He ended with an idea I thought I’d try. He suggested a game, similar to something his teenage son would play with fortune cookies for a laugh, but altered for lawmakers. After every government proposal, they must add the phrase "and keep us free":
I would like the government to play a similar game with the words, “And keep us free.” So when they propose an answer to rising health care costs or poverty or traffic jams or whatever, they are forced to show how the solution will not encroach on our liberty. Because if liberty is not the first principle of government, it will soon be no principle at all.
So I thought I’d try it on a few examples. Maybe we’ll just get laughs; maybe we’ll get better clarity.
· The government should control our health care insurance purchasing decisions in order to try to give us better health care—and keep us free.
Yeah, not believable.
· The government should tax businesses at the highest rate in the world in an attempt to raise revenue—and keep us free.
You see how it works. Let’s keep playing.
· Government should have the right to use eminent domain laws to turn private property over to commercial entities that will provide a higher tax base—and keep us free.
· Government should be able to manipulate oil markets toward higher prices so citizens will be forced to use less oil—and keep us free.
· Government should remove all evidence of religious practice from public places so that no one can be offended—and to keep us free.
· Government should decide what will be taught in local schools and how much to pay teachers, regardless of merit, to control the education of the next generation—and keep us free.
· Government should be able to randomly strip search anyone who buys an airline ticket, regardless of reasonable suspicion, so that government cannot be accused of profiling—and to keep us free.
· Government should regulate just about all industries in ways that benefit large corporations and hinders start-ups and innovation, so that they are responsive to lobbyists—and keep us free.
· Government should prevent property owners from making use of their own property if it can be construed to be a wetland or a habitat of an obscure species—and keep us free.
We could probably play this all day. But what about this one?
· Government should pay a decent wage to military personnel and keep equipment well maintained—and keep us free.
That one makes sense. Here’s the key: the proper role of government is to help preserve our natural rights of life, liberty, and property—the fruits of how we freely live our life. There needs to be enough government to protect our rights, but government must be limited to those specific protective powers—or it usurps power and erodes our freedom.
The founders did an excellent job of enumerating the limited powers of a federal government. The problem comes from ignoring the Constitution, or twisting the meaning, even when we have plenty of contemporary writings and notes to give us the full picture of what the founders intended.
As a people, we need to understand the founding concepts. Toward that end, I remind you of the Constitution 101 class being offered for free right now by Hillsdale College. The ten-week course includes a lecture, readings, a recorded Q&A session, a study guide, and a quiz. You can dive in and start any time, and complete it at your own pace. I started at the beginning and have kept up on all the lectures and Q&A sessions. For the first couple of weeks I did fine completing the reading and acing the quizzes. Then I got behind on the reading. So I haven’t gotten to the quiz stage for several weeks. But I have enjoyed the lectures and Q&A. And I can review those when I catch up and fit it in my life. I hope this is something you’ll take advantage of.