Why indeed? The purposeof contemporary American
education, if any, is now tocompel the explicit rejectionof “the universality of such values as individual
liberty” and to enshrine the
belief that “[t]here are no
barbarians, only different
forms of civilized man”(again quoting Solway).
And once more quoting Bloom: “Relativism is…the only virtue…which all
primary education for more
than 50 years has dedicated
itself to inculcating.”
This is what I mean by educational blather, and its growing
dominance heightens my concern that the American
experiment, the great dream that government could bedesigned from “reection and choice” to serve peoplerather than to subjugate them, is unlikely to prevail.
Words Emptied of Meaning
Whatever remains of our founding orthodoxy, it isquickly losing force. The statists have misappropriated the
language of liberty to cement their ill-gotten gains. They
speak of rights and freedom, but their words ring hollow.One of the surest signs of civilizational collapse is thatpolitical words have increasingly lost their meaning. This dates back at least to PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt, with his 1941
speech on the Four Freedoms: freedom
of speech, freedom of worship, freedomfrom want, and freedom from fear. Whilethe rst two are representative of the traditional, negativerights protected by the Bill of Rights—guarantees againstgovernment interference in the exercise of personallibertys—the last two break the mold. With “freedom from want” and “freedom from fear,”FDR signaled a shift from negative rights to positive rights —a claim on the necessities of life at public expense. Thatradical inversion sounded the death knell for Americancivilization.For as the Framers well understood, freedom is not—andcan never be—an ever- expanding litany of rights andentitlements. Where the state has supplanted the Creatoras the endower of rights, men appeal not to the heavensto right their wrongs, but to other men—men clothed inimmense worldly power. And if experience teaches usanything, it’s that no government can grow the rights andprivileges of one group without curbing those of another
What Jefferson and Coolidge Knew
However good the intentions of political elites may be,the government that bills itself a curative for the accident
of birth has condemned the liberty of its people to an
early death. As Thomas Jefferson explained, “Government
can do something
the people only in proportion as itcan do something
We have not heeded his warning.President Calvin Coolidge gave a brilliant defense of this
earlier notion of liberty in his 1926 speech marking the
150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.He lamented that most of those who clamor for reformare sincere but not well informed, for they fail to recognizethe nality of the Declaration’s self-evident truths:
If all men are created equal, that is nal. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is nal. If governments derivetheir just power from the consent of the governed, that isnal. No advance, no progress can be made beyond thesepropositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth and theirsoundness, the only direction in which he can proceedhistorically is not forward, but backward.
Yet in less than a decade after Coolidgeuttered these stirring words, they seemed forgotten. Franklin Rooseveltbegan the reign of political government,
substituting the expertise of social planners and technocrats
for the will of the people, inventing preference politics andfostering the growth of the administrative welfare state.
It’s Up to You and Me
How did this happen? Who was it that failed to ghtfor freedom? It would be easy to blame the courts, andthere’s some merit to that. Impatient with amending theConstitution, do-gooders have taken to the judiciary to
rubber-stamp their social engineering instead.
Centennial Review, August - September 2013 ▪ 2
The Creator,not the state,endows our rights.
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is published monthly by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University. The authors’ views are not necessarilythose of CCU. Designer, Bethany Applegate. Illustrator, Benjamin Hummel. Subscriptions free upon request. Write to: Centennial Institute,8787 W. Alameda Ave., Lakewood, CO 80226. Call 800.44.FAITH. Or visit us online at www.CentennialCCU.org.
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Calvin Coolidge, 1872-1933