy we require to live our daily lives, and which is also required to fuel all types of industrial and technological progress.

Progress is always a result of trial and error. Significant advances require significant investments in time, effort, and money, and entail enormous risks because there is no guarantee of success. Who has the kind of money to invest in making progress possible? Capitalists. Why would they be willing to take those enormous risks? Because there’s a possibility of an enormous payoff. They calculate the risk/benefit ratio and, only if the potential rewards significantly outweigh the risks, does it make sense to invest. Yet liberals don’t think anyone deserves such enormous rewards, and would tax their profits to the point where it’s no longer worth the risk to invest. Without capital investment, progress cannot occur.

Liberals like to point out that the income gap between rich and poor is getting greater all the time. But they ignore the fact that the standard of living of the poor gets greater all the time, too. The poorest people today have a higher standard of living than the vast majority of people had a hundred years ago. And the reason they do is all the industrial and technological advances made possible by capitalism. That is true progress. And it benefits the poor as well as the wealthy.

Despite what liberals believe, capitalism is not a zero sum game. When new industries evolve, new opportunities are created. The fact that some people get very rich doesn’t mean other people have to get poor. But those who don’t have the motivation to work hard, better themselves, and pursue opportunities, will always be poor. And the easier the government makes it to be poor, by subsidizing poverty, the more people will take the easy way out.

Liberal ideology is consistently opposed to progress. They continually demand regulations that stymie progress, and they want the government to take more money away from those who fuel the scientific, industrial, and technological advances that define progress. They believe that money should be redistributed to those who don’t contribute to progress, but are its beneficiaries.

Since liberals are so opposed to progress, why is it they want to be known as “progressives?”


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