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The campaign for liberty before the “Campaign for Liberty”

The philosophical premise for The Campaign for Liberty (C4L) goes back to the Founding Fathers, but the practical tactics in fighting for its ideals has several modern and historical models. Thinkers — and doers — have for some time championed the issues and ideas embodied in the C4L Statement of Principles.

In its raison d’etre C4L says, “We believe that the free market, reviled by people who do not understand it, is the most just and humane economic system and the greatest engine of prosperity the world has ever known.” In practice, that proposition can best be exemplified by America’s unique and generous philanthropic role on the world stage. The obvious example is the extraordinary help currently being provided to Haiti. Even so, it’s a telling story to put U.S. charitable practices in the context of a “humane economic system.”

In 1955, giving from individuals, foundations, and corporations totaled $7.7 billion, or about a $47 donation from every single American. By 1978, the gross total had grown more than fivefold to $39 billion — around $175 per person. In 1998, the figure was $175 billion, and the individual average gift had increased to $648. In 2008, American largesse was an estimated $1,008 for every man, woman, and child — a grand total of $308 billion in charitable giving. Adjusting for inflation, financial support for humanitarian needs — from the private sector — has increased by a factor of four in less than 25 years. And that’s despite any and all changes in the economy (usually for the worse).

The financial figures do not even tell the whole story: in 2008, a total of 61.8 million Americans volunteered more than eight billion hours of public service.

Addressing the subject of the free market as a humane economic system, Admiral Ben Morrell, best known as the founder and leader of the “Seabees”, — the U.S. Navy component that built the docks, air strips, etc. our military forces needed to win World War II — gave a speech in 1953 in which he said: “I hold that our hope for continued progress … lies in the improvement by the individual of his own moral stature so that he will know what is right and want to do it, voluntarily, not be granting, by votes or otherwise, ever-increasing power and dominion to social engineers to regulate and control our lives, our morals, and our property. That we are justified in expecting even greater developments in morals as evidenced by the current tremendous outpourings of financial and other support for our churches, our charities, our educational institutions, our hospitals, and many other benefactions … There is no dearth of beneficence here. Our great error is a lack of confidence in the voluntary acts of free people.”

There are other C4L tenets worth probing in a broader context, such as its campaign to audit the Federal Reserve Bank. Congressman Ron Paul has led the charge in Congress to look into the practices of the Federal Reserve System and, after first introducing legislation more than 20 years ago, he now enjoys widespread bipartisan support on Capital Hill. Even the media have expressed genuine interest in the subject. Opposition to the Fed however, goes back even before it was established (see Thomas DiLorenzo’s book “Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Arch Enemy Betrayed the American Revolution — and What It Means for Americans Today.”) In more recent years many public servants and private citizens have spoken out against the Fed. Congressman Louis McFadden (R-PA), a former chairman of the House Committee on Banking and Currency, warned in 1933 that, “We have in this country one of the most corrupt institutions the world has ever known. I refer to the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve Banks. They are not government institutions. They are private monopolies which prey upon the people of these United States for the benefit of themselves and their foreign customers.”

Syndicated radio and TV commentator Dan Smoot wrote in his “Dan Smoot Report” newsletter of January 26, 1970 that, “Government causes high prices by giving the privately-owned, uncontrollable, Federal Reserve system the power to create money backed by nothing; the power to control the national supply of money and credit; and the power to manipulate interest rates. When the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, it raises prices of consumer goods and services …”

Although there is a long record of opposition to the Fed, there has not been the kind of coordinated and enthusiastic drive to audit that private banking system before C4L’s focus on the topic — even as the organization addresses other current issues with deep historical roots, including foreign affairs.

When the Campaign for Liberty’s Statement of Principles asserts, “We oppose the transfer of American sovereignty to supranational organizations in which the American people possess no elected representatives,” it builds that stance on a history of people and organizations dedicated to a non-interventionist foreign policy which protects the self-interests and independence of this country. Our military-driven economy — perpetual war for perpetual peace — has cost the United States dearly in terms of sovereignty and independence from international entanglements. But we have been forewarned of this situation. In 1951, Congressman Usher Burdick (R-ND), speaking against President Truman’s unilateral intervention in the Korean conflict, observed that, “We had no business there in the first place and if we are to settle every row on the face of the earth we will be in continuous wars from now on. If we are in continuous wars, we will have to be regimented and controlled and our democracy will cease.”

Echoing Congressman Burdick’s remarks and in line with C4L’s foreign policy position, Ezra Taft Benson — Secretary of Agriculture in the Eisenhower administration and, later, head of the Church of Latter Day Saints (a/k/a the Mormons) — had this to say in a 1963 speech: “We should pay no attention to the recommendations of men who call the Constitution an eighteenth century agrarian document … We should refuse to follow their siren song of concentrating, increasingly, the powers of government in the Chief Executive, of delegating American sovereign authority to non-American institutions of the United Nations and pretending that it will bring peace to the world …”

C4L’s Statement of Principles also calls for “… civil liberties and privacy rights … historic rights that our civilization has cherished from time immemorial.” When discussions of the liberty-limiting provisions of the misnamed Patriot Act, this writer is reminded of country music honcho Merle Haggard’s poignant quip: “In 1969, when I came out of prison as an ex-convict, I had more freedom under parolee supervision than there’s available to an average citizen in American right now… God almighty, what have we done to each other?” Perhaps Mr. Haggard should be invited to join the Campaign for Liberty.

Whether the issue is advocating the Second Amendment rights of gun owners or opposing the increasing use of eminent domain by local governments, C4L has proven that organized resistance is most effective when fighting on the front lines: coordinated grass roots movements of the past are prologue to future successes. Consider:

  • The America First Committee was the largest and most effective non-interventionist lobby against America’s involvement in the various European conflicts of the 1930s. Attracting some 800,000 members in just over a year, it closed shop after the attack upon Pearl Harbor. However, as commentator Pat Buchanan has noted: “By keeping America out of World War II until Hitler attacked Stalin in June of 1941, Soviet Russia, not America, bore the brunt of the fighting, bleeding, and dying to defeat Nazi Germany.” Future pundits may cite the Campaign for Liberty’s fight for a foreign policy envisioned by the Founding Fathers — peace, commerce, and honest friendship — as the impetus for keeping the U.S. out of Iran, Yemen, and whatever other Washington-defined hotspots pop up.

  •  In the 1960s and 70s, Mel and Norma Gabler’s Texas volunteer organization, Educational Research Analysts, combed history textbooks to root out bias and factual mistakes. They found, for example, a fifth-grade reader that devoted six pages to Marilyn Monroe and only a few paragraphs to George Washington — and another in which the words “under God” had been deleted from the Gettysburg Address. The Gablers identified some 2000 factual errors in just 10 American history school books. Similarly, the Campaign for Liberty’s work to carefully dissect the Obama administration’s healthcare legislation, exposing wasteful mistakes as well as its counterproductive medical practice proposals, may be instructive and inspirational for the next generation of activists dealing with different issues.

Much of the Campaign for Liberty’s practical call to action is based on the experience and influence of groups and individuals that preceded it. C4L’s Vision Statement sums up its agenda this way:

“Our mission is to promote and defend the great American principles of individual liberty, constitutional government, sound money, free markets, and a noninterventionist foreign policy, by means of educational and political activity.”

To take such positions on the front lines comes with some risk: The American historian Charles A. Beard once warned, “You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence.”

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This article appeared on the website CampaignForLiberty.com, February 2, 2010

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