View Full Version : What Happened to the Land of the Free?

03-05-2010, 01:14 AM
by Harry Browne - [Adapted from his book, Why Government Doesn't Work]

America once was unique in all the history of the world.

It wasn’t its natural resources, the character of its people, or its beauty that made it special. Other countries could boast of similar things.

The essence of America was an abundance of something rarely found in other countries: freedom from government.

For centuries the peoples of the world had been ruled by kings, queens, tsars, shahs, ministers, satraps, chiefs, rajahs, emirs, warlords, parliaments, senates, legislatures, assemblies, gangs, and freebooters. They made extravagant demands upon their subjects.

An individual couldn’t refuse their demands. The rulers could take from him whatever they wanted; command him to work, fight, or kneel; and forbid him to do anything that displeased them. The government was all-powerful.

America’s Founding Fathers established something unprecedented - the first government strictly limited by a written Constitution to a short list of activities. The federal government was authorized to do only what was specified in the Constitution. Anything else was to be done by state or local governments, by the people themselves acting outside government, or not at all.

The Constitution didn’t limit what citizens could do. Its only purpose was to spell out - enumerate - what was permissible for the federal government to do. And anything not authorized was forbidden to the federal government.

This ideal of limited government was sometimes violated – but violations were the exception rather than the rule. And many of the violations that did occur were reversed later, because it was understood that the Constitution limited the role of the federal government.

For example, in January 1794 when Congress considered a bill appropriating $15,000 for French refugees, Congressman James Madison voted against it, saying he

. . . could not undertake to lay [my] finger on that article in the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents. And if they once broke the line laid down before them, for the direction of their conduct, it was impossible to say to what lengths they might go, or to what extremities this practice might be carried.

To what extremities indeed.

The Bill of Rights

Some state governments had hesitated to ratify the Constitution - fearing that it didn’t make entirely clear how limited the federal government’s role was to be. Many people were afraid Congress might meddle in the areas that belonged exclusively to the states or private citizens.

And so the Bill of Rights was added to forestall any misunderstanding. It listed specific prohibitions against the federal government - such as forbidding it to pass laws suppressing the freedom to voice opinions in public or in print.

The Ninth and Tenth amendments defined the essence of limited government:

IX. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

X. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

In other words, the United States government could do only what was specified in the Constitution. All the rest of life’s activities - charity, education, regulation of business, crime control, and so on - were to be handled by state governments or by the people on their own.

Thus began a momentous experiment to tame the monster that had enslaved so many people all over the world over all the centuries. And it was very clear to the fathers of the Constitution that government is a monster. As George Washington is reputed to have said:

Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

The founders felt that some government was necessary, since no one knew a better way to provide for the common defense and to insure domestic tranquility. But they knew how dangerous it was to give such an agency the power to tax, to forbid, and to compel obedience.

The Constitution was the most successful attempt ever made to keep the dangerous servant from becoming the fearful master. And it made possible the freest, most prosperous country in all history.

People everywhere envied Americans for the liberty they enjoyed. And they flocked to this country from the four corners of the earth.

America rightly became known as the land of the free.


The Constitution authorized the federal government to use coercion for certain purposes - chiefly to deal with foreign governments, to prosecute wars, to assure a “republican government” in each state, to settle disputes among states, and to collect the taxes needed for those functions. But because government is coercion, and because coercion tends to breed coercion, the government tends to grow – both in size and reach.

Most of the time, the growth has been gradual, almost imperceptible. Year by year, the federal government has taken a little more of our resources and a little more of our freedom - but too little at a time to provoke much resistance, or even much notice. Over the years, though, all the petty thefts have added up to grand larceny.

Even this, however, has been dwarfed by the wholesale trashing of freedom that occurred during four fateful periods in American history, when the politicians simply pushed aside the limitations the Founders had devised for the federal government.

CONTINUED - lots more :) (http://www.tenthamendmentcenter.com/2010/03/04/what-happened-to-the-land-of-the-free/)

03-05-2010, 01:41 AM
I actually own this book and it's a good read.