Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Immutable Relationship Between Freedom & Accountability

Principle #6: Free Republics are Maintained Upon Principles of Righteousness

It is an immutable truth that individual freedom is unsustainable without personal accountability, and there is no freedom without individual freedom. These are natural laws, as sure as a scientific law, which means that it is an absolute truth not dependent upon whether people believe in it. All mankind is subject to the effects of this law. If we don't want to suffer the painful consequences of ignoring this law we must revive within our society a true understanding of the twin principles of freedom and accountability. The civil society and our individual liberties hang upon it.

Freedom Defined

Let's start with a correct definition of freedom. To restore a correct understanding of this principle it is necessary to expose the progressive redefinition of freedom, which has been deliberate in order to tear down the principles upon which our nation was built. This pernicious agenda seeks to "reorder" society by turning principles upside down. At the American founding there was a shared understanding of the individual freedoms that they sought to protect. The expression of it was written in the words:

"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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

For more than two hundred years, these guiding words have inspired Americans to work and die to protect these ideals of freedom. At the center was individual freedom under the law. The timeless truth of freedom for ALL wasn't universally expressed in the nations infancy, but the ideal was boldly proclaimed. The ideas enshrined in the founding words of the Declaration of Independence would put a divine principle at the founding of a new nation. It would take many years for the national body to mature and live up to this divine ideal, but the immutable divine in these words would make for sure foundation. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, both slave holders, wrote and expressed their hope that these ideals would germinate and bear fruit in a new American liberty. They looked forward to the day when equality under the law would be realized by ALL.

*For those women who are reading this and may be saying that the declaration declares these rights for "men" only. Let me help you to understand the context of the words of these documents. The bible language, which was the language of the time of our founders, used the word men interchangeably to refer to all the human race. Look at the words: MAN -- huMAN -- woMAN. Man could refer to men specifically or to all "MAN-kind," which included all members of the huMAN race. While the embedded traditions of the world in which the United States of America were born, considered married men and women as one unit, and therefore the vote of a man as encompassing the will of his household, they did not mean by these words that women were not endowed with inalienable rights.

*For those who are not white and read these words and feel that they were not intended to include anyone but white men in their pronouncements of truth. Here's the thing about truth. It is true no matter the failings of those who articulate it. I believe, as Martin Luther King Jr. believed, that these words were inspired by God and that they were given as ideals for which the nation would reach. They are words that transcend the times in which they were spoken. They are eternal absolute truth and they extend to all who created in the image of God. To tare them down because of the failings of their authors or the times in which they were written is to deny the ideals as a great force for good in the world and as immutable truths upon which a better world might rest secure.

Abraham Lincoln, the great emancipator, would leaned upon these words heavily in order to expound truth to those of his day. He called upon these divine ideas when he said:

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." -- "With malice toward none, with charity for all... let us strive to finish the work we are in... to do all which may to achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace." -- Lincoln felt the truth of the words of the Declaration of Independence were an expression of Christian religious precepts that taught that God was not a "respecter of persons," that all men were "created in the image of God," and that all men (meaning humans) were commanded by God to eat after the labor of their own hands and by "the sweat of their own brow." For these reason it was part of Lincoln's religion, and an expression of natural law and national precept, that slavery was a great abomination against the true law giver. He pointed out that the abolition of slavery and the restitution of the civil rights of all men (humans) was an issue that embraced "more that the fate of these United States," he said, it was a question of concern "to the whole family of man." He said, "We cannot escape history... in giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free... We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last, best hope of the earth."

The transcendent principles that Lincoln so eloquently articulated and so bravely laid down his life for are true, and will ever be true. Lincoln understood that freedom was expressed in the exercise of natural rights, he understood the principles upon which natural rights are maintained. In order for us to "assure freedom to the free" we must also dedicate ourselves to those principles of individual liberty and natural rights that are enshrined in our founding and protected by our Constitution.

What are inalienable rights?

Freedom, as an immutable truth, has attendant to it inalienable rights, but they are negative rights not positive rights. The Bill of Rights were amendments to the Constitution to make clear some of our natural inalienable rights of which Lincoln spoke. The rights are not granted to us by the Constitution but are derived from natural law and are legally binding within the Constitution. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and all rights attendant to them are among our natural rights and are examples of negative rights. 

Negative rights are best explained as rights "to be free to do, be, think, and say but not to act upon or impinge on anyone else’s right to do, be, think, or say." Essentially, natural rights are a broad construct of the principle to "live and let live." All 10 rights in the of Bill of Rights are negative rights, except, maybe, the Sixth and Seventh Amendment which are positive rights which entitle a person to a jury if you’re put on trial for violating the negative rights of other people. The 10th Amendment being the most important statement of negative rights because it clarifies that powers are delegated to government by those who hold them, the people, and that rights are not granted to the people by the dispensation of government. This was in keeping with the national principles that inalienable rights rest upon individuals endowed to them by their creator, or nature as some founders liked to call it. Thus in the 10th amendment, "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Freedom therefore is a solid construct of natural rights held by each and every individual in nature and they are secured by governments only when they legitimately exercise powers rightfully delegated to them from the people. The only legitimate purpose for government power is to secure these rights to individuals.

Far too many American's today do not understand the true precepts of freedom because the definition has undergone a progressive change in our political discourse and in law. Freedom has been reordered into a construct of positive rights; such as you have a right to a job, a house, and healthcare. These positive rights that are often mistook for freedom and are further twisted through progressive ideas of social justice which destroy the idea of individual equality under the law. Freedom was thus recast for modernity in the progressive era. Progressive "reformers" sought to pattern the world after ideas that were being deliberated in the intellectual studies of socialism and communism. Positive rights got legs in America under FDR's new deal politics in which he sold the idea of a more "fair" America in a second bill of rights.

The progressive construct of freedom is at odds with natural law. Progressives act as if freedom is a derivative of governments given to individuals or or taken from individuals by government edict so far as the government judges it appropriate in securing general safety, happiness, or equality of outcomes. The words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have been misconstrued by progressives and twisted into a declaration of positive rights and an unlimited ever changing legal construct for the general welfare and communicable good.

Constitutional Construct of Freedom = Individually expressed in equality under the law

The Progressive Construct of Freedom = Collective expression in a pursuit of equality of outcomes

In the progressive construct of freedom there is no individual accountability because there is no individual freedom. Individuals are not naturally free to act for themselves because the consequences of their actions are felt collectively. An easy example of how this plays out is socialized medicine. When the government, and thus that collective tax dollars, are used to cover the healthcare cost of all citizens no individual citizen is free to do things that might cause them to have negative health outcomes because when they do so the collective suffers the consequences, not the individual. This is why you see progressive states wanting to pass laws restricting what people eat, they believe it is a legitimate use of government force to restrict foods that are perceived to be unhealthy such as salt. How did this previously individual act become a public concern? Easy, if you define freedom the way progressives do there is practically no individual liberty that cannot be taken away by the state because society has taken upon itself the consequences of individual action by way of social policy.

Accountability Defined

This brings us to the twin precept, accountability. Some people are more familiar with the term responsibility, but the principle is better expressed in the word accountable. Being accountable for your actions is standing liable. Liable denotes being responsible for your actions regardless of whether or not you accept responsibility. Accountability is a state of being that is unalienable to those who are free to act for themselves. When you are free to act and your choices are good, the consequences are for your profit and progress. Our founders described this in the inalienable right of "the pursuit of happiness." Embodied in this idea is that you are free to enjoy the fruits of your own labors. On the reverse, if your choices are bad, then you stand individually accountable to the unpleasant consequence that follow.

Freedom and accountability are two sides of the same coin. In order to eliminate accountability, to throw off the consequences of your action onto some other person or entity, you unavoidably cast off the entire coin together, and your freedom is inevitably lost. Only people who are free to act can be held individually accountable and those who wish to be free must also be willing to stand individually accountable for the choices you make.

One of the natural proofs that this principles is consistently true is that it remains true whether it is applied to an individual person, a community, or a nation. Let's look at this principle in a collective way for a minute. If a state, for example, manages itself poorly and then seeks to have other states pay the consequences for it's folly, can the state reasonably expect that the other states in the union will continue to allow it to operate independently? Why should the states who took on the consequences not demand oversight of their future governance? We see in this example that independence, whether individual or as local bodies, is only retained under principles of direct accountability. The immutable connection between freedom and accountability are absolute truths that governs the physical world and understanding and practicing them will be the difference between liberty and happiness or captivity and misery.

There are many well meaning Americans who believe that individual freedom and accountability is harsh and lacks appropriate compassion or mercy. Our Christian sensibilities for compassion and mercy often get muddled as we try to use the levers of government to interject these qualities into what seems to be an unfair harshness of individual accountability. This misunderstanding stems from our confusion about the laws that govern the spiritual world. 

In a spiritual sense there is an example in which the accountability or consequence for an individual's action is passed off to another person or entity while retaining freedom for that individual. That example is the Atonement of the Son of God for the sins of all mankind. And the freedom that is derived from this merciful and supernatural exchange is spiritual life. However, there is a similarity between this supernatural relationship with divinity and the laws that govern our physical world. It is imperative that Christians have a correct spiritual understanding so they don't project these principles incorrectly onto the governments of men.

Here's how the spiritual principle works:

In order to be absolve from the consequences of one’s actions through the application of the Atoning Grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we must turn over our hearts and will to him, to his ways, to his laws, and to his plan. In essence, we give up our own will that we might be absolved from the consequences of our sins. This is a willing surrender of personal freedom to the Lord in order to enter into a covenant relationship with him by which his power sets us free and his will substitutes our own. This is why to some non-believers observe that a devout follower of Christ have lost their freedom to their faith. What they miss is that this trade sets us free because of the grace and perfection of our King.

As a youth I often was confronted with this paradox. When my peers were freely behaving as they chose; going to riotous parties, getting drunk, sleeping around, showing no moral restraint, and having a good time doing it. White they were having fun, I was following the precepts of my faith and practicing self restraint. I did not drink or do drugs, I practiced careful rules of dating and sexual purity, I went to church every week, paid my tithing, dressed modestly, didn’t use fowl language, and overall practiced temperance in my behavior and reverence toward God and others. To many of my peers my behavior seemed restrictive and boring, but I felt happy.

On many occasions when my peers questioned me about why I didn’t do this or that, they would ask, “Why my religion didn’t allow me to be free?” The answer was simple. I was free. I had chosen to set aside those things that were contrary to the laws and commandments of God (as I was taught) and so far as I was tempted to do those things, I had to make a deliberate and dedicated choice to submit my personal will to the will of my Savior. It wasn’t always easy. I wasn’t a saint, I wasn’t perfect in keeping the Lord’s standards, and I was tempted.

For a short period in my teenage years I gave into those Temptations. The self-discipline of obedience to moral precept began to feel like a burden. Mainly, because my friends appeared to be having so much fun, and I began to think that I was missing out. The messages of "freedom from restraint" that I had so often heard from my peers began to sound liberating. I began to think that if I threw off my self-imposed moral restraints I would feel free and I would have more fun, which for a kid sounds like being more happy, and so I experimented. What I experienced as a result taught me some very important foundational principles about freedom and accountability, about happiness, and about God and the conditions of our mortal life.

In other words I learned about absolute truth... the kind you can't escape no matter how hard you try.

My experiment was short-lived. It was astonishing how quickly I realized that my peers were making choices that had profoundly destructive consequences attached to them. The fun they appeared to be having was a fa├žade, and these new “friends” I was making we’re not my friends at all. Though my friends would tell me they were happy I could tell that they were suffering because I had a more tangible happiness to compare it to. The experiment ended in personal tragedy for me but thankfully I have a loving Father in Heaven who made a way for me to escape most of the consequences of my choices and to return to his safety. I say most and not all, because there are conditions of our current state of existence that God will not remove, consequences that we must bear. What I learned was far more valuable and so I have settled myself with the price I paid to learn it.

I learned that when we exercise our freedom to choose in opposition to the principles of the eternal law giver we fling ourselves into a misery of our own making. I learned that freedom is only truly expressive in our lives if we make correct choices and is only sustainable when we are accountable for the consequences of our choices. I learned that pleasure and fun are not the same as happiness, and that the pursuit of happiness requires self denial, restraint, and obedience to absolute truths. I learned that the mercy of the divine power of our Savior saves us from the spiritual consequences of our folly and sin, and that we are empowered to change direction because of His power. Finally, I learned that God mercifully allows us to bear earthly consequences for our choices that our learning might not fade before our roots in truth are well established.

How do these personal truths help us to understand the relationship between freedom (the freedom to choose) and accountability (the acceptance of personal consequences)? 

Our founders stated in the Declaration of Independence that one of those inalienable God given rights was "the pursuit of happiness." In our modern day people in general understand happiness in a very different construct then people did at the American founding. My personal experience demonstrates that clearly. Many today believe that they should be able to realize happiness while making iniquitous choices. They believe that temporary pleasures derived easily through the pursuits of self gratification are the pursuit of happiness, and yet as they go about seeking "for happiness in doing iniquity," the happiness they desire alludes them. The simple reason for this is that it "is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head." (Helaman 13:38, Book of Mormon)

Many of the American founders taught this principle as it relates to both freedom and happiness. They understood that the principles of freedom and accountability are inseparable in the pursuit of happiness and for the sustainment of perpetual liberty. They taught that God is the author of free government, natural rights are bestowed by God, legitimate governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed, government is instituted for the purpose of securing to the individual their natural rights, the interests of the majority and the rights of the minority are protected when government acts within its legitimate charter, and finally and most importantly they understood that free governments are maintained upon principles of righteousness.

It is on that final and foundational idea that freedom and accountability are upheld. Only when a person is free to enjoy the fruits of their good works or suffer the miseries of their foolishness are they able to learn and progress along a sustainable path toward personal happiness. National cohesion and peace are an outgrowth of that individual pursuit of true and lasting happiness. If it seems that our Constitution is incapable of governing our nation at this point in our history it is a direct result of a people who no longer understand and no longer live correct principles.

The way that these truths have been redefined in a "new national religion" of moral relativism is threatening the very existence of our nation and the individual God given rights that it was constituted to protect.

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." (Message from John Adams to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, John Adams, October 11, 1798)

There are concrete reasons why our founders taught that, that reason is simply that wickedness never was happiness! Now we have the modern secular "religion" that is still seeking a messiah, a savior to remove the misery of their personal folly by proxy, but the Savior they imagine capable of making this trade is not interested in their liberation. They look to the state for their redemption and feel entitled to some type of state proscribed benevolence that will free them from their personal suffering. It is very dangerous to make a Messiah of the state. A government should never become the arbiter of atonement in the consequential affairs of its citizens. It is a profoundly arrogant supposition that the government should, or legitimately can, step into the place of divine power and absolve the individual of consequences for their actions. It is not compassionate or fair. Not only will it fail, the consequences will be compounded for the individual and society at large. Only God is wise enough to take away just enough consequences to enable progress but not too many consequences to stifle it. Until we have God like wisdom and capacities we should not attempt to practice godlike atonement and absolution.

The modern view of freedom and accountability is no longer individual and it is no longer understood as an interaction with the divine. Too few Americans today understand their relation to God, to each other, and the proper role of government. For this reason our national life seems upside down and our Constitution seems unable to govern our people. We are trying to turn our governments in our Messiah and expecting it to be Godlike even in it's application of mercy and charity. Government is way outside it's legitimate charter and capacity, and under these expectations will most certainly become our slave master rather than our savior.

These are the reasons why our founders were so concerned that children be "properly instructed in the principles of freedom," (John Adams) because “the philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” (Abraham Lincoln) At the foundation of a correct understanding of the principles of freedom is an acceptance that natural rights are individual and inalienable and that attendant to the exercise of those rights are consequences for which we are each accountable. If you are not religious consider what George Washington said about the inseparable qualities of moral precept and perpetual freedom of individuals and nations:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man ought to respect and to cherish them.” (Washington’s Farewell Address, 1792)

We must once again renew an understanding of the principles of freedom so that we might retain our rights and pursue our individual paths to happiness. This begins with a more correct education of our children.

Let me leave you with this description of the objects of primary education from Thomas Jefferson:

"THE OBJECTS OF PRIMARY EDUCATION are to give to every citizen THE INFORMATION HE NEEDS FOR THE TRANSACTION OF HIS OWN BUSINESS; To enable him to calculate for himself, and TO EXPRESS AND PRESERVE HIS IDEAS, his contracts and accounts, in writing; TO IMPROVE BY READING, HIS MORALS and faculties; TO UNDERSTAND HIS DUTIES TO HIS NEIGHBORS AND COUNTRY, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either; TO KNOW HIS RIGHTS; to exercise with order and justice those he retains; TO CHOOSE WITH DISCRETION the fiduciary of THOSE HE DELEGATES; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor and judgment; And, in general, TO OBSERVE WITH INTELLIGENCE AND FAITHFULNESS ALL THE SOCIAL RELATIONS UNDER WHICH HE SHALL BE PLACED. TO INSTRUCT the mass of OUR CITIZENS IN these, THEIR RIGHTS, INTERESTS AND DUTIES, as men and citizens, being then the objects of education in the primary schools, whether private or public, [AND FINALLYIN THEM SHOULD BE TAUGHT READING, WRITING, AND ARITHMETIC... the elements of mensuration...and THE OUTLINES OF GEOGRAPHY AND HISTORY.” ~ Thomas Jefferson (August 4, 1818)

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