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Op Ed: Freedom Matters, Freedom Works

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"Freedom."

It's a dream longed for by hundreds of millions around the world who know only tyranny and oppression. But in 21st Century America, despite all that freedom has done to make our country strong and resilient, it's an ideal that is too often taken for granted in a country where too many politicians and citizens are easily surrendering it.

Centuries ago, man's yearning for freedom was the driving force behind those first brave souls who set sail across the sea to reach a world they did not know but which promised freedom and the possibility of great prosperity. They faced harsh and difficult conditions. Sickness and disease claimed many as they crossed the ocean to reach these shores. They arrived lacking many of the comforts they may have known, in order to build a new life in a place that posed enormous risks, uncertainties, and opportunities.

Undaunted, they settled in places like Plymouth and Jamestown. They created and seized opportunities and made for themselves a new and better life.

But as the New World grew and prospered, so did the crown's appetite for power and wealth. A distant monarch controlled property rights. It established and maintained an almost iron-fisted rule of law. It imposed unfair taxes and tariffs.

The people grew angry and restless. Their yearning for freedom grew stronger. And so did the impact of political and economic philosophers such as John Locke, Adam Smith, and Thomas Paine, and leaders such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Mason.

They battled for their freedom in Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill and Valley Forge. In the end, the crown's professional soldiers were no match for a people determined to fight and die for the cause of liberty.

After our Founding Fathers defeated England and secured America's independence, they set off to build a more perfect union. The Founders envisioned a federal government constitutionally imited to defending our ight to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Founders feared a concentration of power and an intrusive national government. Their steadfast belief in freedom as a natural right was the basis of the compact that guaranteed a limited federal government, with checks and balances and powers divided among its branches and the states, and with a guarantee of rights and liberties retained by the people.

We were granted the right to live our lives as we saw fit and to create for ourselves, our families, and our loved ones the best life we could based only on our ability, hard work, and God-given talent. America flourished and created prosperity like no other nation in history. We created wealth, not from a top-down plan imposed by kings or czars, but rather by getting government out of the way and by letting freedom and capitalism prosper.

Americans have also met many challenges along the way. A civil war at home and wars abroad. The fight for equality. The right for all citizens to vote. Economic recession and depression. Challenge after challenge was met. And America grew stronger and more prosperous.

Leading 20th century political and economic thinkers such as F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand understood all that freedom and free markets had accomplished, and they recognized the threats posed to individuals and economies by socialism, communism, and other forms of governmental intrusions into freedom around the globe. Their works rekindled the commitment to the very ideals that helped make America free and strong.

Today, even in an age of great challenge and change, our nation is the envy of the world. We are a people who, when faced with adversity, unite and work together to succeed. But there are those who have lost sight of who we are and how we got here.

In our recent history, the role of government has grown as in no other period in our history. Today, with the Obama Administration and Congress already taking an even more activist role in the economy and our society than the previous Administration, the preservation of freedom must remain the key principle that the American people should demand from any policy initiative o political action.

We must reaffirm our commitment to America's values: protection of our freedoms; the right to make choices without government interference; and the ability to plan one's own path.

It is our duty to protect our way of life and to pass it on to our children and grandchildren.

Our generation's charge, therefore, must be to renew America's commitment to freedom and a limited government; to do so in a way that safeguards both the nation's security and individual rights; and, to forge a new era of economic growth and prosperity based on free-market principles.

In today's political and economic climate, this is no easy task. Over the past several years, big-government conservatives, moderates, and liberals have banded together in the name of economic and physical security to enact and interpret numerous laws and regulations that have chilled our freedom, threatened our civil liberties and civil rights, and decimated free markets.

In short order, this alliance of strange bedfellows enacted countless examples of the deliberate confiscation and surrender of freedom: the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which was the biggest new entitlement program since Lyndon Johnson's Great Society; No Child Left Behind, which was the largest expansion of the federal government into education since Jimmy Carter; the nationalization of the financial sector; the ceding of civil liberties through an overly intrusive PATRIOT Act; the bloated Farm Bill; so-called campaign finance reform, which was the biggest restriction of the most protected kind of free speech -- political speech -- in a generation; the explosion of the federal debt and deficit; the Kelo decision concerning eminent domain, which undermined the Fifth Amendment, the freedom of contract, and private property rights; Sarbanes-Oxley, which was a massive over-regulation of Wall Street; and many more.

For as much freedom as we have ceded in the last year, we must remember that both parties are guilty. Remember, it was the Bush Administration that started the first bailouts of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the financial sector with the Toxic Asset Relief Program (TARP). And it was the Bush Administration that enacted the first auto bailouts.

But now, under President Obama's direction, we face even greater threats to our freedom: a nearly trillion-dollar economic "stimulus" plan that expands Washington politicians and bureaucrats into virtually every aspect of our economy; the Democrats' proposed nationalization of health care; higher taxes; unprecedented new regulations, restrictions and oversight of private industries; and massive giveaways to labor unions, to name a few.

President Obama, the majority of Congress, and millions of Americans are all too willing to turn their backs on our way of life and surrender the basic tenets of freedom and free markets because of the challenges and uncertainties of our times.

While most people distrust Washington, in an ironic twist, some believe Washington possesses the knowledge, capability, and, more astoundingly, the responsibility to cure all that ails us. This is wrong and is contrary to all that those who've gone before us fought for.

While that should be predictable and expected among those who inherently believe in an activist federal government, it is frustrating that so many others -- particularly some conservatives who should believe in a limited federal government that respects the rights guaranteed to individuals and states in the Constitution -- in previous years clamored for more federal intervention in our economy and in our daily lives.

This must change. It must be a renewed commitment to conservatism that leads the charge against this growing and disturbing tide. We are in a battle of ideas to determine the future direction of our country. We cannot repeal the laws of economics. There are no short-term fixes without longer-term consequences.

What makes a conservative a conservative is a steadfast commitment to less taxing, less spending, less government, and more freedom. Freedom and free markets, not an expanding and more powerful government, are the solution to today's problems.

As Ronald Reagan said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."

Today in America, we find ourselves again at the crossroads of history, at a time of great challenge and change. But the timeless lessons of all who have come before us must ring loud and strong. I remain very hopeful for our future.

America's next generation will attain even greater success than its previous generations if we reaffirm our commitment to what the Founding Fathers understood: that this nation will succeed because the spirit of freedom is powerful, strong, and winning.

So let us not step backward. Let us not abandon the principles that inspired our Founding Fathers and that millions of Americans since have fought to protect. The principles we fight for are timeless. And, let us remember that people came to America for a better life filled with hope and opportunity.

By standing together, tomorrow in America our children and grandchildren will be free. They will be secure. They will be prosperous. And our nation will be stronger than ever.


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