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EDITORIAL: 50 years of promoting freedom

Conservatives should re-embrace the principles of limited government

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The Tea Party movement is in many ways a reaction to the politicians, both Democrat and Republican, who have forgotten why they ran for office. Without a core set of principles to guide them, these elected officials push for ever bigger government because enacting new programs, regulations and laws is the easiest way for them to establish their relevance. Activists unhappy with the current state of affairs would do well to look to the words penned 50 years ago that inspired a generation of conservatives.

The Sharon Statement, named for the Connecticut town in which it was adopted on Sept. 11, 1960, represents one of this nation's most lasting and eloquent statements of political principle. It has no less relevance today. Consider how President Obama and congressional Democrats have pushed to expand government control over the domestic automobile industry, student loans, banking and health care. Consider the red tape that reaches every aspect of our lives, from energy production down to children's toys. Against such a tide, the Sharon Statement counsels that "the market economy, allocating resources by the free play of supply and demand, is the single economic system compatible with the requirements of personal freedom and constitutional government, and that it is at the same time the most productive supplier of human needs."

Too often those inside the Beltway see the federal power as unlimited, refusing to restrain themselves to "those spheres ... specifically delegated" to the government by the Constitution. Under what authority do bureaucrats take billions from taxpayers to hand to private companies to build "affordable" $41,000 electric cars?

An oversized government "accumulates power, which tends to diminish order and liberty," as the statement explained in terms every Tea Partier can understand. As to foreign policy, "the just interests of the United States," rather than the approval of international elites, should guide our actions. Even on the issue of amnesty for illegal immigrants, guidance can be found in the principle "that we will be free only so long as the national sovereignty of the United States is secure."

Perhaps the only update needed for the document comes in the statement "that the forces of international Communism are ... the greatest single threat to [our] liberties." Thanks to the work of those who took the Sharon principles to heart, such as President Reagan, the Soviet threat has been defeated. Islamic terrorism requires similar vigilance.

Those who gathered at the family estate of William F. Buckley Jr. founded the group Young Americans for Freedom with their timeless manifesto. The legacy of their service will continue so long as conservatives recall the principles of limited government that will lead the country toward liberty and prosperity for generations to come.

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