“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” Beto O’Rourke said in an impassioned presidential debate moment – and the crowd cheered. Is your blood boiling yet, patriot? Is that why our soldiers have fought, killed, and died? Is that why countless Americans lost their sons, brothers, fathers, and dear friends over the years? Freedom isn’t free, as the saying goes, and to let liberty slip away is to dishonor those who paid that bloody bill. Yet little by little, we’ve been doing precisely that – and it did not start with the last couple of election cycles or even Bill Clinton’s “assault weapons” ban.
Liberty Nation’s Kelli Ballard explores a holiday under Coronavirus lockdown and hopes this is not the year we lose liberty altogether. But while it’s easy to see the tyrannical nature of government in times like this, few saw the progressive steps leading to such a powerful state until it was too late. In remembrance of those who gave it all so that we could have it all, let’s recognize the freedoms they bought us this Memorial Day. Celebrate what liberty we have left – and mourn that which we have lost.
Government Growth: A Cancer Upon Our Rights
If there’s one thing we should learn from the history of our nation, it’s that the size of the government is inversely proportional to the liberty of the people. In other words, as the state grows, it infringes more and more of the people’s rights. It can’t be helped – that’s just the nature of the beast. The Founding Fathers created a weak central government with more limitations than powers for a reason: They knew that the more powerful the nation was, the more tyrannical it would become. Indeed, the first attempt at a United States government was so small it consisted only of a single-body Congress that couldn’t make its own money. Sadly, that was too weak to protect the new nation, and the Constitution birthed the government that grew into the bloated behemoth we know today.
Nobody Likes a Tax Collector – and With Good Reason
Taxation has always been a controversial subject for Americans. The colonists rebelled against the British Crown largely due to unfair taxation, and the end of the Articles of Confederation came about only after the Congress was unable to put down a tax rebellion without help from a state militia.
The problem with taxes, though, is that the more you give the government – or, more accurately, the more it extorts from you – the more government officials want to spend. Direct taxation is so unamerican the Supreme Court struck down federal income tax as unconstitutional. The result? Congress passed an amendment to the Constitution, and enough states fell in line to ratify it – allegedly, as some claim that several state ratifications weren’t exactly legit.
Birth of a Nanny State
Power begets a lust for more, and as the national coffers filled, the state grew. Many think of the 18th Amendment and Prohibition as merely a period in American history where we tried something out, it didn’t work, and we went back. All’s well that ends well, right? Not quite. Prohibition – which the government couldn’t have afforded to enforce without the aforementioned income tax – was the end of many a freedom. First, the obvious: Not only was it illegal to distribute alcohol commercially, but it was also forbidden even to make it at home. Prohibition didn’t entirely end with the 21st Amendment. Citizens couldn’t legally brew their own beer or wine until Jimmy Carter’s presidency, and the home distillation of strong spirits – an American tradition up until Prohibition – is still a felony.
The agency that handled enforcement of Prohibition was the same one that demanded an annual cut of every working American’s income: The Internal Revenue Service. How convenient. In 1972, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was born, leaving the IRS to handle the yearly extortion racket. But make no mistake: Firing up a still in any state of this Republic can result in the ATF coming after you just as their predecessors did during Prohibition.
The Right to Bear Infringement
Speaking of the ATF, we can blame Prohibition for the F, too. Americans have a thirst that no government intervention can quench. As such, the 18th Amendment was bound to give rise to a new era of organized crime to handle the bootlegging. It’s basic economics: when demand exists, supply will eventually come about, one way or another. Al Capone earned about $60 million a year thanks to Prohibition. Like many of his rivals, he was willing to kill to protect his enterprise from both the competition and the law. Cue the gangsters gunning each other and federal agents down in the streets with Tommy guns. Not long after came increased federal police power and the National Firearms Act of 1934, which sought to strip Americans of their machine guns and sawed-off shotguns, amongst other handy items.
Just the Beginning
The government has a long history of limiting freedom to “solve” problems it created. The Nanny State and the Alphabet Soup Agencies born of the unholy union between the state’s undeniable need to control the lives of its citizens and the direct taxation that paid for it all only grew as the years rolled by.
With many noteworthy steppingstones along the way – like FDR’s New Deal in the Progressive Era or the Gun Control Act of 1968 – we come to a time when Americans can’t even go to work or enjoy fellowship at church without the government’s permission. Am I too dramatic? Explain the last couple of months, then. Even before the pandemic, we lived in a country that spies on its citizenry, forbids people from doing certain jobs without government licensing, and bans entire swaths of the population from owning an adequate tool for the defense of self and family. A country that empowers the police to seize potentially tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of private property. With things like no-knock raids, stop and frisk, the new red flag laws, and even sobriety checkpoints, the United States has rendered the phrase “due process” practically meaningless.
Coronavirus: the Wake-up Call?
While Americans sit in their homes this Memorial Day, forbidden from gathering together in remembrance of the fallen, perhaps the irony of spending this particular holiday in lockdown will act as a wake-up call. And it is time to wake up, America. Freedoms can be lost in bulk during times of crisis, sure, but most often, it is a gradual – dare I say progressive – march to tyranny over the span of years and decades. And it’s all in the name of the greater good. Honor those who have given their lives for liberty and remember that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.
Read more from James Fite.