| Throughout history, people have
permitted their government officials to regulate and control their peaceful
activities. The age-old idea is that government “owns” its citizens and,
therefore, has the power to manage their behavior.
The American Revolution in 1776 overthrew that bankrupt notion. For the first time in history, a citizenry openly proclaimed that their lives, their liberties, and their properties were rights endowed in them by the Creator, not by government. Government officials, the American people said, were simply servants whose job was to protect, not regulate or destroy, these God-given rights.
The result was the most unusual society in history. Throughout most of the period from 1787 to the 1900s, there was no income taxation, welfare, Social Security, public schooling, war on poverty, or war on drugs. And except for certain tariffs that were unfortunately imposed, people were free to travel and trade anywhere in the United States and in the world without the interference of U.S. government officials. With the tragic exception of American slaves, the American people were the freest people in history.
And the result? The result was the most economically prosperous nation in the history of man. And the healthiest. And the most literate. And the most charitable.
And all this occurred despite the fact that thousands of penniless immigrants, many of whom could not speak English, were flooding American shores every day—escaping the lands of government control to come to the land of freedom. Americans had let the word go forth all over the world: “If you can escape the political dungeons or the economic misery in your own countries, there is a place you can come.”
Unfortunately, twentieth-century Americans have abandoned the principles of freedom of their ancestors. They have restored government as the sovereign power over their lives. The U.S. today has the same governmental controls and interventions as those in all other nations: income taxation, welfare, Social Security, economic regulations, public schooling, trade restrictions, and immigration controls. The results have been: reduced standards of living, increased dependency on governmental largess, and high rates of illiteracy. And, of course, the Statue of Liberty now stands as a cruel mockery to people who are suffering and dying all over the world and who have no place to go.
Individuals have the God-given right to live their lives the way they choose, so long as they do not inflict violence or fraud on others. They have the right to enter into mutually beneficial exchanges with others anywhere in the world. They have the right to keep the fruits of their earnings. They have the right to dispose of their money the way they want. They have the right to travel and move without political restriction. It is the duty of government to protect, not regulate or destroy, these inherent, fundamental rights.
It is time to repeal, not reform, America’s welfare-state, regulated-economy way of life. It is time to repeal all trade restrictions and immigration controls. It is time to recapture the principles and spirit of liberty on which our nation was founded. Our peace and well-being depend on it.
—Jacob G. Hornberger
Founder and President
The Future of Freedom Foundation