“When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue.”
“When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.”
We are looking at four things we can do to address the growing discontent and division in our nation:
- Rediscovery of Truth.
- Reformation of the Christian community.
- Redirection of the human spirit.
- Recommitment to the structures of freedom.
Today we consider #4: Recommitment to the structures of freedom
America was founded on timeless principles that the founders understood to be given by God. The Declaration of Independence declares: “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 …”
The intent of the great American Experiment was to forge a society built on the freedom and dignity of the individual. The founders believed that as human beings created by God, people have a right to live freely and pursue that which motivates them not because a king or a government says so, but because these are natural rights given by the Creator.
In order to build this society, the founders established rules of cooperation that had been developed through generations of human experience and collective reasoning. They focused on timeless principles and standards that promoted the betterment of both the individual and community. These rules of cooperation were described as “ordered liberty.” They were also described as “the social contract,” or “the civil society.”
In the civil society, the individual is recognized as more than an abstract statistic or faceless member of some group; rather, they are a unique, spiritual being with a soul and a conscience. They are free to discover their own potential and pursue their own legitimate interests. Those interests are tempered, however, by a moral order that has its foundation in the Creator and which guides all human life through the wise exercise of judgment.
For this reason, the individual in the civil society strives, although imperfectly, to be virtuous—that is, ethical, responsible, and hard-working. They reject the relativism that blurs the distinctions between good and bad, right and wrong, and seek to live and work in alignment with the principles and laws of the civic society.
The combination of ordered liberty and responsible citizenship are the heartbeat of American culture, and both are necessary for our society to work. Stop and think about that. American society was designed to operate on the basis of two pillars: ordered liberty and responsible citizens. If either of those two pillars breaks down, so does American society.
We have much to be thankful for in our country, but we are drifting from the timeless principles established by the founders. For American society to move forward successfully into the future, we must renew our commitment to the “rules of cooperation” laid out in the Constitution. We must remember the Creator. We must get much better at developing responsible citizens, and we must return to the ordered liberty of limited government guided by timeless truth.
We must once again embrace the personal habits and cultural conditions that gave birth to our nation.
In the civil society, the individual has a duty to respect the unalienable rights of others. The individual also has a responsibility to respect the values, customs, and traditions, tried and tested over time and passed from one generation to the next, that establish society’s cultural identity. Citizens are responsible for taking ownership of their own well-being and that of their family, and they have a duty to contribute to the welfare of the community.
In the civil society, the rule of law provides the governing framework for and restraints on the political system, thereby both empowering the civil society and serving as a check against the abuse of power by the government.
The founders understood that the greatest threat to liberty is an all-powerful central government, where the few dictate to the many. They also knew that “the rule of the mob” would lead to anarchy and, in the end, despotism. Once again, they recognized the need for virtuous citizens + ordered liberty. To put it another way, a civil society requires people of character + a limited government based on timeless principles.
For much of American history, the balance between governmental authority and individual liberty was understood and accepted. Federal power was confined to that which was specifically enumerated in the Constitution. That power was limited further by being distributed among three federal branches—the legislative, executive, and judicial. Beyond that, the power remained with the states and ultimately the people.
Sadly, the federal government has become a massive, inefficient, out-of-control bureaucracy: It is the nation’s largest creditor, debtor, lender, employer, consumer, contractor, grantor, property owner, tenant, insurer, health-care provider, and pension guarantor.
As the federal government continues to grow in size and operate beyond the boundaries laid out in the Constitution, it continues to erode the liberty of the individual and move ever closer to socialism and further away from the liberty of a constitutional republic.
Wisdom calls us to return to the structures of freedom established by the founders. Wisdom calls us to support and vote for politicians who will radically reduce the size and limit the power of government, and who will operate within a budget surplus to reduce the national debt.
And that means resisting the temptation to vote for politicians who promise federal programs and entitlements that do for you what you should do for yourself.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14.34)