Ben Franklin is much quoted in today’s debate on the trade-off between freedom and security, as we learn about the National Security Agency’s easy access to our phone records and emails.
Yet we Americans have often sacrificed liberty for safety.
In World War II, Korea and Vietnam, we conscripted millions of men and sent hundreds of thousands to their deaths fighting against Italians, Germans, Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese.
The greater antagonist of liberty is not the quest for security, but our insatiable demand and inexorable drive for equality — not equality of rights but equality of results.
To equalize incomes the government confiscates 40 percent of the earnings of the most successful Americans and uses that wealth to subsidize the food, health care, housing and income of that half of the nation that pays no income taxes.
A steeply progressive income tax was originally advanced by that great egalitarian Karl Marx.
The federal estate tax is 40 percent for the wealthy. Some states tack on 16 percent. Individuals may spend entire lives acquiring wealth for their progeny. And governments, in the name of equality, will seize half of it on their deaths. Socialism, said Winston Churchill, is the philosophy of envy and gospel of greed.
To guarantee equal pay for equal work, the government has created agencies to monitor the payrolls of every business, agencies empowered to identify, expose and punish employers who might dare to use their economic freedom to reward some workers more than others.
To ensure racial, ethnic and gender equality in the labor force and the front office, the government fields thousands of agents to police the hiring, promotion and dismissal decisions of executives.
Affirmative action and quotas have been imposed on colleges and universities, stripping those institutions of freedom of choice, to advance a greater racial, ethnic and gender equality in student bodies and on faculties than a free and fair competition might produce.
Contract set-asides have been established on which no white male may bid. To make minorities and women more equal, we make others less free.
Freedom of assembly, which produced men’s and women’s clubs and colleges, has been under assault for decades. Only a handful of men’s colleges survive. Even Augusta National Golf Club was forced to conform to the dictates of diversity and equality.
To achieve greater equality in the test scores of Asian, white, Hispanic and black children, enormous sums have been extracted from taxpayers and shoveled into an educational establishment with little to show for it in 50 years. Yet the clamor rises for more billions to achieve this modern form of alchemy.
In a decades-long intrusion on freedom that ignited a social rebellion, children were forcibly bused out of their home neighborhoods across cities to troubled schools to achieve a “racial balance.”
Why? Because it was said that through a process of osmosis, underachievers could attain greater equality with overachievers by having them sit beside one another in classrooms. Parental freedom yielded to social dictation.
“A man’s home is his castle” was a concept we inherited from English law and proudly adopted as our own. No more. A man’s right to sell or rent his home is restricted by open housing laws.
Owners of hotels, motels, taverns and restaurants can lose their licenses if they conduct their businesses according to personal biases and beliefs.
In the land of the free, such freedom is now illegal.
“If we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well,” said Obama in his second inaugural. Thus, homosexual unions will soon have to be treated equally with traditional marriage, though “marriage equality” contradicts Christian teaching.
Our Union was “founded on the principles of liberty and equality,” said Obama. But how could that be when the word “equality” does not appear in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights or the Federalist Papers?
Egalite is rather a founding principle of Robespierre’s revolution, not ours. It is ideological contraband smuggled into America and the enemy of that freedom for which our fathers fought.
In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal in their God-given rights to life and liberty. Does anyone think that Jefferson, who kept slaves all his life, excoriated Indians in that same Declaration of Independence and spoke of a “natural aristocracy” that Providence had wisely provided to govern us, believed all men and all women were equal in any other way?
In “The Lessons of History,” Will and Ariel Durant wrote: “Leave men free and their natural inequalities will multiply almost geometrically, as in England and America in the nineteenth century under laissez-faire. To check the growth of inequality, liberty must be sacrificed, as in Russia after 1917.
“Freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies.”
As the Party of Equality triumphs, the Party of Freedom expires.
Happy Independence Day!
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”