“How absurd men are! They never use the liberties they have, they demand those they do not have.” So mused Soren Kierkegard, a famous philosopher of the 19th century, and his observation stands true today.
You can see this thinking everywhere in our country today. People agitate for the ‘liberty’ to marry whomever they wish. They demand the ‘right’ to the bathroom of their choice. They lobby for the ‘freedom’ to use mind-altering drugs.
Don’t think that only the left is agitating for greater ‘freedom.’ Conservatives push for greater gun rights, farm rights, and the right to work. Personally, I am glad to see them do this, and I believe it is wonderful. What is absurd is how many do so while neglecting to vote.
Aiming for Liberty
The founders of the American republic were committed to liberty. Many refused to sign the Constitution if a bill of rights was not added. They drafted the Declaration of Independence as a statement that proclaimed to the world: England disrespects our liberty. Patrick Henry summed up the conflict when he proclaimed, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Without any doubt, the founders were committed to liberty.
A Path to Liberty
If the founders were committed to liberty, how did they intend to preserve it? You might say, “they wrote the Constitution, including a Bill of Rights.” True, but the Constitution is always under attack. Many politicians love to encroach on the liberty of the people, and more than a few sinister plans have been devised to unravel the Constitution.
You might argue that the founders preserved liberty through a separation of powers. That may have been the goal, but power is always being consolidated. Look at the government today – the Supreme Court takes the role of the legislative branch (creating laws). The president takes the role of the legislative branch (executive action and unauthorized military involvement). Separation of powers is a wonderful thing, but it is also under attack.
Still, the question remains: how did the founders intend to preserve liberty? While the structure of the government is important, their basic strategy was simple: involve the citizens. The founders of America believed that liberty would always prosper when the ordinary citizens took an active role. Thomas Jefferson noted that, “[It is] by their votes the people exercise their sovereignty.” They were convinced that the ordinary citizen will always have more interest in day-to-day liberty than the out-of-touch politician.
Voting or Liberty: Which Comes First?
The current government wants you to believe that ‘the right to vote’ is the ultimate and final form of freedom that any nation could experience. When corrupt governments are overthrown, elections are immediately scheduled. It is as if the democratic process is the end goal of liberty. Never mind that the nation still lies in misery; never mind that there is no freedom of speech, religion, or the press. The people voted, and that is most important, right?
Of course not. The founders of America were most interested in liberty, not democratic principles. They fought for liberty, not the right to vote. Voting was not the end goal, but only the first step in the strategy to preserve liberty.
At risk of being cliché, the old Chinese proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The founders intended to go a thousand miles, and arrive at liberty. Voting is the single step that everyone must take to begin the journey.
Voting alone will not guarantee the success of liberty. It is part of the strategy, and it is an important part, but it is not sufficient. Don’t sit back after you’ve voted. Do more! But don’t think that you can do more if you have not taken this single, essential step.
To refer to the beginning quote, I am not at all against calling for greater freedom. America, despite her wonderful heritage, has curtailed freedoms. We no longer have the freedom to keep and bear arms, as the founders imagined. We no longer have the freedom to do what we wish with our own possessions, according to multiple laws and rulings of our government (think: income tax, imminent domain, etc.). We no longer have the freedom to choose our own healthcare (or lack of it). We no longer have the freedom to worship God in some public places (or at least, we are told that we don’t). Let’s push for more freedom in all these areas. But let’s not do so neglecting our first and fundamental freedom: the freedom to vote.