Scylla and Charybdis

“The average age of the world’s civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations progressed through this sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith.
From spiritual faith to great courage.
From courage to liberty.
From liberty to abundance.
From abundance to selfishness.
From selfishness to complacency.
From complacency to apathy.
From apathy to dependency.
From dependency back into bondage.
Our United States is now over two hundred years old. This cycle is not inevitable.”
— Author Unknown

Our Founders well understood the inherent paradox in the relationship between liberty and order. They knew from a careful study of history and profound understanding of human nature that only a system of limited government could preserve the blessings of liberty within a framework of order, without which liberty cannot exist. Liberty without order results in anarchy and order without liberty results in tyranny.

Ironically, the single-minded pursuit of either of these two ideals often leads to the establishment of the very evil the espousers of liberty without order or order without freedom sought to avoid.

The old Soviet Union perhaps best typifies the extreme of tyranny. The Communists formed a totalitarian government that destroyed liberty and regulated literally every aspect of people’s lives. But the desire for liberty is so strong that the people sought to escape the oppressive, omnipresent State by taking refuge in alcoholic stupor or circumventing the system through the black market. Curiously, the Communist authorities were remarkably tolerant when it came to prosecuting alcoholism or the black market. Perhaps they instinctively realized that these activities served a valuable safety valve function.

Meanwhile, during the 1960s, hippies, sexual revolutionaries, anarchists, nihilists and others on the Left pursued their illusory ideal of freedom from responsibilities, which is the metaphysical equivalent of a squared circle. Conservatives and other grown-ups intuitively understand that freedom to choose necessarily includes the responsibility to accept the consequences of one’s actions. They are inextricably bound like two sides of the same coin. But the 60’s radical libertine crowd wanted the “freedom” to do whatever they pleased, but without the “hassles” of any corresponding responsibilities. As John Milton wrote: “License they mean when they cry liberty, for who loves that must first be wise and good.”

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the chimera of order that existed under the suffocating totalitarian system imploded; the result was not freedom, but anarchy. When the 60’s generation’s vision of unlimited freedom without responsibility was refuted by reality, the Leftists turned to an expansive, intrusive federal government to impose their vision of utopia on the rest of us, by stealth if possible, by force if necessary. The proponents of “free love” seamlessly morphed into what Pope Benedict accurately describes as the dictatorship of relativism.

As George Orwell once wrote: “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”  We must continue to preach the ideals on which our country was founded: limited government to ensure individual liberty within an ordered framework, with separation of powers and federalism as guarantors of individual freedom and safeguards against tyranny.

We must continue to restate these obvious truths because the alternatives will literally destroy us.

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
— Ronald Reagan

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