WHY AMERICANS WON'T CHOOSE FREEDOM
By JACOB G. HORNBERGER
All across the land there is an unusual stirring among the
American populace. The American people are sensing that
something is severely wrong in our nation. They see the ever-
increasing taxation, regulation, bureaucracies, and police
intrusions. And they are gradually discovering that, despite
their right to vote, they have no effective control over any
Yet, despite this unease on the eve of America's third century
of existence, the American people refuse to choose the only
possible solution to America's woes: freedom--freedom through
the constitutional elimination of the welfare state/planned
economy way of life.
Why this refusal to choose freedom? One answer lies in the
fact that many Americans do not even realize that they are
unfree. Having served the required twelve-year sentence in
public schools, most Americans believe that income taxation,
subsidies, welfare, protectionism, minimum-wage laws, and all
of the other aspects of the welfare state/planned economy way
of life constitute freedom.
But what about those who have discovered the truth? Are there
not many of these who still will not choose freedom?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Although recognizing the
basic immorality of the welfare state/planned economy way of
life, many freedom devotees have chosen to devote their
efforts to reforming it rather than eliminating it. Why? Why
do they insist on defending a way of life which they concede
is immoral as well as a deprivation of the freedom which they
value so highly? Let us examine some of the reasons why these
individuals who know better won't choose freedom.
One reason is the tremendous fear which most Americans have of
their own government. The agency of government which Americans
fear most, of course, is the Internal Revenue Service, the
tax-collecting arm of the United States government. A mere
letter of inquiry from the IRS is enough to cause Americans to
go into a cold sweat. Not that this fear is unjustified. Every
American knows that the agents of the IRS have virtually
unlimited power to extract, from the pockets of the citizenry,
what they consider to be the "rightful" amount owed to the
political authorities. As Professor Ebeling, FFF's vice-
president of academic affairs, once put it on a radio talk
show in which we were jointly participating, "If you want to
know the ways and means of the IRS, simply study the
operations of the KGB."
But the IRS is not the only agency which inspires great fear
in the American citizenry. I have a friend who is the
executive vice-president of a major American bank. He told me
that most bank presidents, although considered by others (and
themselves) to be "high-powered" individuals, will quiver and
quake like an autumn leaf when confronted by a banking
regulator. In fact, the mere mention of an impending visit by
banking regulators will send most bankers into the same
fearful frenzy experienced by an elementary school student who
is being sent to the principal's office.
Why? What is it that causes a grown-up to have such a
paralyzing fear of another grown-up? What causes American
adults to cower like little children in the face of a
The answer lies in the strong and powerful government, in both
domestic and foreign affairs, which Americans of this century
have brought into existence. For a strong government will
almost always result in a weak citizenry. And a weak and
terrified citizenry can rarely be relied upon to resist
tyranny by their own government. Instead, they will spend
their time "flexing their muscles" vicariously through the
"toughness" shown by their government, usually in foreign
A second reason: Too many freedom devotees have lost hope that
freedom can actually be achieved. And so, having convinced
themselves that slavery in America is inevitable, they devote
their efforts to "working within the system" rather than to
replacing the system with freedom.
A good example of this involves those church officials who
have dedicated themselves to getting prayer into public
schools. Few people will deny the tremendous accomplishment of
the Founding Fathers when they separated church and state
through the First Amendment. They realized that religious
zealots with political power are among the most dangerous
forces to which a society can ever be exposed. And so, the
Founding Fathers fought for and achieved a way of life in
which the majority could not impose, through the coercive
power of government, religious doctrines on the rest of the
But, as every American knows, it is an entirely different
situation with secular education. Here, as in the olden days
with religion, children are required to be sent to
governmentally approved institutions to learn governmentally
approved doctrines with religious doctrine, by virtue of the
First Amendment, being the only exception.
What is the reaction of many church leaders to religion being
excepted from the teachings in public schools? Having accepted
the legitimacy or inevitability of state involvement in the
field of education, they wish to empower the state authorities
to teach religious doctrine, in addition to secular doctrine,
to the nation's youth. In other words, instead of trying to
place education on the same level as religion . . . instead of
fighting for freedom of education as our Founding Fathers
fought for freedom of religion . . . instead of calling for a
separation of school and state as our American ancestors did
with church and state . . . instead of rendering to God both
religion and education . . . present-day ministers of God,
having "thrown in the towel" with respect to educational
liberty, now wish to render to Caesar not only education but,
through prayer in government schools, religion as well.
A third reason why many freedom devotees won't choose freedom:
they continue to operate under the delusion that the welfare
state/planned economy can be made to work. In fact, an
examination of much of the literature that emanates from
various American freedom think-tanks is absorbed with
correcting the "waste, fraud, and abuse" of the system rather
than replacing the system itself with freedom. Their solution
is always the same: "The system needs reform."
An example is found in the November 2, 1990, issue of The
Backgrounder, a newsletter of The Heritage Foundation, a
renowned, conservative think-tank based in Washington, D.C.
Referring to the budget crisis last fall, Scott A. Hodge, a
member of The Heritage staff, writes, "Members of Congress did
not have the courage to cut one dollar of waste, pork, fraud,
or unnecessary spending from the fiscal 1991 budget." Mr.
Hodge follows up with, "There is no need for Congress to
dismantle the `social safety net'. . ."
Mr. Hodge's argument, then, is that the welfare state--
socialism--not only should be kept intact but also that it is
capable of being made to operate efficiently. The utopian
dream is that if we just elect "better" people to public
office . . . if politicians will just do the "right" thing
. . . if people will just give up the "waste" which they have
been receiving, it is possible to reform and refine the system
so that all of us can live happily ever after in socialist
This illusion--this pipe-dream--that holds so many freedom
devotees in its grip is one of the major obstacles to the
achievement of freedom. But unfortunately, not only in
America. In the Soviet Union, the attitude is exactly the
same. If the politicians and bureaucrats will only do the
"right" thing, the Soviet officials argue, the socialist
system can be kept intact and made to work "correctly."
Another reason that freedom devotees are inhibited from
choosing freedom: They believe that by doing so, they will not
have intellectual "respectability" among their fellow
Americans. Although privately acknowledging the fundamental
evil and immorality of the welfare state/planned economy way
of life, they believe that calling for its elimination is too
"extreme." Therefore, they maintain their "respectability" (or
so they think) by advocating the continuation of the evil and
immorality and, even more shameful, by wrapping their
arguments in freedom rhetoric.
It is not difficult, then, to see the stark contrast between
the American Founding Fathers and our present-day freedom
devotees. Our ancestors refused to permit the terrible,
psychological destructiveness of fear to control their
actions. Faced with one of the most powerful monarchs in
history, and his equally powerful regulatory and tax-
collecting minions, they nevertheless chose to pledge their
lives, fortunes, and sacred honor in the defense of freedom--
even though it meant fighting their own government and their
fellow British citizens. Devoted to principle, rather than
expediency, they had no desire to reform the mercantilist
economic system of their own government; recognizing the evil
and immorality of such a system, they strived to eliminate it.
And knowing that the pursuit of right was more important than
popular acceptance, they stood their ground for the whole
world to see!
It is that spirit of liberty which moved our American
ancestors that is so desperately needed in our time. And when
it finally grips the hearts and minds of the American people,
which I am certain it will, freedom at last will be chosen.
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of
Freedom Foundation, P.O. Box 9752, Denver, CO 80209.
From the March 1991 issue of FREEDOM DAILY,
Copyright (c) 1991, The Future of Freedom Foundation,
PO Box 9752, Denver, Colorado 80209, 303-777-3588.
Permission granted to reprint; please give appropriate credit
and send one copy of reprinted material to the Foundation.