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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.

Living 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 being obliterated.

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 again.