Summer Sunset in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Showing posts with label Freedom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Freedom. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and the Fragility of Freedom


From The Daily Signal
By Justin D. Lyons

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill and the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln—two men whose lives and achievements shed light on the fragility of freedom and the statesmanship necessary to preserve it.

As noted in my recent essay, “Champion of Liberty: Winston Churchill and His Message to America,” both were leaders of democracies in wartime and had to make the case their causes were worth fighting for, resistance was both sensible and praiseworthy, and citizens should prefer struggle and sacrifice over capitulation. Both men connected the life of their regimes compellingly to a noble cause.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Alberta, the Freest Place in North America

 

FLAG OF ALBERTA

Credits: FILE PHOTO/Codie McLachlan/Edmonton Sun/QMI Agency
Alberta is the freest place in North America. So says the latest edition of Economic Freedom of North America, a report the Fraser Institute has produced for the past decade based on data going back 30 years.

The authors looked at jurisdictions through Canada, the United States and Mexico and graded them on a scale from 1 to 10.

Alberta received the highest score, with 8.2. Saskatchewan came in second with 8.0. And Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia and Texas all tied for third with 7.7.

Someone's going to have to break it to our friends south of the border that they're no longer the land of the free! We'll take that prize, thank you very much!

But what does all of this mean?

The report explains: "The freest economies operate with minimal government interference, relying upon personal choice and markets to answer basic economic questions such as what is to be produced, how it is to be produced, how much is produced, and for whom production is intended."

Critics might chortle a little here. "Hey, you're just talking about zero regulation for big industry, aren't you? What about the little guy?"

Actually, the report finds that's not the case. The more free an economy, the more everyone can share in the spoils.

"This research has found that economic freedom is positively correlated with per-capita income, economic growth, greater life expectancy, lower child mortality, the development of democratic institutions, civil and political freedoms, and other desirable social and economic outcomes," the report says.

Here's an example: the least-free 25% of North American jurisdictions included in the study have an average GDP per capita of $9,979. The top 25%? They're raking in $56,697.

When innovative people are left to their own devices, they create systems where we can all win.

So what do we do now? The sad news from this report is that economic freedom is actually on the decline in North America.

Since 2000, the average score of all the Canadian provinces has fallen from 7.8 to 7.6. It's worse down south - where American states fell from 8.2 to 7.5.

In other words, freedom still needs defending. Without it, our quality of life suffers.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Daniel Hannan: A Foreign-Born Antidote to the Foreign-Born Destroyer of American Liberty

"Ye therefore that come after, give remembrance."
 
There is no more articulate, living champion of America's foundational principles than the English statesman, Daniel Hannan.  Here he addresses a Centre for Independent Studies forum in Australia, but his arguments, which make many references to the American experience, could not be more pertinent to the United States -- which itself makes his important point about the organic unity of the English-speaking peoples.

Here is the foreign-born antidote to the foreign-born destroyer of the American nation.





Friday, March 14, 2014

Ronald Reagan’s City of God

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Paul Kengor’s new book 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative. Among the principles is faith. A version of this article first appeared at RealClearReligion.org.

Conservatives constantly talk of freedom.

Freedom. Freedom. Freedom. Go to any gathering of conservatives, and you will hear a freedom mantra. They speak of “freedom” almost as if it were a one-word synonym for conservatism, a slogan for the movement. At times, they do so in an almost trite way.

Ronald Reagan likewise spoke constantly of freedom. Mankind, from “the swamps to the stars,” as he said in his seminal October 1964 “Time for Choosing” speech, longed to be free. The global Cold War struggle of Reagan’s life represented the arc of that longing, of that crisis. Obviously, the communist world hungered for freedom. But even the free world didn’t always appreciate it. Free people needed always to be reminded of their freedom and the need to understand and reassert it. That included Americans. Reagan said that freedom is always under assault; every generation must fight to preserve it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Australians Forced to Answer Questions About Sex Life

Citizens face jail time for refusing to answer intrusive government survey

A survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has gone from a voluntary survey regarding economical issues such as employment, to mandatory personal questions regarding one’s sex life.



Australian citizens have been complaining about government surveyors knocking on their doors and asking very intrusive personal questions. One resident in particular was asked what sexual partners his wife had, and also asked when either of them would be home alone. If residents decline these questions, they can face fines or even jail time.

The Australian government has been conducting what they refer to as a “Monthly Population Survey” (MPS) since 1960 in order to provide regular information about the country’s workforce. However, recent complaints have revealed the questions are much more personal than how long you’ve been out of work.

Read more at Infowars.com >>


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Because Faith and Freedom Matter

The 2013 Grove City College Commencement Address by  Dr. John A. Sparks ’66, Dean of the Alva J. Calderwood School of Arts and Letters  



Editor’s note: As one of his final works of service to his alma mater before retiring, Dr. John Sparks delivered the 2013 Grove City College commencement address, “Because Faith and Freedom Matter,” on May 18. You can watch Dr. Sparks deliver the address here or read it below. Please note that we have embedded links to Dr. Sparks’ past work and commentary in this speech.


President Jewell, honored guests, trustees, my dear faculty colleagues, parents, grandparents, and the members of the class of 2013.  I am deeply honored to be addressing you.

I first set foot as a freshman on the GCC campus 51 years ago, in the fall of 1962.  My parents dropped me off on lower campus at the OLD Colonial Hall.  My father shook my hand and my mother cried which was probably true of many of you four years ago (for a few it may have been five or six years ago). I lived in the old Colonial hall and walked across Rainbow Bridge and back more times than I like to remember. The U.S. President was John F. Kennedy.

The Soviet Union and East Germany have just begun the construction of something called the Berlin Wall to keep their own citizens from escaping the “Communist Paradise” into the West.  2.7 million East Germans had already fled, seeking freedom. In 1962, the Berlin wall presented, starkly, poignantly the question of Freedom.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Furman University: A Beachhead for Truth-Seeking

Two North Carolina retirees foster the creation of a model program at Furman University.

Campus (Furman Mall fountains), Furman University
Campus (Furman Mall fountains), Furman University

From The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy
By Jane S. Shaw

What can be done about the ideological tilt at colleges and universities?  At times, it seems as though the Ivory Tower will be forever lost in a fog of political correctness and collectivist dogma.

Yet there have been some positive developments. A number of donors—individuals and organizations—are finding that they can make a difference in the fight to restore objective analysis and the search for truth. Through their efforts, small islands of intellectual rigor and appreciation of the foundations of Western civilization in our universities are popping up, even in bastions of rigid anti-Western thought.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Human Freedom Matters

From The Center for Vision & Values, Grove City College
By Alejandro Antonio Chafuen

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared at Forbes.com.

“If it matters, measure it” is the motto of the Fraser Institute, the leading Canadian think tank, where I have been a trustee since 1991. More than a motto, the focus on measurement permeates and guides all the work of the institute. As few things matter more than freedom, it is only fitting that Fraser has embarked in its most ambitious methodological effort: measuring human freedom.

Fraser was a pioneer in the elaboration of economic freedom indices. Its first index was produced in 1996. A newly released book, produced in collaboration with the Liberales Institut of Germany, is cautiously titled: “Towards a Worldwide Index of Human Freedom.” All the chapters in this book (almost 300 pages) deserve careful study by those interested in human liberty.

The Second Amendment - Back to First Principles

Growing tyranny under the Obama regime, executive orders that bypass the Congress and Constitution, vast bureaucracies like Homeland Security and its para-military population control agencies, and the sweeping away of God-given rights that have been recognized and protected since the Anglo-Saxon kings, have given renewed importance to the Second Amendment.  Americans know, like the founding fathers knew, that if freedom is to prevail, there must be a balance between the rights of men and the ambitions of government.  

Let's be honest about the gun buying frenzy of recent years.  Conservatives have a patriotic duty to arm themselves.  Their loyalty is and must always be to country, not to the domestic enemies that control its government.


America's Coming Gun War
 
By Patrick J. Buchanan

Eight days after the massacre of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary, where each child was shot with a Bushmaster .223, The Nation's Gun Show, the biggest east of the Mississippi, opened.

"A line already snaked around the building shortly after the three-day event began at 3 p.m., and the parking lot was jammed" at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Va., wrote Justin Jouvenal of The Washington Post:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Virginia Will Not Cooperate with NDAA Detention

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
On Wednesday, the Virginia legislature overwhelmingly passed a law that forbids state agencies from cooperating with any federal attempt to exercise the indefinite detention without due process provisions written into sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act.  We hope South Carolina and other states will soon join the Old Dominion in standing up for freedom and the protection of her people from a tyrannical President and federal government.

HB1160 “Prevents any agency, political subdivision, employee, or member of the military of Virginia from assisting an agency of the armed forces of the United States in the conduct of the investigation, prosecution, or detention of a United States citizen in violation of the United States Constitution, Constitution of Virginia, or any Virginia law or regulation.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

Medal of Honor: Lessons of Personal Bravery and Self-Sacrifice

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation sponsored today an educational program at which four Medal of Honor Recipients -- Jay Vargas, Walter Ehlers, Bruce Crandall and Patrick Brady -- discuss lessons of personal bravery and self sacrifice.




Monday, January 17, 2011

Freedom in Decline Worldwide: Freedom House Report

Global freedom suffered its fifth consecutive year of decline in 2010, according to Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House’s annual assessment of political rights and civil liberties around the world. This represents the longest continuous period of decline in the nearly 40-year history of the survey. The year featured drops in the number of Free countries and the number of electoral democracies, as well as an overall deterioration for freedom in the Middle East and North Africa region.

A total of 25 countries showed significant declines in 2010, more than double the 11 countries exhibiting noteworthy gains. The number of countries designated as Free fell from 89 to 87, and the number of electoral democracies dropped to 115, far below the 2005 figure of 123. In addition, authoritarian regimes like those in China, Egypt, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela continued to step up repressive measures with little significant resistance from the democratic world.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Administration Is Taking All Of Us For Fools

By Thomas Sowell

'We the people" are the central concern of the Constitution, as well as its opening words, since it is a Constitution for a self-governing nation. But "we the people" are treated as an obstacle to circumvent by the current administration.

One way of circumventing the people is to rush legislation through Congress so fast that no one knows what is buried in it. Did you know that the so-called health care reform bill contained a provision creating a tax on people who buy and sell gold coins?

You might debate whether that tax is a good or a bad idea. But the whole point of burying it in legislation about medical insurance is to make sure "we the people" don't even know about it, much less have a chance to debate it, before it becomes law.

Did you know that the financial reform bill that's been similarly rushed through Congress, too fast for anyone to read, has a provision about "inclusion" of women and minorities? Pretty words like "inclusion" mean ugly realities like quotas. But that too isn't something "we the people" are to be allowed to debate, because it too was sneaked through.

Not since the Norman conquerors of England published their laws in French, for an English-speaking nation, centuries ago, has there been such contempt for the people's right to know what laws were being imposed on them.

Yet another ploy is to pass laws worded in vague generalities, leaving it up to the federal bureaucracies to issue specific regulations based on those laws. "We the people" can't vote on bureaucrats. And, since it takes time for all the bureaucratic rules to be formulated and then put into practice, we won't know what either the rules or their effects are prior to this fall's elections when we vote for (or against) those who passed these clever laws.

The biggest circumvention of "we the people" was of course the so-called "health care reform" bill. This bill was passed with the proviso that it would not really take effect until after the 2012 presidential elections. Between now and then, the Obama administration can tell us in glowing words how wonderful this bill is, what good things it will do for us, and how it has rescued us from the evil insurance companies, among its many other glories.

But we won't really know what the actual effects of this bill are until after the next presidential elections — which is to say, after it is too late. Quite simply, we are being played for fools.

Much has been made of the fact that families making less than $250,000 a year will not see their taxes raised. Of course they won't see it, because what they see could affect how they vote. But when huge tax increases are put on electric utility companies, the people will see electricity bills go up. When huge taxes are put on other businesses as well, they will see the prices of the things those businesses sell go up.

If you are not in that "rich" category, you will not see your own taxes go up. But you will be paying someone else's higher taxes, unless of course you can do without electricity and other products of heavily taxed businesses. If you don't see this, so much the better for the administration politically.

This country has been changed in a more profound way by corrupting its fundamental values. The Obama administration has begun bribing people with the promise of getting their medical care and other benefits paid for by other people, so long as those other people can be called "the rich." Incidentally, most of those who are called "the rich" are nowhere close to being rich.

A couple making $125,000 a year each are not rich, even though together they reach that magic $250,000 income level. In most cases, they haven't been making $125,000 a year all their working lives. Far more often, they have reached this level after decades of working their way up from lower incomes — and now the government steps in to grab the reward they have earned over the years.

There was a time when most Americans would have resented the suggestion that they wanted someone else to pay their bills. But now, envy and resentment have been cultivated to the point where even people who contribute nothing to society feel that they have a right to a "fair share" of what others have produced.

The most dangerous corruption is a corruption of a nation's soul. That is what this administration is doing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Charlton Heston: 'Remembering Great Men'


Charlton Heston, recipient of the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Ben-Hur in 1959, has also received many international acting and directing awards. He served six terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild, was chairman of the American Film Institute, and was a member of the National Council on the Arts. In 1978, he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

We hope you will agree that Mr. Heston provides valuable insight into the nature of leadership and the importance of recognizing and honoring the extraordinary.



As the century closes, great men seem an endangered species. Indeed, in the minds of many, they are less than that; they are figments of our imagination. It’s even been suggested that greatness is in itself…somehow undemocratic. We live, after all, in the century of the common man. True enough…but I believe in the uncommon man, perhaps because I’ve played so many of them.

Certainly, we have many good men…gifted men. God knows we have plenty of famous men. But that’s not the same thing. Great men move the world not only by what they do in it but by what they tell us about it…Of all the great men I’ve had the good fortune to explore, the most towering, both in the record of his life and his impact on human history, was Moses—lawgiver to the Jews, warrior prophet of Islam for Muslims, and first among the prophets for Christians, the man of whom Christ said, “If ye believe Moses, so shall ye believe me.”

Playing Moses marked my life. To assume the role of any great man is a daunting experience. Playing Moses, I felt like a tiny figure stretching to fill the giant shape he cut in the sky.

We began filming The Ten Commandments at the Monastery of St. Catherine on the lower slopes of Mt. Sinai. It is the oldest Christian monastery in the world. It contains the shrine of the burning bush, where God spoke to Moses from the fire. The monastery is also sacred to Muslims, because of their reverence for Moses. During the Crusades nine centuries ago, Christian knights on their way to Jerusalem to take the city from the Muslims rested there in perfect safety, knowing the Muslims would never attack the shrine of Moses. For the last two generations of conflict, that same truce has held, on that mountain only, between Jews and Arabs. That’s how far the shadow of Moses reaches. He was flawed, as all of us are, but he still speaks to us as no other mortal has done.

One of the reasons Moses’ voice is heard across the centuries is that he preached the powerful truth that we are all brothers. But he realized that brotherhood is a condition that thrives best in times of hardship and danger. William Shakespeare—who knew more of the human heart than any man who ever lived—has an English king, Henry V, say to a tiny band of his countrymen on the eve of battle with an overwhelming French host:

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother: be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.

Contemporary examples from the Persian Gulf War to Hurricane Andrew prove the same point. Americans cast in harm’s way have joined together, regardless of rank, race, gender, or condition. Of course, Moses stood for something more important than brotherhood. Moses and the Exodus he led stood and still stand for freedom. For more than twenty-five centuries, he has inspired those who search for liberty. It’s no coincidence that the first tide of our Protestant forefathers in America bore the names from the Exodus: Moses and Aaron, Abraham, Joshua and Isaac. Two centuries later, generations of black American men bore those names, too, first searching for freedom, then celebrating it. In New England those same names are cut into the gravestones of our revolution. The words the Lord spoke to Moses before the Israelites crossed over Jordan, free at last, are cut in the rim of our Liberty Bell: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

The instinct for freedom seems to be part of the human condition. Yet history tells us that freedom is fragile. I remember coming back from overseas in the sunny morning of victory at the end of World War II; we G.I.s thought freedom would soon spread around the whole world. The world would be free from war and tyranny. We were wrong. It was tyranny that prospered, for more than forty years. It’s important to remember: there was an Evil Empire, there was a Cold War… and we won.

I don’t know what the outcome of all the current world crises will be, but I do know that, like Moses, we must have faith and we must keep fighting for freedom, not just for ourselves but for all of the brotherhood of man. Our country is still a shining example to the world: Men can live free. The American Dream is not success but liberty. Other countries have cherished this dream and lost it. Why have we been able to hold onto it? I think one reason lies in the vast richness of the land itself, that broad swell of continent between those shining seas.

From the very beginning, we were captivated by America. “We belonged to the land before the land was ours,” Robert Frost wrote. Many of our poets, writers, and painters have tried to express this idea…to capture something of the spirit of our nation. While I was thinking of how I might do the same, I was flipping through a file of index cards where I’d copied some of my favorite quotations by great Americans. Spanning two centuries of our history, few of these men ever met, yet their words ring fresh and true today, as if spoken in a single voice:

I have a dream. I refuse to accept the end of man. I believe he will endure. He will prevail. Man is immortal, not because alone among God’s creatures he has a voice but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion, sacrifice, and endurance. Among America and Americans this is particularly true. It is a fabulous country, the only fabulous country, where miracles not only happen, they happen all the time. As a nation we have, perhaps uniquely, a special willingness of the heart—a blind fearlessness—a simple yearning for righteousness and justice that ignited in our revolution a flame of freedom that cannot be stamped out. That is the living, fruitful spirit of this country. These are the times that try men’s souls. The sunshine patriot and the summer soldier will in this crisis shrink from service. But he who stands and bears it now will earn the thanks of man and woman. With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in. Let us bind up the nation’s wounds. We must disenthrall ourselves…and then we shall save our country.


Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.


Friday, April 30, 2010

Freedom vs. Non-Freedom: A View from Russia


By Andrei Illarionov, Former Chief Economic Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on October 3, 2006, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. It is particularly pertinent in light of the Obama administration's decision to have U.S. military personnel participate in a neo-Soviet, Red Square parade on May 9, 2010, celebrating the 65th anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany.

Constitutionalism in the Western political tradition does not mean—as it does in my own country, Russia—simply having a written constitution, regardless of its content. Rather, true constitutionalism requires the limitation of government by law. A government can be considered genuinely constitutional only if it operates under the following minimal constraints: (1) The legislature cannot be dismissed by any body or person other than itself. (2) The courts are independent of the legislative and executive branches. (3) The executive branch cannot appoint ministers without the approval of the legislative branch. (4) Only the legislature can pass laws.

It is not easy to find indications of such constitutionalism in my country. Our legislative branch, the Parliament, was dissolved in October 1993 by presidential decree. And for those who did not fully understand or immediately agree with that decree, some quite convincing tank shells were fired on the Parliament building. Russian courts are probably independent of the legislative branch, but they are completely subordinate to the executive. Ministers are simply appointed by the president. And while it is true that the legislature formally makes laws, the fact is that in the last seven years, there has not been a single executive desire that the Parliament has not passed into law. Thus it is not quite right to say, as some do, that constitutionalism is failing in Russia. In truth, Russia has yet to attempt it.

Why is this important? The answer is simple: constitutionalism is the best way, the most efficient way, and in fact the only way, to secure freedom.

“Freedom is not a luxury”

It is always worth pausing to refresh our memories—as well as the memories of our friends, colleagues, and even our adversaries—concerning the reasons why freedom is better than non-freedom.

Freedom is not a luxury. It is a very powerful instrument, without which no person and no country in the world can have sustained prosperity, security, development or respect. Free countries are certainly more prosperous than non-free countries. The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World, and Freedom House’s Freedom in the World all provide overwhelming evidence that economically and politically free countries are much richer than non-free countries—with a GDP per capita, on average, between $28,000 and $30,000, compared to approximately $4,000 per person in non-free or repressed countries.

In addition, the economies of free countries grow faster. During the past 30 years, completely free countries doubled per capita income, and partially free countries increased per capita income 40 percent on average. By contrast, non-free countries reduced per capita income roughly 34 percent. Over the same period, several countries changed their status from political freedom to political non-freedom, and others from political non-freedom to political freedom. The former change leads inevitably to economic degradation, resulting in a negative GDP per capita growth rate. The transition from non-freedom to freedom, on the other hand, speeds up economic growth, resulting in a GDP per capita growth rate higher than the world average.

Freedom also provides security. This is true for external security, because economically and politically free countries are less likely to fight each other than are non-free countries; it is also true for domestic security, as free countries usually have lower mortality rates from violent crime committed by criminal gangs or by the government. Compare the United States, Western Europe, Canada, and Japan on the one hand, and non-free countries like Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and North Korea on the other. Which countries are more secure? Where is the life expectancy higher? Where is there a greater risk of robbery, kidnapping or murder?

Related to this, freedom enhances economic, political and military strength. Let’s compare countries with similar population sizes but different levels of freedom. Which are economically more powerful? Spain or Sudan? Australia or Syria? Belgium or Cuba? Canada or Myanmar? The Netherlands or Zimbabwe? Taiwan or North Korea? Finland or Libya? Freedom also leads to greater international respect: Which of these countries is considered more attractive and more respected in the world? To which do people immigrate? From which do people emigrate? People vote for freedom with their feet.

The lack of freedom, on the other hand, creates an insurmountable barrier to prosperity and economic growth. For instance, there are no examples in world history of non-free countries that in a sustained way overcame a GDP per capita barrier of $15,000. Countries that have been able to cross this barrier did so only when they became free, politically and economically. Spain, Portugal, Greece, Taiwan, South Korea and Chile are among the best known examples of such a transition. Relatedly, countries that were rich but became non-free, also became poor—even oil-exporting countries in years of high energy prices. In Iran, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the GDP per capita today is lower than it was three decades ago, by 10, 30, 40 and 80 percent, respectively. The lack of freedom always destroys wealth.

The Destruction of Freedom in Russia

The story of the destruction of freedom in my own country, Russia, is sad. But this story should be told, should be known, and should be remembered—to avoid repeating it and in order one day to reverse it.

First, there was an assault on the people of Chechnya. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend the freedom of the Chechen people. People in Chechnya lost their independence, their political rights and—many of them—their lives. Many Russians lost their lives as well.

Then there was an assault on the Russian media. This time many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend the freedom of the media. As a result, the media lost its independence—first television channels, then radio stations and newspapers. And now the censors are turning their attention to the Internet.

Then there was an assault on private business. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend the freedom of private business. So private business has lost its independence and has become subjugated to the caprice of the executive power. This has been accomplished through so-called PPPs or public-private partnerships, but it would be more correct to call what is happening CPC—coercion of private business by the corporation in power.

Then there was an assault on the independence of political parties. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend the independence of political parties. As a result, independent national political parties ceased to exist.

Then there was an assault on the independence of the judiciary. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend the independence of the judiciary. Now, there are no more independent courts or judges in Russia.

Then there was an assault on the election of regional governors. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend free elections of regional governors. Today, regional governors are appointed by the president, and there are no more independent regional authorities in the country.

Then there was an assault on the independence of non-governmental and religious organizations. Finally, some people tried to defend the freedom of these organizations, but it was too late. And now even those who want to resist have neither the resources nor the institutions required to fight back.

As a result, Russia has ceased to be politically free. For 2005, Freedom House’s Freedom in the World ranks Russia 168th out of 192 countries. Transparency International’s Global Corruption Report ranks Russia 126th out of 159 countries. The World Economic Forum calculates that Russia is 85th (among 108 countries) in avoiding favoritism in government decisions, 88th (also of 108) in its protection of property rights, and 84th (of 102) when measured by the independence of the judicial system. The Russian government could form another G-8 with countries that destroyed the fundamental institutions of modern government and civil society as quickly as it did over the past 15 years by partnering with Nepal, Belarus, Tajikistan, Gambia, the Solomon Islands, Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

What is the Russian government doing now, when it has destroyed freedom and achieved next to full control over Russian society? Is it stopping its assaults? No. It continues them, both within and beyond Russia’s borders. Inside the country, the government has started a campaign against human rights. It has created and financed detachments of storm troopers—the movements “Nashi” (“Our Own”), “Mestnye” (“Locals”), and “Molodaya gvardiya” (“Young Guard”)—which are being taught and trained to harass and beat political and intellectual opponents of the current regime. The days for which these storm troopers are especially trained will come soon—during the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2007 and 2008.

Beyond Russia’s national borders, the government provides economic, financial, political, intellectual and moral support to new friends: leaders of non-free countries such as Belarus, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Myanmar, Algeria, Iran, and Palestinian Hamas. At the same time, Russia is attempting to destroy hard-won freedom and democracy in neighboring countries. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia find themselves in a new cold war as Russian authorities pursue hostile policies involving visas, poultry imports, electricity, natural gas, pipelines, wine, and even mineral water. The Russian government has just started a full-scale blockade of Georgia. Meanwhile, the state-controlled Russian media has launched a propaganda war against Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, the Baltic countries, Europe and the United States.

What do non-free countries have in common? What unites such disparate countries as Nepal, Belarus, Tajikistan, the Solomon Islands, Gambia, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Cuba, Myanmar, and yes, now Russia? Only one thing: war, in which governments take away property and destroy society, in which they send people to camps or kill them solely because they have a different perception of the world, of faith, of law, and of their homeland. Only through hatred, fear, and electoral violence can these governments hold on to what is dearest to them—absolute power.

Without freedom there can be no open discussion of topics of national and international importance. There is an exclusion from public life of conversation about the most important matters. This primitivizes public life, degrades society, and weakens the state. The politics of non-freedom is the politics of public impoverishment and of the retardation of the country’s economic growth.

The greatest practical lesson of Russia’s recent history is that freedom is indivisible. The failure of freedom in one sphere makes it harder to defend freedom in other areas. Likewise, the fall of freedom in one country is a blow to global freedom. The inability to defend freedom yesterday comes back to haunt us at a great price today and perhaps an even greater price tomorrow.

Looking Ahead

What position should the United States and other free countries take regarding Russia’s growing internal authoritarianism and external aggression? There was a real opportunity over the last several years: Concerted efforts by the West could have slowed significantly, if not stopped, the degradation of freedom in Russia. But nothing was done. One of the West’s last chances was to deny access to its capital markets for the sale of assets stolen from the large private company Yukos; but this did not happen, and the sale of those assets occurred at the Rosneft IPO on the London Stock Exchange. The July 2006 G-8 summit in St. Petersburg could also have been used to emphasize the clear distinction between leaders of the free world and those of non-free Russia. But in the end, nothing was done.

As I wrote in the Washington Post in April 2006:

The G-8 summit can only be interpreted as a sign of support by the world’s most powerful organization for Russia’s leadership—as a stamp of approval for its violations of individual rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, its discrimination against nongovernmental organizations, nationalization of private property, use of energy resources as a weapon, and aggression toward democratically oriented neighbors.

By going to St. Petersburg, leaders of the world’s foremost industrialized democracies will demonstrate their indifference to the fate of freedom and democracy in Russia. They will provide the best possible confirmation of what the Russian authorities never tire of repeating: that there are no fundamental differences between Western and Russian leaders. Like us, Russia’s leaders will say, they are interested only in appearing to care about the rights of individuals and market forces; like us, they only talk about freedom and democracy. The G-8 summit will serve as an inspiring example for today’s dictators and tomorrow’s tyrants.

The West squandered both of these opportunities. None of the G-7 leaders had enough courage to raise the issues of freedom and democracy, or to discuss the principles of true constitutionalism and their absence in Russia. Everyone pretended that nothing special was going on in Russia. Indeed, the G-7 leaders agreed de facto with the Russian authorities’ approach to energy security. Instead of liberalizing and privatizing energy assets, Russia is moving in the opposite direction both internally—by nationalizing private companies and asserting state control over the electricity grid and pipeline system—and internationally, by using non-market methods to manage supply and even demand for the world’s energy resources.

Several months after the summit, the bill for this policy of appeasement is due. Now the Russian authorities are revoking the licenses of American and British energy companies in Sakhalin. BP has found itself under pressure to exchange its partner in TNK-BP in favor of the government-owned Gazprom. Otherwise, it will not have a chance to explore the giant Kovykta gas field in eastern Siberia. The billion dollars it spent on the purchase of Rosneft shares in July 2006 did not help BP much. And there is no doubt that, after the G-8 summit, the free world can expect more of the same. In truth, it should consider itself in a new Cold War-like era.

Let me conclude these remarks with words spoken by Winston Churchill about another great war for freedom:

I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

That war for freedom was won. We may yet win, indeed we must win, this current war. But to win, we must work together.

Andrei Illarionov is president of the Institute of Economic Analysis, an independent free market think tank in Moscow, and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. He completed his undergraduate degree in 1983 and his Ph.D. in 1987, both at St. Petersburg University. He has also studied in Austria, the United Kingdom and the United States. In 1993, he was appointed the chief economic advisor to Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, resigning the next year in protest of government policies. In 2000, he was appointed the chief economic advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which capacity he was the driving force behind the adoption of a 13 percent flat income tax. In December 2005, he again resigned in protest of government policies. Dr. Illarionov has written three books and over 300 articles. He is a member of the Mont Pelerin Society, the Economic Freedom Network and the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences.

- Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College. -

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Federal judge Orders School District to Stop Spying on Students


From The Hill
By Tony Romm

A Pennsylvania school district has been ordered to disable equipment allowing officials to watch students using cameras on their laptops.

The order, issued Wednesday by a federal judge, will prevent school administrators from turning on cameras installed on students' school-issued laptops remotely.

The move arrives at the request of a Lower Merion family, which claimed school officials were wrong to activate the camera, snap a photo of their son and confront him about its contents.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Judge Andrew Napolitano - Columbus Ohio Tea Party, August 1, 2009


"In the long history of the world, very few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. This is that moment, and you are that generation, and now is the time to defend our freedoms."

J
udge
Napolitano's speech is an eloquent summary of what is at stake under a regime that would substitute the will of unelected "czars" for Constitutional freedoms, executive fiat in place of republican government, and the deadening hand of socialism for civic virtue and private initiative.

The regime is hoping that if they spend and tax enough in the middle of a deep recession, they can create unprecedented inflation, fear, desperation and chaos -- a crisis in which they can remake America in their Marxist mold. But as this rally and hundreds of community meetings are demonstrating, Americans will not be easily manipulated, nor will they surrender their freedoms at the behest of thugs from the corrupt, Chicago, political machine.





Saturday, May 16, 2009

Freedom Is Not A Pendulum


From NewsWithViews.com
By Margaret Goodwin

The periodic swings from one party to the other in control of our government often give rise to the analogy of a pendulum. A pendulum swings from one side to the other, always passing through the equilibrium position at its center. This flawed analogy leads to the illusion that our country's political swings from left to right also pass through a stable center that is fixed and permanent.

History belies that illusion. Throughout the history of civilization, there has never been a government that did not eventually come to an end, either through defeat in war or corrosion from within. The Roman Republic lasted 500 years before it gave way to the Roman
Empire, and that too collapsed after a few hundred more years. Ancient history? Yes, indeed. But the rate of social, political, industrial, technological, and cultural changes on the global scale have accelerated, not decelerated, from ancient to modern times. Change happens much more rapidly than it used to.

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