American Libertarian Heritage
Would you like to live in a society of
peace, prosperity and freedom? Would you like to earn a lot more money than your
parents, be free to do whatever you want so long as it doesn’t harm others, and
see the threats of violence and war largely disappear? Would you like to live in
an age of artistic freedom and rapid scientific progress in which anything seems
possible? Such a world is not only possible – it is a part of our history. For
nearly fifty years, between the end of the
Civil War in 1865 and the beginning
of World War I in 1914, the United States was the freest, most prosperous
society on earth. Living standards rose nearly 5% a year. The average American’s
income was six times higher at the end of the period than at the beginning.
There was little restriction upon personal, economic and artistic freedom. There
was no income tax, no military draft, little government regulation of business,
and no prohibition of drugs. Independent schools and private charities made
education available for all, and helped those in need. And, except for the brief
Spanish-American War, the nation enjoyed the longest period without foreign wars
in our history. Nearly anything seemed possible. Illiterate immigrants who
started with a pushcart became millionaires through hard work.
standards are falling and violence has become epidemic
America of the 1990s
is far removed from the America of the 1890s, both in time and in spirit.
Today’s social landscape is one of deterioration, violence and mounting fear.
Violence has become epidemic. Murder is now the leading cause of death among
young black men. One in four college women report they were the victim of rape
or attempted rape. And nearly 25% of all American families are now victimized by
theft or vandalism every year. The threat of superpower warfare has declined.
But weapons of mass destruction – chemical, biological and nuclear – continue to
spread to the world’s most repressive regimes, many of which have been supported
by U.S. military and economic aid.
Liberty is required for any peaceful
& prosperous society
What has changed in America in the last 80 years?
Why has this nation changed from one of the most prosperous and progressive on
earth to one of increasing deterioration and violence? The cause does not lie in
the stars, but in ourselves. America is declining because we have largely
abandoned our libertarian heritage. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and
America’s other founders understood the values required for a free, peaceful and
prosperous society: individual liberty, economic freedom, and limited
government. Liberty means the freedom to control your own life, to work and play
as you choose, to keep what you earn, to practice the religion of your choice,
to speak freely, and to associate voluntarily with others. Liberty can flourish
only in an environment of tolerance, voluntary association, and mutual respect
for the lives and property of others. You can have liberty for yourself only if
you grant it freely to everyone else. The genius of America was that our
government was created as a protector of our fundamental human rights.
America\'s founders well understood that government\'s immense power can be used
to destroy as well as to protect; that when government uses force against its
own peaceful citizens, it becomes just another criminal gang. Our Constitution
and Bill of Rights were designed to protect us from government. Our libertarian
ideal, that government exists to protect our rights, was never fully realized.
Our legislatures, police and military have frequently crossed the line from
defenders of our liberty to violators of it. But the previously slow erosion of
our rights has recently become a raging torrent, and our heritage of liberty is
To restore prosperity, freedom and peace to America, we
must restore our libertarian heritage
We must return to the principles of
tolerance and respect for the rights of others. Activities that are crimes for
individuals – theft, assault, kidnapping, intimidation and murder – must be
crimes for government agents as well. The crushing burden of confiscatory taxes
and suffocating regulations must be lifted from our economy. As the revolutions
that swept Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union demonstrated, even authoritarian
governments require the consent of the governed. America can again be a land of
liberty and unlimited opportunity. This is what America once was and can be