“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights — that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This powerful expression of freedom was written in recognition that we are accountable to God and that rights are given to man from God, not by government — that no temporal power can exercise authority over the individual’s conscience or aspirations.
It was a daring declaration when you consider that the United States of America was at the time a fragile, upstart nation emerging into a world of scarcity and hunger, where millions were subjugated to the scourge of slavery worldwide, and almost all humankind lived under appallingly inhuman, statist oppression.
While the bold American experiment was tempered by a bloody civil war that almost ripped the young nation asunder, we have since triumphed over the fascist and statist powers that pulled America into two world wars. Through it all, our free market economic system resulted in an unprecedented scale of innovation in products and services that altered the lives of mankind, produced wealth no other society had ever experienced and made us the strongest nation in world history.
When we look across the arc of our nation’s history, we see that Americans are capable of achieving amazing things when they are free and empowered to do so. I know this as a proud son of parents who worked hard, sacrificed and risked their savings in a small business. With nothing but fourth-grade educations, they were able to successfully achieve their own American dream. Yet for far too many, government policies, no matter how well intentioned, have made matters worse.
In modern times, more and more Americans have unwittingly relinquished their freedoms and self-determination to career politicians. Millions have ceded their fate to a raft of government programs and entitlements administered by a powerful central government.
Sadly, in extending their hands to accept temporary assistance — to weather tough times — millions have become accustomed to not working. This cycle of dependency has had ruinous effects on marriage, families and economic security.
The progressive message comes wrapped in doublespeak, with phrases like “income equality,” “fair share,” “health care for all” and other platitudes that sound well-meaning.
But when we look beyond the cliches, we see that these ideas translate into higher taxes, a bigger role for state bureaucracies and a message that replaces aspiration for a better life with an envy that helps no one.
Going considerably beyond the basic, natural rights enshrined in our founding charters, elitists push their social agenda. The Obama administration, for example, has pursued a program of comprehensive collectivism: ever-expanding government control, unsustainable deficits and growth — choking private commerce with regulation and government-knows-best policies. Instead of empowering individuals and families, more and more power and money has gone to Washington, D.C.
Fighting poverty through work, generated by a free market economic system, is essential to sustain a free society. Ours is the only system the world has ever known that so effectively improves the human condition — not only in the United States but wherever it has been adopted. It gives the individual independence from government control. It strengthens our communities and families and liberates us to propagate endless moral, spiritual and charity-related activities of our own choosing.
Still, having said that, we must also recognize that many are facing major disadvantages. But instead of looking to government as the solution, we must encourage organizations, churches and individuals in our own communities to lend a hand in times of need. In fact, the Bible commands us to help the poor and the vulnerable.
At The LIBRE Institute — and our sister organization, The LIBRE Initiative — we understand that many Latinos are at a major disadvantage in a free market system. They may not possess a driver’s license or be able to speak English or have a high school diploma.
That is why we are committed to mobilizing other Latinos in our communities to join in our efforts to address these deficiencies, develop a person’s skills and abilities and empower them with knowledge that will better position them in the marketplace — so everyone can achieve the American dream.
For the millions of Americans of faith, we believe we are called to lift up our fellow man. God asks us to lend a hand to our brothers — to those in need. That call must be answered by individuals with the freedom to act or not — not just by some faceless collective.
This is because the call goes out to each of us as individuals.
It’s also because we’ve seen that, as a practical matter, it is better to share abundance than it is to share scarcity, and it is these free market systems that create the resources to lift us all together.
Bible-believing Christians must do more than ever before to rally in the defense of free markets, self-reliance and a limited government. It is the best way to answer our call to lift the poor.
• Daniel Garza is president and chairman of The LIBRE Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that serves as a trusted resource in helping Hispanics grow more prosperous and lessen their dependency on government.