You Have the Power – Are You Ready?
We live at a unique time in American history. Donald Trump in his inaugural address said, “We are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the American people.” Speaker Paul Ryan says, “We want to reset the balance of power, so that people and the Constitution are rightfully restored.” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy adds, “We’ll continue to overturn excessive… regulations and return power to the people.” CPAC is dedicating its huge annual meeting to “We the People: Reclaiming America’s Promise.”
The emerging consensus among national leaders that we as responsible citizens should be in charge of our country is unique in my lifetime. It leads, however, to the critical question: are we as individuals ready and willing to rise to that challenge?
The American founders laid out our founding principles in the Declaration of Independence. It states that we have certain unalienable rights, that to secure these rights men have instituted governments, which derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. In other words, the sole responsibility of government is to protect the rights of its citizens, and as citizens we must give our consent to its actions for them to be legitimate. It has been by our inaction that we have consented to the erosion of our freedom.
Now, however, with a new call to give power back to the people, it is time for each of us to act. Many people find a distant federal government difficult to influence, but each of us can be a guardian for liberty in our local communities – attending town meetings, scrutinizing budgets to be sure tax dollars are spent correctly, looking at regulations and proposals to see if they impede our freedom, and letting our neighbors and friends know what we find. Working together in our towns, counties, and states, we as an army of engaged citizens can restore our freedoms and our ability to pursue our own happiness.
Our freedom is continually eroded in seemingly ordinary ways, even by our local governments. For example, I recently received a letter from my small town requiring me to make an appointment for the assessor to make a routine inspection in my home, to ensure my property tax was properly adjusted. I reminded them of the Bill of Rights and its protection against searches of our “persons, houses, papers, and effects” without a search warrant from a judge, issued only with probably cause to suspect a crime. A little push-back from one citizen was all it took for the town to back down from an egregious affront to our liberty.
Informed citizens are taking similar action on behalf of freedom every day, but we need more such guardians all across America. The Vernon K. Krieble Foundation’s citizenship project, the “Lens of Liberty,” lays out the core meaning of citizenship, its responsibilities, and how to engage with our government. It explains how to look at every issue, proposal, or debate “through the Lens of Liberty.” Citizens should always ask whether a new idea – at any level of government – makes us more free, or less free. That’s why we have created freedom kits with several important tools to show responsible citizens how to do that. The kits are available at no cost at www.LensofLiberty.org.
It is heartening to hear national leaders recognize the importance of restoring our Constitutional framework, designed to ensure sovereign power remains with the people, not the government. Senators like Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Cory Gardner and others have campaigned successfully vowing to return power to the people. But voting, and electing new leaders, is only the first step. They can only give power to citizens who are ready to accept it, and exercise it responsibly to protect freedom.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich explains, “We loan power to the state, government does not loan it to the people.” But we cannot simply loan that power to the government, and then look away. Keeping a close watch is the central duty of citizenship.
From the beginning, Jefferson predicted the greatest threat to our experiment in self-government. He warned in 1821 that “When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will… become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”
That is why we the people must act. Responsible citizenship is the essential ingredient of freedom, because freedom does not start in the White House – it starts in your house.