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Liberty Lost in America

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with four non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.

Declaration of Independence

"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."

These words, from The Declaration of Independence of The United States of America, are the foundation of our nation. They do not declare that our rights come from the government, as many today seem to believe. They declare that God, the Creator of our Universe, endows us with these rights. And that the government, by our consent, is to ensure these rights are inviolable—particularly, that our individual Liberty is not violated by the Government itself.

Signing of the Declaration of Independence

Signing of the Declaration of Independence

What is Liberty?

Liberty is the state of being a person within society free from restrictions upon one's way of life imposed by authority. Liberty is the right to act according to one's own will. Liberty differs, however, from licentiousness or libertinism.

Liberty has been severely eroded in America in the past 100 years. It has happened so gradually that, like the proverbial frog in the pot, many may not have noticed.

Liberty has been diminished by the terrible increase in the power of the Federal Government. This has myriad causes and crucial moments but the four key players in this tragedy, in the public eye at least, have been the Supreme Court; Woodrow Wilson; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; and Lyndon Baines Johnson.

But there is a power underlying this institution and these men. And this power seeks to control everything we do, the words we speak, and even what we think—except for the freedom of licentiousness or libertinism; this is the bone they throw the dogs to placate them.

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

Government Constrains Liberty

In the 19th Century, an American could safely ignore the Government and decide for himself on virtually all matters of behavior. Consider, for a simple example, that throughout human history, if a man was hungry, he would go to a lake, river or stream, cast his line, catch a fish, and eat. About 100 years ago, this simple affair became subject to a license from the government.

This sounds rather non-intrusive but it meant that a man was no longer as free as he once was. At the same time, building codes began to spring up, taking away the freedom of a man to build a dwelling as he saw fit. It was not many decades after this, that a lack of housing for the poor came to the forefront. After all, many of the poor could not afford to build shelter for themselves that met the building code.

About ten years after building codes came to be, zoning laws were created, meaning, that no longer was man free to build his home or have a little business wherever he wanted. These laws eventually drove up the cost of real estate—beyond the means of the poor—because governing zones of land use, naturally reduces the amount of available land for various activities, making it scarcer and as with anything else, scarcity is a determinate of price. Surely the day would come when the government would have to provide housing—giving it thus the power to decide whom could live where; a loss of Liberty.

Signing of the Constitution of the United States of America

Signing of the Constitution of the United States of America

Federal Income Tax

The Federal Income Tax was made law in 1913. Since it was unconstitutional to confiscate part of a person's earnings, the 16th Amendment was passed in order that the government might seize a portion of each person's productive labor. This was a great loss of Liberty. Until this time, each person kept 100% of whatever they earned.

There are only two paths to the acquisition of wealth: the production of goods and services that are voluntarily exchanged for the goods and services produced by others (the Free Market); And the seizure of another man's fruits of production by force.

A predatory state may then inflict burdens upon some citizens; while granting subsidies and privileges to others. This results in a loss of Liberty for both classes of citizens—though obviously more so for the tax producer, because this man has the results of his labor confiscated against his will. But also the tax consumer must forfeit some of his Liberty to "qualify" for the largess.

Obviously, this loss of Liberty can only be accomplished if the citizenry can be persuaded that this confiscation is not only benign but beneficial. This persuasion has been the prime function of the 'Progressive' intelligentsia in America for the past 100 years.



The New Deal

The New Deal of the 1930s really got the ball rolling. The Federal Government seized control over many aspects of the lives of the citizens, including the national economy, the supply of money, agricultural production, and the prices of goods. The government assumed the ultimate power to restrict the Liberty of some groups for the benefit of others.

Now, a lot of these programs were said to be temporary but in reality: Liberties surrendered are rarely reclaimed, except by force. For the first time, for example, the Federal Government took control of farming and—of all things—the Arts.

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One must understand that most losses of Liberty happen in small steps. During the 1930s the Government began to tell farmers what to plant, how much of it to plant, and what they could sell it for. And paid some farmers not to plant anything at all. In 2007, farmers were paid $1.3B not to grow food.

This may sound normal to some postmodern people, but the fact is, human beings have been farming since time immemorial with the Liberty to grow whatever food they wanted to grow; and sell it to whomever they wanted, whenever they wanted, for whatever price both sides decided was a fair exchange.

Under FDR, the Arts were funded by the Government for the first time. Now, this may look, on its surface, to be a good thing, but the fact is this: money was confiscated from some people; and given to others to produce art that, those people whose funds were confiscated, may not have wanted produced.

This is a loss of Liberty to choose what Art you exchange the fruits of your labor for. And who chooses what Art is worth the taxpayer's money and what Art is not? Even the consumer of Art has lost Liberty; the Liberty to pay for the Art one wants to pay for and none other. I made my living as a professional musician for 20 years and I never got a government grant for my Art.