It's Character, Stupid

Character matters -- above all else -- for the preservation of liberty and prosperity.

In America we take for granted that our form of government is superior to all others. History teaches us that the direction set by the founders was uncommonly prescient and has established us as the world leader forever. But has it really?

There is a notion that all forms of government inevitably evolve to circumvent their limitations and therefore will degrade into tyranny. While the pessimism of that notion is disheartening, an honest comparison of the current federal monstrosity to the limited republic described in the constitution reveals that we're headed down that highway.

This country was formed by a people of remarkable morality, education, and character. This character was clearly demonstrated during America's formative years as the founders managed to create a constitution of unmatched excellence despite the chaos of revolution.  During the numerous difficult struggles of this nation's first century, the Constitution served its purpose well as the absolute foundation of government.

Since then, we've fallen away from that foundation. The federal government has repeatedly acted outside and beyond the boundaries clearly established in the Constitution. The three branches of government have failed to abide by their legal and moral obligations to uphold and defend the Constitution. They have failed to exercise oversight and balance of each other, and instead have deftly escalated their spheres of control through cumulative encroachments upon individual liberties. The forest cannot be seen but for the trees. The countless incremental steps toward greater federal control, when considered individually, do not immediately appear grossly unconstitutional. Yet when one compares (with intellectual honesty) the state of the central government in 2009 to the language and intent of the founding documents, it is obvious that we've gone astray.   

How and why have we strayed?  It may be tempting to blame the Constitution as being too "set in its time" and not applicable to a postmodern world with the amazing growth of knowledge and technology. In reality, however, the founding documents are indeed well-suited to the events of the day, and the well-defined amendment procedure can readily be applied as needed. So if the foundation of the United States is not to blame, then what is?  Simply put, it's the accumulation of choices made by scores of politicians who lack the character necessary to preserve liberty. Presidents and their staffs have chosen to overstep bounds, representatives and senators have enacted legislation without regard to limitations, and judges have chosen to uphold these actions only through convoluted logic. 

Thousands of individuals have contributed to the cancerous spread of the tentacles of government control. Countless officeholders have consciously or subconsciously made the decision to go with the flow and let the monster grow. Solid character is required to stand up against the flow and consider self-restraint and limitation. Solid character is therefore essential to maintain this republic. As Thomas Jefferson stated:
Yes, we did produce a near perfect Republic. But will they keep it, or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the surest way to destruction.
Leaders of high moral character are indispensable in the preservation of liberty. But in a democracy, is not the character of its leaders essentially a reflection of the character of its people? Leaders are elected by the people, albeit through an imperfect system that often obfuscates candidates' character, ability, and intent. Nevertheless, if the people elect leaders who lack the character to apply self-restraint, then the people are ultimately responsible for the results. To borrow a phrase from the technical world: "garbage in, garbage out." When candidates lacking character are elected, the results are predictable. The marble halls of Washington, D.C. are occupied with many motivated not by a desire to serve others, but by ego, greed, self-aggrandizement, and self-preservation. What a sad reflection on the character of our country! 

The founders warned us about this.  Thomas Jefferson again:
A nation as a society forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.
The decline in character of the people is well-chronicled in countless studies of attitudes and moral standards. How can the government be expected to act responsibly when a citizenry that lacks character elects leaders of the same ilk? For liberty to be sustained, people must elect leaders who respect the established limits of government, and those leaders must be held accountable to work within the established limits.

America's unmatched prosperity and greatness is a result of our form of government coupled with the great moral character of the people. This prosperity and greatness cannot continue forever without national character. One could argue that the character of a nation is a more critical determinant of success than is the form of government.

Even if the excesses of the federal government could magically be reined in and previous unconstitutional actions could be revoked, would that halt the slide down the slippery slope away from liberty? I think not. The politicians and bureaucrats would undoubtedly march on.

While it is encouraging to see the recent uprisings of the people of this great country in opposition to the accelerating race toward serfdom, it is difficult to envision how a sustainable change can occur without a change in the observed moral character of the people. The demonstrations are hopefully an indication that the character of America largely remains strong. Perhaps that strong character includes a great capacity to endure difficulty, and therefore has been somewhat dormant during recent decades. Hopefully it will resurface and be revitalized soon.

The path to long-term success is built upon the moral character of the people. Let us hope that America's great character can be heartily renewed and reflected in our future leaders. Ultimately, the preservation of liberty depends upon it.
Character matters -- above all else -- for the preservation of liberty and prosperity.

In America we take for granted that our form of government is superior to all others. History teaches us that the direction set by the founders was uncommonly prescient and has established us as the world leader forever. But has it really?

There is a notion that all forms of government inevitably evolve to circumvent their limitations and therefore will degrade into tyranny. While the pessimism of that notion is disheartening, an honest comparison of the current federal monstrosity to the limited republic described in the constitution reveals that we're headed down that highway.

This country was formed by a people of remarkable morality, education, and character. This character was clearly demonstrated during America's formative years as the founders managed to create a constitution of unmatched excellence despite the chaos of revolution.  During the numerous difficult struggles of this nation's first century, the Constitution served its purpose well as the absolute foundation of government.

Since then, we've fallen away from that foundation. The federal government has repeatedly acted outside and beyond the boundaries clearly established in the Constitution. The three branches of government have failed to abide by their legal and moral obligations to uphold and defend the Constitution. They have failed to exercise oversight and balance of each other, and instead have deftly escalated their spheres of control through cumulative encroachments upon individual liberties. The forest cannot be seen but for the trees. The countless incremental steps toward greater federal control, when considered individually, do not immediately appear grossly unconstitutional. Yet when one compares (with intellectual honesty) the state of the central government in 2009 to the language and intent of the founding documents, it is obvious that we've gone astray.   

How and why have we strayed?  It may be tempting to blame the Constitution as being too "set in its time" and not applicable to a postmodern world with the amazing growth of knowledge and technology. In reality, however, the founding documents are indeed well-suited to the events of the day, and the well-defined amendment procedure can readily be applied as needed. So if the foundation of the United States is not to blame, then what is?  Simply put, it's the accumulation of choices made by scores of politicians who lack the character necessary to preserve liberty. Presidents and their staffs have chosen to overstep bounds, representatives and senators have enacted legislation without regard to limitations, and judges have chosen to uphold these actions only through convoluted logic. 

Thousands of individuals have contributed to the cancerous spread of the tentacles of government control. Countless officeholders have consciously or subconsciously made the decision to go with the flow and let the monster grow. Solid character is required to stand up against the flow and consider self-restraint and limitation. Solid character is therefore essential to maintain this republic. As Thomas Jefferson stated:
Yes, we did produce a near perfect Republic. But will they keep it, or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the surest way to destruction.
Leaders of high moral character are indispensable in the preservation of liberty. But in a democracy, is not the character of its leaders essentially a reflection of the character of its people? Leaders are elected by the people, albeit through an imperfect system that often obfuscates candidates' character, ability, and intent. Nevertheless, if the people elect leaders who lack the character to apply self-restraint, then the people are ultimately responsible for the results. To borrow a phrase from the technical world: "garbage in, garbage out." When candidates lacking character are elected, the results are predictable. The marble halls of Washington, D.C. are occupied with many motivated not by a desire to serve others, but by ego, greed, self-aggrandizement, and self-preservation. What a sad reflection on the character of our country! 

The founders warned us about this.  Thomas Jefferson again:
A nation as a society forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.
The decline in character of the people is well-chronicled in countless studies of attitudes and moral standards. How can the government be expected to act responsibly when a citizenry that lacks character elects leaders of the same ilk? For liberty to be sustained, people must elect leaders who respect the established limits of government, and those leaders must be held accountable to work within the established limits.

America's unmatched prosperity and greatness is a result of our form of government coupled with the great moral character of the people. This prosperity and greatness cannot continue forever without national character. One could argue that the character of a nation is a more critical determinant of success than is the form of government.

Even if the excesses of the federal government could magically be reined in and previous unconstitutional actions could be revoked, would that halt the slide down the slippery slope away from liberty? I think not. The politicians and bureaucrats would undoubtedly march on.

While it is encouraging to see the recent uprisings of the people of this great country in opposition to the accelerating race toward serfdom, it is difficult to envision how a sustainable change can occur without a change in the observed moral character of the people. The demonstrations are hopefully an indication that the character of America largely remains strong. Perhaps that strong character includes a great capacity to endure difficulty, and therefore has been somewhat dormant during recent decades. Hopefully it will resurface and be revitalized soon.

The path to long-term success is built upon the moral character of the people. Let us hope that America's great character can be heartily renewed and reflected in our future leaders. Ultimately, the preservation of liberty depends upon it.