Even as President Barack Obama reminds the world in the wake of the massive ISIS attacks in Paris that America, under his “leadership,” has little interest in leading on anything other than “climate change” rhetoric, the Unites States continues to lose ground to other nations in terms of the freedom it affords its own citizens.
According to the Human Freedom Index, a report issued by the Cato Institute’s Ian Vasquez and the Visio Institut, and which measures the level of personal and economic freedom in countries around the world, the country that once held high the torch of freedom in the world, now ranks 20th; behind countries such as Hong Kong, Canada, the U.K., Germany, Mauritius, and 14 others.
The easy answer for this sobering reality check is to blame inept leaders like Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid. However, these individuals are but a symptom of a far more fundamental problem that has deeply eroded the foundation of our nation.
Over the last several years, we have undergone a debilitating transition from leadership guided by principled ideas and understanding, to a parade of politicos who respond to the calamity of the day (be it ISIS, mass shootings, or corporate corruption) with reactive policies designed to stoke the fires of fear most effectively and quickly. In this environment, with each shriek of “doom” followed by a “quick fix” to “save the people,” America becomes a little less free. Having realized that leading by fear, not principle, is a formula for gaining media coverage and fundraising dollars, political opportunists salivate at the next chance to look “presidential.”
Consider for a moment the current presidential campaign being waged by Donald Trump. Despite religious freedom being one of the principles on which the United States was founded, Trump’s reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris is to call for the closing of U.S. mosques. Trump’s fellow neophyte presidential candidate Ben Carson, seemingly unaware of the dangerous precedent of using bureaucrats as speech police, has suggested using the Department of Education to “monitor” political bias on college campuses. Meanwhile, Jeb Bush trumpets his desire to go back in time and kill “Baby Hitler.”
Democrats are not in any better shape. Their nominee-in-waiting, Hillary Clinton, is a crony corporatist whose sense of civil and personal liberties is guided by whatever position is polling best that day. The Democrat’s back up, Bernie Sanders, is an avowed socialist wailing constantly for “free” everything, and idiotically fixated on “climate change” as the most dire and immediate threat facing the country.
Depth of leadership at the top is hardly an environment in which freedom can survive for long; and indeed it isn’t, as the Freedom Index chronicles. As Americans, we tend to take for granted what is necessary to preserve freedom; for one thing, in our short history as a nation we have never experienced the true brutality of monarchies, dictatorships, juntas, or other forms of rule that fill the vacuum when Liberty disappears. We forget that for Liberty to survive, it takes more than a physical defense of the country; it requires a philosophical understanding and defense of the Constitution, in order to defeat enemies who use words and ideas rather than bombs and bullets to achieve their aims.
Without leaders who genuinely understand the foundation of American freedom, and who can truly defend not just the effectiveness of individual and economic freedom, but the morality of this freedom, we are as defenseless as a country without an army. After all, how can our leaders protect our constitutional freedoms if they do not understand why we have a written Constitution in the first place, or why sacrificing some these freedoms for our “safety” undermines them all?
Unfortunately, this is exactly what will continue to happen if we choose to elect leaders like our current president, whose comprehension of freedom is nothing more than a sound bite or message on a campaign poster.
Upon exiting the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Ben Franklin reportedly was asked whether the Founding Fathers had built a monarchy, or a Republic as the governing structure for our new nation. “A Republic, if you can keep it,” Franklin replied. When looking ahead to the 2016 elections, perhaps the real question we should ask ourselves is not if we can keep the Republic, but if we still possess the will and the understanding to do so.