“We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” (Jefferson)
Effective citizenship carries the responsibility to be informed and involved
Excessive government involvement in citizens’ lives erodes liberty
Liberty is a word that is strongly associated with the founding and history of our country. It is so omnipresent that many of us may have lost sight of its meaning to us as American citizens. The dictionary defines liberty as “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.” Our founders placed a high premium on liberty and the individual responsibilities of citizenship that necessarily accompanied it. Thomas Jefferson said: “Freedom is lost gradually from an uninterested, uninformed and uninvolved people.”
An alternative view that has emerged over the past century favors a much more active role for the government in overseeing society. Such oversight comes in the form of governmental rules and regulations that in many instances displace our personal responsibility for making our own choices about the products we use, how our children are educated, and the amount of wealth we are able to create and retain. We must remain a nation of laws but also recognize that abdicating our personal responsibility in favor of excessive government intervention in our lives also reduces the personal liberty that has long defined our national character.
James Madison said: “There are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” We are responsible for ourselves and our actions. Depending on the government to enable us to reach our full potential as individuals and as a nation is not in the American tradition.