By Robert E. Freer, Jr. || “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” ~Will Rogers
Benjamin Franklin, older, ailing, clearly in his twilight is one of the few of our founding fathers to participate actively in both our national formation as a member of the Continental Congress with the Declaration of Independence and in the drafting of our governing principles at the Constitutional Convention eleven years later. As delegates to the later event were making their way to the table to sign the Constitution, he commented on the difficulty of determining whether the rendering of the sun against the horizon on the back of General Washington’s Chair was rising or falling, and with satisfaction said, “But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
Two hundred thirty five years later, we continue to gaze at that sun. Is it still rising, or must we now trim aspirations that have propelled us as a people through the centuries and accept a diminished setting sun? The answer is for you to decide. The future he saw was built by hundreds, then tens of thousands and finally millions of Americans. It took pluck, imagination, and the freedom to act on both to get us to the plateau we now inhabit.
“We the People”
If we are to ascend from here, the nation, as a people, has to decide that we still believe in ourselves. If ever there was a time for Faith in our Founders, this is such a time. Individual freedom, with all of its challenges and a morality based on Judea Christian principles – actively practiced – is the only path that offers an opportunity to recapture the future glimpsed by our Founders.
We may not produce heaven on earth, but by an investment in ourselves that starts with a stern finger of self- reprimand for allowing doubt to erode the edges of our confidence, we can and will continue to create individually driven opportunity for our country to prosper. Nor do the benefits of this approach, stop at our shores. If we can get our “mojo” back, our fellow inhabitants of planet earth will directly benefit. Our future is only circumscribed by the limits of our imagination and daring. The task for this incredibly important year is to come to terms with our history and accept our destiny of exceptionalism.
Capitalism works for all of us!
What road would you rather tread, One which already accepts we are in a lifeboat and must ration whatever is within our borders, medical care, power, water resources? Is freedom to choose, strive and excel to be sacrificed for some notion that the economic pie that exists today is all that there will be, and it must be shared as Washington directs in survival portions?
History confirms that collective, planned communities invariably are reduced at their best to sharing scarcity. Is this our future?
It needn’t be! Vibrant capitalism if allowed to operate, as it should, will produce substantial surplus to meet the needs of an increasingly affluent people. Surely as a society benefiting from free market economics, we are equal to devising mechanisms relying on the same forces to meet the need for continuing education throughout a lifetime, reaffirmation of the obligation for continued personal charity, and attention to the health of the communities in which we live. None of those efforts should undercut the conditions that produced it, and will do much to sustain the society it produces.
Robert E. Freer, Jr., after an extensive career in government, law and business, serves as the first BB&T Visiting Professor in Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel. Prof. Freer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions he expresses are solely his own.