OPINION –More than 350 new laws took effect in Utah this week. Few of these laws rolled back the power of the state over the people. It was interesting to watch people actually celebrate the fact that the state now has increased its power over more areas of their lives.
That kind of enthusiastic genuflection is expected in a controlling society. It seems a bit peculiar for a society that claims to value its freedom. How do so many people learn to embrace the statist idea that whatever is not under the control of the state must be out of control?
It starts with what they were taught as children.
Whoever said that the victors write the history books was telling the truth.
Government-run schools have successfully trained successive generations to have a highly favorable view of the state’s current power structure. That’s why it shouldn’t be surprising that students of the public school system grow up to regard ever-increasing government power as the norm.
This is not to say that all government is bad. But like certain bacteria that can serve a beneficial purpose, too much of either becomes destructive.
Understanding the correct role of government these days requires venturing beyond the boundaries of what the court historians are telling us.
One of the greatest resources we have on understanding the principles of good government was given to us by a 19th Century French economist named Frederic Bastiat. His essay “The Law” is a concise explanation of the rightful role of government and the proper use of the law.
It is the first thing I recommend to anyone who asks me what they might read to better understand liberty. Its principles are foundational and timeless. This means they do not change with the passing political or cultural fads of the day.
Joe Wolverton of the New American sums up why this essay is so effective:
Bastiat says that only those laws which permit the government to perform its responsibility of protecting the rights of citizens are true laws; all others are usurpations and are destructive of liberty.
Consider how powerful it would be to instill in our young children or grandchildren a rudimentary understanding of proper government. Thanks to Libertas Institute president Connor Boyack, that’s now possible.
Boyack has just published “The Tuttle Twins Learn About the Law” and it is getting rave reviews from young and old alike. The book is directed towards children from 6-10 years of age and is beautifully illustrated throughout.
Through the eyes of the Tuttle twins, the reader learns about what rights really are and how we are expected to preserve, improve, and guard them. The twins’ wise old neighbor uses his prize tomato garden to teach the twins about “legal plunder” or taking what is not rightfully theirs and giving it to another.
Most importantly, Boyack’s book emphasizes the importance of sharing this knowledge of liberty with others once we understand it.
A homeschooling friend of mine named Rachel DeMille, at first, found the book to be somewhat hard-hitting. She noted that the story teaches a child to suspicious and wary of government. However, after further reflection she wrote:
That’s our job as citizens – to be the overseers of freedom. We are the government, and the entities at the local, state and national levels have power only as we delegate to them. It’s our job to be wary and to step in immediately whenever these entities overstep their delegated authority.
That’s our role in society; and too few of us realize it, or own the responsibilities it entails.
The bottom line is that Boyack’s book teaches youngsters the basics of why government exists and how it can either be good or bad. Most importantly, it provides a solid, yet understandable, philosophical footing for them to tell the difference. It’s an antidote to the statist mindset promoted by those who lust for control over others.
Bastiat clearly spelled out the greatest danger to liberty:
There are too many “great” men in the world — legislators, organizers, do-gooders, leaders of the people, fathers of nations, and so on, and so on. Too many persons place themselves above mankind; they make a career of organizing it, patronizing it, and ruling it.
This was true in his day and it’s true in ours as well. Inoculating our children against the ambitions of power-seekers is a moral duty. We first must teach them what good government is.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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