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In the measure of a free society, we come up a few inches short

Published in The Orlando Sentinel on October 28, 1999.

Americans these days seem to think more about economic well-being than political freedom. I would just remind them that the two go together. There are no unfree but prosperous people that I know of except the inner circles of a few gangster governments.

Let's look at some of the characteristics of a free society and at how the United States in 1999 stacks up.

Private property rights are essential. Without the right to acquire, own, use and keep property, no one can become financially independent, and everyone who is financially dependent is not really free. Unfortunately, the U.S. government is constantly assaulting the property rights of the American people by abusing environmental laws and eminent domain.

An inviolable constitution or basic law is essential. The American revolutionists gave the American people a nearly perfect basic law, but it has been torn to shreds. Few Americans today seem even to care if the government does or does not obey the Constitution.

A judicial system that applies the law but never legislates by interpretation is the keystone to the rule of law. Our judicial system has become a nightmare because of the bad habit of legislating under the guise of interpretation and by refusing to recognize limits imposed by the Constitution and even statutes.

Another key ingredient is a stable monetary system in which the money retains its value. Here again, thanks to the Federal Reserve Act, American citizens are denied a stable monetary system. The Constitution, by the way, gives Congress the right to coin money and set its value; it does not state that Congress can give that power to a private central bank.

A free and independent press is also necessary for a free society. Our press is free, but unfortunately it is hardly independent, having become, by and large, a mouthpiece for the liberal establishment.

A knowledge of the past is also a characteristic of a free society. People who don't know the past are, as one clever writer put it, condemned to remain children. People whose knowledge of the past is nothing more than propaganda designed to support contemporary views are being set up to be slaves.

Defined and defended borders are also necessary for a free society. A nation consists of people within a defined area. If the borders are wide open, the nation will essentially cease to exist and will become something else, depending on who migrates into the area.

As politically incorrect as it may be, the America of a written constitution that recognizes individual rights is a product of the English. Our Bill of Rights is an echo of the Magna Carta. It took the English a long time to develop a political philosophy that recognized individual rights, and we are the beneficiaries of that long process.

Thus, although multiculturalism may be all right when it comes to food and music, America's political traditions owe nothing to Hispanic, Asian or African cultures. Thus people, whatever their origin, who wish to appreciate what is politically unique and valuable about America must study its English history and traditions.

Finally, a free society must have a moral people. As touchy as this topic is for the depraved and self-indulgent elements, the less people can govern their own passions and behavior, the more order the government will try to impose by law and regulation. There is an inverse proportion between the number of laws on the books and the decency of the people being governed.

I fear, however, that freedom is one of those things appreciated by most people only in its absence.