('76 Contributor) The impermanence of political systems and political glory has never been better portrayed than in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s sonnet, “Ozymandias.” It depicts a toppled, broken statue in the desert, on whose base some long-forgotten tyrant had inscribed his title as “king of kings” and boasted: “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.”
What the poet dramatized in 14 ironic lines, the writer of Ecclesiastes had earlier captured in a single word: vanity. Fidelity in our trust and firmness in our stewardship are never in vain, however. Keeping faith is its own reward and breaking faith its own dishonor, regardless of the outcome.
I believe this is no less true in our civic lives as Americans than in our personal lives as individuals – and if you agree, you will enjoy as much as I did a small book from a couple of years ago called Responsibility Reborn: A Citizen’s Guide to the Next American Century. Its author is a freedom fighter and a friend of mine of some 25 years—John K. Andrews, the founder of the Independence Institute, a former Colorado state senator, and presently the director of the Centennial Institute on the campus of Colorado Christian University in Denver.
Will the United States of America last forever? Of course not. No one who has studied history and human nature could think otherwise. But is our constitutional republic with its core of character and its relatively free, wondrously productive economy worth preserving and protecting, reforming and renewing for as long we possibly can, in order that “the blessings of liberty” may be secured to our posterity for a few generations more, God willing? Of course again. Indeed so.
This daunting task of keeping the republic (in Benjamin Franklin’s phrase), and combating the cultural entropy that brought down Ozymandias and undid mighty empires from Rome to the present day, is what Andrews explores in Responsibility Reborn.
His book resonated with me because of its congruence with a lot of thinking I have done about the importance of individual character and civic virtue in sustaining a free society. Much of it squares with my longtime concern that the very forces which led to the fall of ancient Rome are at work in America now. The erosion of character led to the rise of the Roman welfare/warfare state (and its eventual collapse) and we ignore that lesson at our peril.
Andrews cites the warnings of historians that the life span of great nations tends to be about 200 to 250 years, which he says grimly will put the United States as we approach our 237th birthday “right in the kill zone, unless you and I act to change things.” He frames the book around a look backward to the U. S. bicentennial in 1976, when elite opinion was already saying the country’s best days were behind us, and a look ahead to our next centennial in 2076 when John’s grandson Ian would be a grandfather himself.
The simple but compelling argument of Responsibility Reborn is that personal responsibility, “doing the right thing by choice,” is the one factor most decisive in America’s success story for centuries past, America’s comeback from being written off in the 1970s, and America’s prospects for reaching another centennial against the odds, freer and more prosperous, stronger and more vital than ever at age 300.
It’s a truism that personal responsibility is the flip side of individual liberty. They are inseparable, and the practice of each is indispensable to the enjoyment of the other, not only in the life of any man or woman but also in our life together as social beings. But think about how the freedom side of the coin, often perverted as entitlement or ease, dominates today’s political discourse and cultural climate.
Responsibility and self-discipline are too often disparaged these days, replaced by claims on others and excuses for one’s own poor judgments. John Andrews identifies what he calls “the paradox of success,” whereby the qualities of rigor, dedication, and deferred gratification that make achievement possible are weakened if that achievement is taken for granted or if we lose our character in the process.
In another author’s hands this message, worthy as it is, could blur into platitudes and preachments on the personal level or grand theorizing on the historical and political level. Andrews never lets this happen because he offers, in the middle section of the book, an unsparing “responsibility report card” on pivotal episodes in his own life, from the public protest resignation he made as a Nixon speechwriter during Watergate to the painful divorce from Donna, his college sweetheart, that he blames himself for. (They later remarried and remain so today.)
Responsibility Reborn derives its title from Andrews’ contention that America’s recovery of self-confidence, purpose, and constitutional conscience (imperfect as the latter was and remains) from 1980 onward – after the worsening statism from Theodore Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter and the shattered morale of the ‘70s – resulted not so much from a resurgent political conservatism as from a broader-based and in some ways bipartisan cultural realization that responsibility is the price of freedom after all. (Personally, though I’m optimistic for the long run, I wonder if the recovery Andrews speaks of hasn’t been nipped in the bud.)
Writing his book soon after Barack Obama swept into office with a compliant Democratic Congress and set about his project of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” Andrews ruefully admitted the lessons he hoped we had learned for good a generation ago have already faded and must be learned anew if there is to be a next American century.
How slow that process will necessarily be, and how deeply moral – not merely political – it must be to mean anything, was plain to many of us long before the 2012 election. Andrews foresaw as much by setting forth, in his concluding chapter on what must be done, a responsibility agenda measured in decades. He argues for civil society solutions, for a personal commitment (not a government-mandated one) to strengthening families and culture through such underappreciated things as character, learning, self-improvement and private charity.
I look around America these days and I see mounting wreckage from the abandonment of policies and practices rooted in the verities of personal character, responsibility in particular. Our government spends the next generation’s earnings for present graft and gratifications. Its welfare/warfare state tramples on cherished liberties as it extends its reach into not just every corner of the lives of Americans but also into the lives of millions of others in dozens of countries. John may not agree with me on everything (I admit to being a radical noninterventionist at home and abroad), but there is no doubt in my mind that the world would be an infinitely better place if his advice were heeded.
Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. This article first appeared on the FEE website, Oct. 20, 2012.
Editor: Peg Brady of Centennial, Colorado, a tireless grassroots worker for constitutional government and conservative reform, is first to file again this year, as she was in 2010, with a comprehensive journal of key points and memorable moments from the 19 hours of programming at Western Conservative Summit 2011. If a comparison with James Madison's meticulous and indispensable journal of the 1787 Philadelphia Convention would be too lofty, still we must salute Brady as the Madison of this year's Summit - always with pen in hand when others' attention or stamina may have flagged, faithfully recording all of it to the benefit of everyone else who did - or perhaps even more, who did not - attend the memorable weekend at Marriott Denver City Center.
BRADY'S SUMMIT DIARY
Friday, 29 July John Andrews and Bill ArmstrongTo stirring cheers, WCS co-director and Centennial Institute director John Andrews welcomed us and promised an avalanche of information and inspiration. As CCU president and WCS co-chairman, Bill Armstrong affirmed our shared dedication to our beloved nation’s great future. This year’s Summit upholds as its theme “Fulfilling America’s Promise” through restoring Conservative principles.Rick Santorum and Rick PerryAs joint keynote speakers, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry conveyed their thoughts about “America at the Crossroads.” We all recognize that a vast divide separates our Conservative economic and political perspective and principles from the Left’s viewpoint. The success of our principles is needed to safeguard America’s future, and thus that of all people who cherish freedom. Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum averred that we must all do our part to ensure that success. It will not be pundits and politicos who determine America’s future but energized, dedicated people. The Left’s goal is total government power controlling every possible aspect of our lives. Obamacare is a prime example: more than an economic threat, it undermines our private health choices and insinuates bureaucratic control into every business decision. Obama’s “czars” are not officials elected by the people to govern; rather, they are political cronies with little or no experience in the fields over which they rule.Mr. Santorum defined our Constitution as America’s “operating manual,” our Declaration of Independence as our “heart.” Rights do not come from the government; government’s only role is clearly delimited in our Constitution. The “happiness” our Declaration of Independence proclaims is not self-indulgence; rather, true happiness derives from doing what is right and freely accepting responsibility for our choices. He cited Abraham Lincoln’s straightforward directive, “We do not have the right to do wrong.”Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, emphasized the criticality of a flourishing free-market economy as the bulwark of freedom. In Texas style, he enjoined Americans to “corral the federal government.” While intruding into every corner of our lives, the government nonetheless fails in its responsibility for defending our borders. Government bureaucrats declaim policies without regard for science and aimed at increasing government control, not ensuring our well-being. The Left is “addicted to spending.” He cited four essential Conservative paths, encouraging investment and economic growth:• Spend only what is needed for genuine Constitutional functions• Keep taxes as low as possible• Enact only regulations that are logical, necessary and predictable• Reform the judicial system to forestall frivolous lawsuitsSaturday, 30 July Tucker Carlson Mr, Carlson, editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller political website, addressed “What Americans Want from the President and Congress.” His brief answer – far more than we get. The Left-dominated federal government does not deliver what we expect of them, their Constitutional obligations. Instead their actions target goals that are “unintelligble” to us. Nor is the Left solely responsible for the madness tearing at America’s fabric; party politics weakens the impact of those whom we elected to uphold Conservative principles. We mandated that they reduce spending and limit government, but their promises to do so have scarcely flowered. The Tea Party’s great boon has been holding politicians accountable to Conservative economic constraints. Especially deleterious is the media’s role in undermining American backbone. “The media is even more Liberal than you think,” he warned. Endlessly promoting pleasure-seeking and irresponsible disregard for consequences, the media encourages people to demand ever more government handouts and “rights” without regard for cost. Media promote the notion that government largesse is free. Approximately fifty percent of American residents pay no federal taxes, ever worsened by illegal immigration.Foster Friess Successful businessman and inspiring Conservative activist, Foster Friess explored possibilities for “Replacing Obamacare after Its Repeal.” First, he explained, it is necessary to recognize that Obamacare is about power, not about health care. It seeks to drive most Americans into dependence on government welfare and subject to government control. The Left repeats this pattern in climate, energy, immigration, and every arena in which it can stir or exacerbate a “crisis.” Instilling fear and guilt are the Left’s prelude for promoting government intervention. To promote readership/audience, the media intensifies the Left-induced emotional tension.Rather than Obamacare, Americans would be better served by personal and/or employer’s health-savings accounts. Further, founded on his own clear business judgment, Mr. Friess detailed Conservative constraints for sensible legislation:• Base decisions on reliable information sources• Prioritize to pay down the debt and cut spending• Promote self-determination and responsibilityFrank Gaffney President of the Center for Security Policy, Frank Gaffney fully comprehends the threat that Sharia poses for overriding our Constitutional rights. In his topic “Our Choice: Sharia or the Constitution,” he described Sharia as totalitarian. A well-known example is Sharia’s utter disregard for women. Moreover, Sharia promotes overthrow, by violence or by stealth, of all governments founded on personal freedom. Becoming common in Europe are “Sharia-Controlled Zone” signs, delimiting areas within which Sharia, rather than the nation’s political and justice systems, rule. Dedicated to implementing Sharia worldwide is the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood. Its self-proclaimed goal: “eliminating and destroying Western Civilization” by any means. An effective tool of Muslim Brotherhood leaders is inducing citizens to adopt “tolerance” and then to enact Sharia-based legislation. One of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Sharia-implementing sub-organizations is the Islamic Free Market Institute, a disguise for persistent and penetrating attacks on capitalism. Countering these seditious assaults is the American Laws for American Courts movement. Mr. Gaffney summarized the threat: “Sharia is completely antithetical to Constitutional freedom.” He urges Conservatives to repeat President Reagan’s defeat of Communism, directing our 21st century efforts to eradicating the Muslim Brotherhood and all of its destructive offshoots. And he averred that Obama embraces the Muslim Brotherhood.John Bolton Ambassador Bolton, a highly respected scholar of geopolitics and fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, explained what “Defending America in a Dangerous World” requires. “Security is being independent,” including freedom from economic dominance. But our current president “has no interest” in defending America. Although bin Laden has been silenced, the threat of rogue nations and terrorist cults has not diminished. Especially dangerous, international organizations have taken upon themselves the power to demand American compliance with policies that undermine America’s economic and personal freedom. The UN Security Council has declared itself “the sole source of legitimacy.” International decisions in such areas as climate, small arms and defense override our Constitution, and our current government subjugates us to these ruinous policies. Theodore Roosevelt believed that we must make the world “safe for ourselves.” But Liberals demand massive cuts in defense funding, and our current president is reducing our missile defense sites and helping Putin re-establish Russian hegemony. Our treasured ally Israel is especially threatened, as are Japan and South Korea, by Obama’s weak-to-nonexistent foreign policy. It is not strength but weakness invites violence.It was Alexander de Tocqueville who first proclaimed that America is “exceptional.” Belief in American exceptionalism is not arrogance. It is love of our great nation, President Reagan’s “shining city on the hill.” John Andrews At the 2010 Summit, participants thronged to sign the Lone Tree Declaration, proclaiming Conservative values and America’s greatness as freedom’s beacon. This year’s Summit appends further clauses to that shining message of America’s promise.Juan Williams National Public Radio fired its political analyst Juan Williams for stating his concern about airline safety after 9/11. He described the experience, especially his dismay that he was denied any opportunity for discussion or rebuttal. “Political debate need not be polarizing. Rather it should be the pursuit of truth.” Instead, now disagreement incurs belittling ridicule and marginalization. Special interests attempt to intimidate those who do not adhere to their dicta. A sad example is the abusive attacks on Bill Cosby for advising young blacks to adopt self-determination and responsibility. While avowing their dedication to diversity, the media exacerbate tensions by exaggerating extremes; controversy sells news. But balance and bridges offer the best likelihood of sound decisions for America’s future.Dennis Prager Honoring President Reagan’s centennial year, author, radio host, columnist, professor and symphony conductor Dennis Prager reminded us of “Lessons from Reagan for the New Century.” Liberals crave self-esteem, hence they promote the nannyist doctrine that self-esteem and equality trump achievement or even effort. But nannyism erodes true self-esteem by destroying dignity and motivation. “The bigger the state, the smaller the citizen” because the less they do for themselves; less achievement thwarts self-esteem. Moreover, rewarding non-achievement undermines others’ motivation and ultimately threatens America’s entire self-reliant value system. Welfare corrupts family life and individual freedom as well, further weakening our values. So ingrained has the nannyist interpretation of equality become that the UN ranked Cuba and the US equal in health care – not on the quality of health care but merely on whether health care was equally available to all. Cuba’s appalling health care is indeed equally available to all and hence ranked with our excellent health service.Left-wing intrusion into people’s lives deepens daily. A newspaper’s choice of the 10 best composers omitted Haydn because the list already included too many Austrians. In San Francisco it is illegal to sell soft drinks, in Maryland receiving a high school diploma depends on demonstrating familiarity with environmental dogma, and California schoolbooks expound gays’ and lesbians’ contribution to American history. “Truth is not a Left-wing value.” As Reagan rightly averred, “Government is not the solution. It is the problem.”Arthur Brooks Professor, author and french-hornist Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, compared ”Free Enterprise vs. Big Government.” The budget and debt debates in Washington are the newest manifestation of the 70-year slide into statism, steadily eroding our freedom. Government spending lowers economic opportunity, and burdensome taxation can only bleed the economy. Obama’s so-called “balanced” solution, requiring tax increases, worsens the economic damage that his policies have imposed. Nor is the Left’s doctrine “fair” because it precludes job growth and, far worse, blocks “earned success, the avenue to true happiness.” The Left’s notion of fairness is redistribution, but true fairness rewards merit – hard work, skill, ingenuity. In contrast, it is highly unfair and corrupt to reward non-achievement. Free enterprise, not government spending, offers equal opportunity. And, because excessive government spending necessitates borrowing, the Left is stealing from the American people – and their children. Combating this corruption is vastly difficult but crucial. An important weapon is truth. Reversing the Left’s misuse of language will promote clear discussion. For example, we need not hesitate to state that redistribution is theft. And we can truthfully point out that a government that steals from some people can target anyone. Poverty reduction derives from free enterprise, not government. Mr. Brooks advocates replacing income tax, which penalizes productivity and encourages deceit, with a flat tax so that everyone pays his share. By keeping the amount small, even poor can feel contributive, rather than dependent. True self-esteem grows from doing one’s best.Mr. Brooks concluded with a telling comparison. Free-enterprise fiscal Conservatives view a successful entrepreneur’s millions and fervently hope that their children can succeed as well. A tax-and-spend statist would say, “Let’s steal his stuff.”Kevin Jackson “Answering the Black Lie” has become businessman/engineer Kevin Jackson’s passion. Rather than promoting cooperation, politicos play on racism to advance their own aims. “People are actually less interested in race than in character,” Mr. Jackson contended. After briefly summarizing black history in America, he protested that welfare does not help but deeply harms disadvantaged Americans. “Liberals are destroyers” of peoples’ hopes. They “steal ambition” and “corral” blacks in impoverished neighborhoods with poor schools. Liberals use “sneaky” vocabulary to confound truth. In comparison, Conservativism is the “antithesis to racism” because it promotes self-activation. “Your only entitlement is what you earn.”Pat CaddellAs a Democratic strategist, Pat Caddell is expert at “Understanding the Culture Wars.” Mr. Caddell maintained that “America is too young to die” but is strongly threatened. Our next generation may not be assured a better life enriched with freedom and virtue. How did we let thieves steal our riches? The government never stops spending, Mr. Caddell explained, and he continued that politicians of both parties are at fault. “None cares about us, only about re-election.” So unconcerned are they about Americans’ freedom and prosperity, to fund their runaway spending, they have made China our banker.Freedom of the press is essential for our freedom. Our nation’s founders viewed the press as our protection from government. Now the media side with the statists. Mr. Caddell characterizes our elected officials as elitist, inept and partisan, governing for their own benefit. Democratic Party leaders are corrupt and statist. “If you knew them as I know them, you wouldn’t sleep at night.” Republican Party leadership is unable and unwilling to fulfill their mandate to repeal Obamacare and cut government spending. They approved Eric Holder as Attorney General without a fight. Both parties require our legislators to knuckle under and vote as party leaders, not their constituents, dictate. Worse than the economic waste, political corruption circumvents the Constitutional balance of power and destroys our Constitutional freedoms. We must restore common sense and proclaim once again that power resides exclusively with the people. We should require truthful discourse. Right and wrong do exist and virtue must be upheld. Only in a free-enterprise economy can personal freedom flourish. We must hold our officials accountable to the criterion “Act worthy of your office.”John Andrews, Theresa Melaragno, and Kevin MillerBecause the Summit schedule is too tight, the “Is Freedom or Responsibility Paramount?” debate will take place at one of Centennial Institute’s upcoming Issue Monday events. Entrepreneur and author Theresa Melaragno spoke briefly about the “integrity meltdown” of Washington’s elitist bureaucrats and officials. Their decisions are based on greed, not the nation’s well-being. They are addicted to tax-and-spend power games. Their personal lives manifest infidelity and self-aggrandizement. To them, democracy means two wolves and a rabbit deciding what’s for lunch, whereas we know that democracy requires a well-armed rabbit.Kevin Miller, consultant, author and founder of CCU’s School of Business, believes that we Conservatives are our own worst enemy. Government cannot deliver freedom nor ensure virtue. Government should (although our current leaders don’t) protect freedom, while virtue is our own job. Because giving government control over virtue (e.g., reducing obesity and carbon usage) empowers their intervention in our lives, we must guard against such encroachment, however well-intended. What government is most likely to deliver is unintended consequences.Mark SteynCanadian activist Mark Steyn introduced his topic “After America” by quoting Tony Blair: “All power is transient. All that matters is what did you leave.” Will we soon lose the world’s beacon of prosperity and hence liberty? He declared that the Left is seeking power at all cost, and the cost could be ruinous. “It’s not about the debt ceiling, it’s about the debt,” as America spends $1 billion every hour. By 2020 we will spend more on debt interest than on defense. We now fund 80% of China’s military; by 2025 we will fund it all. How ironic that the Left discounts American exceptionalism but believes that we can defy economic reality forever.Still, “It’s not just a spending crisis. It’s a moral one.” Too many Americans have abdicated on personal responsibility. The Left’s incremental erosion of our moral fiber is nearly impossible to combat – but we must.Brad StineNew Yorker magazine described Brad Stine as “God’s comic,” blending Christian values with edgy cultural satire. He advocated personal responsibilty; for example, the “pursuit of happiness” does not guarantee outcomes but instead requires hard work. “Decisions have consequences.” Countering Lefty trends, he declared that “Political correctness … restructures reality” and that “Not all ideas are equally valid.” “If the truth offends you, that’s your problem.”Sunday, 31 July Cal ThomasAuthor and columnist Cal Thomas decried activism’s misdirection, eroding morality in its efforts to instill “good.” When the Left takes up funding our nation’s institutions (with our money), they redefine the purpose of those institutions. Schools have become bastions of “feel good” equality but fail to educate kids nor develop their understanding of right and wrong. Families are enjoined to ensure their kids’ self-esteem and safety, defeating the kids’ need to become functioning, responsible adults, “Good” behavior – or bad – is the person’s individual choice, and people need to accept responsibility for their choices. Yet the Left wants a safety net always protecting people from responsibility. That’s bad policy, keeping people dependent rather than helping people grow in freedom.Kate ObenshainRecognizing the truth of President Reagan’s admonition that “freedom is always only one generation from being lost,” Mrs. Obenshain, vice president of Young America’s Foundation, emboldens young people to become knowledgeable and active in the cause of freedom. She introduced her topic “Young and Conservative: Anybody There?” with the belief that one informed, dedicated person can change the nation. She reported that young people are disillusioned with “hope and change” rhetoric, especially those who are now seeking jobs in the market Obama squelched or those who are employed but find themselves paying exorbitant income taxes. Surrounded by Left-wing diatribe and anti-Conservative discrimination, though, they flounder for lack of guidance. They intuitively perceive that the Left’s rhetoric doesn’t make sense, but that’s all that they are taught. As a result, young people are disillusioned, rather than disaffected or disinterestedIn its place, we Conservatives must proclaim our values, our economic concept and our dedication to freedom. We can create a new “morning in America” to re-vitalize President Reagan’s great message. Obama speaks at a campus on average once every 12 days. We must counter that by boldly and openly championing our principles, and she empowers young people to do just that. She helps them learn to “stand up [to Left-wing teachers and activists] courteously but firmly” so that their fellow-students will hear Conservative thought. She teaches them to employ the Left’s language – to say, for example, “I feel excluded” or “I feel unwelcome” when a teacher mocks their ideas. Her proteges also learn to speak to their fellow-students in terms that will reach them – as an example, pointing out that letting the government tell them what to do is even more limiting and demeaning than their parents’ rules. Herman CainFrom childhood poverty to academic success to stunning business achievement, Herman Cain epitomizes the American Dream, and he wants that dream to remain viable for the generations that follow. To do that, he averred, requires faithful application of our Constitution “as written” as the safeguard for liberty. Echoing the Founding Fathers’ courage and dedication, we must become Defending Fathers for our precious Constitution. Unlike the Left’s rhetoric, Mr. Cain maintains that the American Dream ensures the opportunity to pursue fulfillment, but hard work and virtue lay the groundwork for happiness. He explained that business is the foundation of a flourishing economy, and that government’s only economic role is to nurture business:• Making capitalist economic policy permanent to free business and citizens from crippling economic uncertainty• Not burdening business with undue regulation• Not imposing excessive taxation on business and citizens• Replacing the personal income tax with a sales tax, known as the “fair tax”• Establishing a maximum tax ceiling at 20%• Eliminating all capital gains taxA vital immediate step is repealing Obamacare and nurturing free-market health care – allowing people to purchase coverage from insurors in any state, for instance. On the question of illegal immigration, Mr. Cain advocated thoroughly securing the borders, enforcing current laws, improving the Immigration process and promulgating a strenuous citizenship path for persons already contributing to America, and returning power to the states. America’s foreign policy should not strengthen nor subsidize our enemies. Improved information-gathering and analysis will result from clearly defined short- and long-term plans. Mr. Cain expressed his deep faith in the American people’s common sense. The people, who pay the bills and hold the real power, should make the decisions. Given truthful information, we can judge wisely. He counters criticism that he lacks previous experience in government office by citing his record for problem-solving and economic success. “Businesses, not bureaucrats, promote prosperity.” When told that he doesn’t know how Washington works, he responds, “It doesn’t.” Dick MorrisAuthor and columnist Dick Morris, who served as political consultant to leading Democrats, including President Clinton, opined that Washington elitists have forgotten who pays the bills and owns the power. Obama’s Keynesian economic advisors assumed that we would spend the “stimulus” money, but in the current deep uncertainty we chose to save it or pay down our debt. People, corporations, small businesses and banks will “hunker down” until Obama and his cronies are out of office. When they threaten tax hikes, we stop spending. When burdened with excessive regulations, businesses stop hiring and forego capital improvements. That the administration punished Boeing for wanting to develop a factory in a right-to-work state taught other businesses to lie low. Mr. Morris contrasted the current economic trough with those normal business cycles that recur periodically. This trough he described as a “debt implosion cycle” that will last decades. Quashed by Obama’s regulations and intervention, banks demur making loans, thus further constraining economic recovery. Obama permitted some institutions – notably Fanny, Freddy and AIG – to forego repaying their “stimulus” funds, deepening the recession. Not even China will buy our bonds, and the false money supply only powers inflation. Now Obama wants Congress to raise the so-called debt ceiling so that he can continue spending. He continues to blame capitalism and corporations for the failed economy, but the cause is out-of-control government spending. Mr. Morris stated that Congress should extend the ceiling 6 months, providing time for rational debate on genuine solutions. Meanwhile, we must expose Obama’s spending addiction. But we cannot expect the media to do so. Countering a frequent accusation that Obama is a socialist, Mr. Morris pointed out that a socialist seeks government ownership of industries whereas Obama wants to control them. Labeling that “corporatism,” Mr. Morris explained that Obama’s policies drive small businesses and small banks into ruin, then requires them to merge into ever larger entities which Obama expects to control. Mr. Morris predicted that Obama will be defeated, perhaps not even nominated, because he has lost his support. Obama is a gifted orator, but a weak and ineffective leader. Our immediate mission as Conservatives is to ensure that the officials whom we elected and will elect uphold our principles. The Tea Party’s high-energy activism has had a powerful impact by strengthening that resolve and cleansing the Republican Party of business-as-usual politicos. Americans, he affirmed, are moderates who want minimum government interference and a strong economy, not costly and often misguided social programs.John AndrewsConcluding this year’s splendid Summit, Mr. Andrews announced the results of the “straw poll” documenting attendees’ 2012 presidential preferences. Those results – and a recording of the entire Summit – can be viewed on the Centennial Institute website: www.ccu.edu/centennial.Bill ArmstrongEmpowering us to manifest Conservative values in all our daily encounters and tasks, Mr. Armstrong assured us that, by their the logic and wisdom, those values will thrive. He proclaimed, “The long night of Liberalism is coming to a close.”LET FREEDOM RING!Peg Brady
(Denver Post, July 24) Will Barack Obama go the way of Jimmy Carter, and lose reelection after demonstrating weak leadership in a troubled economy? One Coloradan with a keen nose for the political wind signaled last week that he thinks it might happen.
Gov. John Hickenlooper told a reporter the president would “have a hard time” carrying our state right now, because “there’s such dissatisfaction over people who have been out of work” for months or even years. Though Hick’s warning wasn’t an outright prediction of Obama’s defeat, it’s significant because Colorado is widely considered a must-win if he is to hold the White House.
If voters throw out the incumbent, it will be as much because of conclusions we the people have reached about ourselves, as because of anything we conclude about the Democratic president and his Republican challenger, whoever that may be.
We’ll have realized that “consent of the governed” is a responsibility for each of us, not just a mass wave swept along by partisan currents and media gales. Again in 2012, as in 1980 when Carter was ousted, Americans will have decided it’s grab the steering wheel or crash. The leadership reversal we could see next year would simply be the culmination of a citizenship resurgence that began a year or two ago.
The Tea Party movement, consciously echoing the determined citizens who resisted royal oppression and later wrote consent into the Declaration of Independence, is the most potent force for reassertion of America’s founding principles since the Reaganauts of the 1970s refused to believe our best days were behind us. Its emergence in 2009 answered my hope, expressed in several 2007 columns, for a responsibility movement to challenge both parties and reach beyond them.
The conscience our self-government has long lacked is awake again at last. A GOP president taking office in 2013, if such occurs, would find himself or herself equally under the skeptical Tea Party eye as the GOP Congress does now. The new political mandate is to do the right thing; not the easy or customary thing, but the right thing and nothing less. What a welcome change, and just in time to save ourselves – if we still can.
Doing the right thing by choice, and then owning the consequences of your choice: that’s personal responsibility. There’s no other antidote to the debt candy and the entitlement addiction gripping Democrats and Republicans alike. No other antidote to the fiscal deficits engulfing state and federal budgets. No other antidote to the moral deficit of throwaway marriages, negligent parenting, rigged school tests, hacked cell phones.
Deficits abound, but it’s ultimately the responsibility deficit that will sink us unless we get a grip. Its symptoms are everywhere – in dishonest pension promises, in Orwellian day-care regulations, in sanctimonious politicians with zippers down, in an Obamacare law that embeds big business and big labor with big government, waivers the connected, dehumanizes the patient, cooks the books, and calls it reform.
The American experiment asks a brilliant, daring question: How much success can freedom produce? The answer, for the first two centuries, was an astounding amount. But the 1960s and ‘70s revealed a serpent in the garden. We learned that freedom and success can be their own worst enemies. Responsibility has to temper and guide them. History’s drama turns on our continually forgetting and relearning that.
It was responsibility reborn in citizens’ hearts and minds, not mere electoral victories, that turned twilight in America after Vietnam, Watergate, assassinations, and stagflation into morning in America with booming growth, renewed confidence, and Cold War victory.
Another responsibility movement seems to be stirring today. It didn’t start in Washington; they never do. The Washington crowd will either catch on or catch hell. Time is short. History’s drama heightens.
John Andrews is director of the Centennial Institute, former president of the Colorado Senate, and author of Responsibility Reborn: A Citizen's Guide to the Next American Century (Denali Press, 2011). Learn more at www.ResponsibilityReborn.com
('76 Editor) What makes America exceptional? What revived our nation's greatness after the disastrous 1970s? What has energized the conservative comeback since 2009? How can the USA beat the historical odds that say the third century is sunset time for republics? And bottom line: What must be our citizenship agenda for this next decisive decade? My new book, coming out next week from Denali Press, tackles those questions from the perspective of a lifetime on the political battlefield and a deep love for our land. It's called Responsibility Reborn: A Citizen's Guide to the Next American Century. See below for a peek at the front and back cover. Hugh Hewitt, I'm honored to say, wrote the foreword. He praised the book as "valuable for everyone who aims to lead and to leave behind a worthy legacy." Others endorsing the book include Ed Meese, Don Hodel, Chuck Colson, Cal Thomas, Larry Reed, Bob Beauprez, James C. Bennett, Alan Crippen, and my longtime mentor, now president of Colorado Christian University, former Sen. Bill Armstrong. "Responsibility Reborn shines a beacon of hope," said former Sen. Hank Brown. "You will be inspired."
Sales of Responsibility Reborn: A Citizen's Guide to the Next American Century through a dedicated website and Amazon.com, as well as in bookstores, will begin soon. The price is $20 plus shipping. We're now taking advance orders via email to Centennial@ccu.edu. Simply send your name, postal address, and daytime phone number. You'll be contacted for payment and other details. An e-book will also be available.
"Freedom is the master value," I wrote in outlining my personal credo some years ago. By hard experience I learned that no, personal responsibility is always the price of freedom. From there I began calling for Element R, a citizens' responsibility movement, via my column and radio show. Then I wrote this book. There's blood in the ink; I am that committed to this idea.
Americans can be responsible and free, or we can be irresponsible and enslaved. There is no other option and no middle ground. That's the urgent message of Responsibility Reborn, a book that can change the way you think about our country and your stake in it.
Responsibility Reborn - Front Cover.JPG (451.71 kb)
Responsibility Reborn - Back Cover.JPG (462.89 kb)
('76 Contributor) As truth seekers we are obliged to review everything, including term limits, with the utmost objectivity. My complaint about term limits is that this reform is far too modest to save us from what ails our society. A point from the book Reinventing Government was spot on, "The New Deal paradigm of government is obsolete." Clinton was president then and made the book famous, but did nothing to build on its few sound points. I approached the authors (Osborne and Gaebler) to ask why he had not articulated what the new paradigm might be. No response.
The Reason Foundation countered the left-leaning book with Revolution at the Roots. In short it said "follow the 10th Amendment" and equally offered more words than vision and failed to articulate a new paradigm. Each side followed with another round of rebuttal books, lots of interesting reading and a few fresh ways to view a few things, but no one really touched further on the need for a new vision ... a new paradigm.
Because a practical new vision has not yet been articulated by either the left or the right, problems fester. Public anger and frustration grow ... and you know what I'm talking about. The welfare state (that obsolete paradigm) labors to irretrievably entrench itself, at the same time global free trade and global tax competition threatens to bankrupt all welfare states. My point is ... we have a lot more substantial things to focus on than term limits at this point. My Reform Party friends in the mid 1990s never gained the understanding, that it was the system that corrupted the people more than the incumbents were fundamentally corrupt. They were incapable of thinking any more deeply than kick the bums out. Writing for the elimination of term limits will bring attention to your name. That may be the only benefit. An activist movement to that effect will fail (particularly with the current mood on the street) ... with the net result of your time and mine being consumed and diverted from items of greater consequence and current relevance. It saddens me as much as it anyone that profound leaders such as Bob Schaffer and John Andrews were victims of term limits. Yet, your title "brain drain" both insults our population and suffers myopic vision. It infers a point that I know Bob would never claim himself, that he is, without contest, the most intelligent of the 700,000 people in his CD. Surely there must be at least a few in 700,000 who can match his intellect and leadership. Your title also degrades their subsequent achievements since leaving office as less important than being in office. At best, such an assertion is debatable and my personal view is with Jefferson's and what they learned in serving helps them to contribute to society in their later endeavors ... making their in-office contributions less substantial than their subsequent contributions to society. We should be on our guard of anyone who views serving in office as an end. Like success and happiness it should be part of the journey. None of us should allow ourselves to fall into the trap of worshiping the golden calf of government or our elected officials. This view is counter to the Declaration ... counter to freedom and liberty.
Dennis Polhill is a senior fellow at the Independence Institute and co-chairman of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition. Editor John Andrews thanks Mr. Polhill for his gracious compliment above, but maintains as always that every glance in the mirror gave Andrews an argument for term limits -- namely his own fallen human nature, not to be trusted with power too confidently or too long.
(Denver Post, Feb. 7) “Both ends of the political spectrum are disgusting,” said reader Bill Hoppe in an email after my Jan. 24 column on bipartisan irresponsibility. “It becomes increasingly difficult to believe in our legislature at any level.”
Deborah Kelly’s letter to the editor, published here on Jan. 31, was equally despairing: “I can’t afford health insurance, and after the Supreme Court decision regarding campaign financing, now I can’t afford to vote either.”
As we watch the messy process of self-government in a free society, disgust and discouragement may tempt us all. While the reaction is only human, the answer is not to drop out. Rather the American way is to pick an entry point and plunge into the process for our own good. Its openness is a marvel, too little understood.
Deborah should consider that she can’t afford not to vote. And maybe with her ability to turn a phrase, she could help fellow dissidents argue down the political ads big business and big labor can now run. Bill should realize that the responsible center is wherever he is. As for “believing in” our legislators, why? They aren’t deities, just people. Motivating them is possible for that very reason, though.
We the people employ every public official in the land. Through our votes we can hire and fire them all – even the judges, who can be removed directly by state retention elections or indirectly by federal impeachment. It happens seldom, only because citizens have been lulled into forgetting our own power. Does last year’s wave of protest signal that this year we’ll finally awaken? The red tide for Brown in blue Massachusetts suggests we may.
Many of the state senators and representatives I served with were easily motivated by reminders of the next election. In some cases, too easily – it was said of Rod the Republican and Don the Democrat (not their real names) that they quaked before a few phone slips from constituents as if it were a full-on lobbying campaign. More’s the pity if good folks like Bill and Deborah yield to discouragement instead of phoning in their concerns.
One of my greatest pleasures since leaving the legislature has been getting to know a constant stream of such patriots-in-the-making who come around seeking either entry into the process or encouragement to plunge. I should have one of those “Doctor Is In” signs like Lucy in the comics. Her nickel fee wasn’t nearly as enriching as the satisfaction this over-the-hill politico gets from nurturing the new crop.
Businessman Tom wanted an introduction to tea-party leaders, which I made – along with arrangements for him to help a congressional candidate. Retired teacher Mel brought an inspirational article about the Constitution that we’ll place with a local blog. Consultant Claire had ideas for small-business activism but no audience; she’s now on the GOP breakfast circuit. Undergrad Kim and executive Joan both aspired to the foreign service, for which I tried to give age-appropriate counsel.
Candidates also come knocking, of course, and doing my bit for them feels good. But it’s the “wanna make a difference” private citizens who inspire me most. If some aim awfully high – such as Cliff from church with his health care agenda, or lawyer Mike with his plan for drafting the next president – all partake of the minuteman spirit that is America at its best. None are bogged in despair.
My friend Francisco, an American by choice and an engineer turned artist in midlife, quotes something Van Gogh wrote when all seemed hopeless: “I shall get over it, I shall pick up my pencil, and I shall draw again.” Our hope for 2010 comes not from the White House, but from citizens of all parties more ready than ever to pick up that pencil and participate.