There exist opposing views on the roles of public servants. One holds that it is government’s duty to ensure freedom from all fear and want, which was made [in]famous in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech. This sounds like a lovely sentiment—until it comes at the expense of personal liberty. We can see this worldview in action with the huge growth in entitlement spending and expressed in the posters of the Occupy movement, i.e. “Where is my bailout?”
The other regards public servants as guardians of the people’s liberty. This idea is rooted in the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, among other American founders. Just in case future elected officials lost sight of the founders’ intent, they had the foresight to protect it in the Constitution. Included in this was the federalist structure, or separation of state and federal power to protect personal liberty.
In a speech to Congress in 1789, James Madison said this about the role of state government in talking about our Bill of Rights:
… the state legislatures will jealously and closely watch the operation of this government, and be able to resist with more effect every assumption of power than any other power on earth can do; and the greatest opponents to a federal government admit the state legislatures to be sure guardians of the people’s liberty.
It appears we have forgotten Madison’s lessons. Power is terribly out of balance, and we see an increase in executive orders and regulatory agencies asserting power over the states decade after decade. However, we still can still devolve power from Washington and bring it back to the states—and ultimately back to the people. In fact, there are “guardians of liberty” who are hard at work to accomplish this feat.
Stay tuned as we explore current battles for freedom on this blog:
- Utah state legislators protect the freedoms of local farmers and ranchers by taking back federal lands.
- Attorneys general file suit against the individual mandate of the White House healthcare plan. State think tanks and legislators sign on to briefs opposing the mandate.
- State leaders push back against federal overreach in education in favor of local solutions.
- Attorneys General from Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia file suit against the federal government for overstepping the bound of the Constitution. See the list of violations here.
- Congress puts the reins on regulatory overreach.
Do you know of any other guardians of liberty?