I recently adopted a dog, a young beagle mix, who I named Liberty. Why did I choose that name? Because liberty is a word and a concept that I have only recently come to understand and I wanted to name her in honor of something I hold dear. I also wanted to be constantly reminded of the true meaning of the word. I always thought liberty and freedom had the same meaning but I have learned that freedom is liberty only when personal responsibility and morality are added; in fact, freedom alone can be quite destructive.
For my entire adult life – up until just two years ago – I was woefully ignorant about politics, current events, and even American history. I started my journey of self-education by reading the Constitution (for the first time since 8th grade Civics class) and went on to read biographies of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. Next I’ll be reading “1776” by historian David McCullough. I began paying attention to the news and listening to and reading political/current events analysts and I gained a whole new appreciation for the freedoms we all take for granted in this country.
I used to think of myself as “liberal” but that word, as it is currently used, is no longer one with which I can identify. I have discovered that many of my beliefs align with Libertarianism, which is actually very close to the definition of classical liberalism. I try very hard to be true to myself and still respect the right of others to have a different opinion – sometimes I just have to agree to disagree. I have a “live and let live” attitude about most things. The title of Matt Kibbe’s new book “Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff” is actually the very simple and basic underlying philosophy of Libertarianism. Here are his “Rules for Liberty”:
1. don’t hurt people
2. don’t take people’s stuff
3. take responsibility
4. work for it
5. mind your own business
6. fight the power
Whether you call yourself liberal, conservative, libertarian, or a combination of all these things, I’m sure you can recognize the common sense behind these rules but he hasn’t invented anything new – in much simpler terms this is the same thing our Constitution tells us. Too bad so many of our politicians in both parties, who all take an oath to uphold the Constitution, have drifted so far from its guiding principles, especially in the last 20-30 years.
Last week I went to a five-hour Constitutional workshop titled “The Roots of Liberty” presented by KrisAnne Hall, attorney, disabled veteran, Russian linguist, and patriot. Trust me, anyone or anything that can hold my interest for five hours has to be pretty good! She presented the 700+ year history that gave us our founding documents and drew parallels between the relevance of those documents and today’s headlines. She calls it “connecting the dots”. She defined liberty as freedom plus morality and that is when a light went on for me.
Our republic was created by men who believed in God and were students of history but, you don’t have to believe in God to recognize that the morality inherent in their religious beliefs is the underpinning of our founding documents and our foundational laws. The founders believed that our rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are natural rights given to us by God, not by government (always remember that whatever the government gives you it can also take away), and the founding documents were created to protect them. Freedom is powerful – it requires morality and personal responsibility to be of real value. That is true liberty.