I’m thankful. I’m very thankful. And not just today, Thanksgiving Day, but every day. I grew up in a family with loving parents and siblings. I don’t mean to demean the rest of you, but I’ve got the world’s best wife (some of you are undoubtedly pretty good, but no one can hold a candle to Courtney, the love of my life). We have a home that someday we’ll own, in the great State of Colorado, a state whose abundance of outdoor beauty and recreation gave birth to my entrepreneurial spirit. We live in a land of liberty and opportunity, and for all these things, I’m grateful.
Dad worked hard to provide for us, but also instilled a strong work ethic so that we could provide for ourselves. I remember working with Dad after school one day as an 11 year old. We were picking up scraps and trash at a home he was building. A subcontractor stopped to talk to Dad, and I stood idly by and listened for most of an hour. Then it was time to go home. As we got into the van I was foolish enough to remark how easy it was to earn my 50 cents for that last hour. Man, did he lay into me! He said he wasn’t going to pay me for that hour. I complained that I was there to help him, and since he was listening to the subcontractor, I was helping him listen. Dad carefully explained that he pays me to work, and that we each have different jobs. If I expect to get paid, I had better stay busy doing my work.
My dad taught me that hard work in this land of opportunity is rewarded. Indeed, the United States of America is the most prosperous nation in history. Even the poorest among us live far better than most of the rest of the world. We owe that to our history of respect for liberty. It is our deeply held belief in liberty that gave us a legal system that protects property rights. Without property rights there is no incentive to create or produce anything more than what it takes to survive. After all, if you can’t enforce your right to own what you produce, why bother?
As thankful as I am for all these things, I’m also deeply concerned. Former State Senator John Andrews today told me of the writings of Alexander Tytler:
The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, those nations always have progressed from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, and from dependence back into bondage.
In Senator Andrews’ book “Responsibility Reborn” he says, “You’d have to be dreaming, not to recognize that we have been living in a nation that has for quite a while been somewhere on the declining side of the cycle”. He also points out that the cycle can be reversed. If I didn’t believe that, I would not write these columns. I would not have run for State Representative in 2010. Simply put, I wouldn’t bother. If we don’t renew our respect for liberty, if we don’t restore limits on government that respect property rights, we will continue down that cycle.
We have gone from a nation that was built on a rugged entrepreneurial spirit, on self reliance and personal responsibility, and on mutual respect for rights and liberty, to a nation with a culture of dependence that relies on what the government can take from one to give to another.
During this season of thanks, let us be grateful for the work of those who established, secured, and protect our freedoms. Let us be mindful of the abundance we enjoy, and how the blessings of liberty created that abundance. And let us commit to not decline into complacency, apathy, and dependence, but embrace the independence and personal responsibility that will ensure the survival of the Republic.