But most Americans don’t realize that the founders did not have an unwavering belief in the longevity of our constitutional republic. Thomas Jefferson for one was not confident that it would last more than one generation.
When asked by a citizen after the signing of the Constitution what form of government the founders had instituted, Ben Franklin replied, ”a republic...if you can keep it.”
Why did these great men see our constitutional republic as so fragile? Well, it was in part because it had never been tried before, but they also understood all too well that self-government based on liberty will disintegrate and ultimately turn to tyranny when liberty turns to license. When a society decides that freedom means nothing more than the right to do or demand anything we want at any time. When freedom is based strictly on an ever-expanding body of rights untethered from responsibility. When people vote into office those who will make everyone pay for an ever-expanding universe of entitlements. This creates exactly the type of large, powerful, distant and unaccountable government against which we fought a revolution.
Franklin is reported to have said “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”
John Adams said “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.” What he meant was, absent a sense of individual responsibility, the foundation of freedom crumbles.
Our national debt is almost 16 trillion dollars. More than half of our federal budget is entitlement programs that are frighteningly unsustainable and will be stretched even thinner as the baby boom generation comes of age. Few politicians are willing to even restructure these programs.
The Occupy movement is a symbol of the growing number of Americans who believe they are entitled to everything from a job to a generous wage to guaranteed and expansive health care. And the ultimate entitlement...getting other people to pay for all of it.
We can see right now in Europe the results of the ever-expanding welfare state. Economies tumbling like dominoes amid half-hearted attempts to reduce government spending that have largely been rejected. In France, simply raising retirement age by two years led to violent protests, and the people French have now voted for a return to socialism.
Will America choose to be different? At its heart, liberty means independence.
Will America choose liberty, or will a majority choose instead to vote themselves money?
The answer to this question will determine if we will be a free or dependent people.