Happy birthday, America!

declarationofindependence

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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The Declaration of Independence

July 4, 1776

Over the months and years since the inception of Freedom Cocktail, we have covered a wide range of subjects — some topical, most philosophical. None of us are clones of each other but one trait we all share in common is a reverence for the Constitution of the United States of America and the principles inherent in our Republic. While each of you enjoys your holiday and the 239th celebration of the birthday of these United States, remember, deep down, we are all Americans, united under one flag. Our national motto is E pluribus unum — out of many, one. We may argue and disagree and fight passionately for our voices to be heard, but, in the end, we are strongest when we are together.

Today there exists, simultaneously, two conceits that are taken as absolute truth, yet are both completely devoid of anything of the kind. The first being, if I disagree with your point of view, it must be because I hate you and therefore it is incumbent on you to hate me back. The second is, if I like (love) you, I must conform to every one of your beliefs in total blind allegiance, forgoing any unique or individual views of my own. Both of these ideas are poisonous to debate, to communication, to understanding and to our nation. The co-founder of this site, Eric, and I have been diametrically opposed on a handful of subjects, but we could not be better friends. And, though I dearly love my wife, there are days when we don’t see eye-to-eye. (Does anyone agree with their spouse 100% of the time?) Those disagreements do not turn my affections into hate or anger. I admire their tenacity and the degree to which they fight for their points of view. And I know they feel the same toward me. We call each other on our BS and we applaud a point well made. We always strive for intellectual honesty, couched in healthy doses of logic and reason. Yes, there is passion, but always tempered by fact and we are all the better for it.

So, on this celebration of our independence, let us all take a moment to recognize we are all unique individuals and not cloned automatons following each other off the cliff like a herd of lemmings. We are Americans and its time we get back to acting like it. We can fight to have our opinions heard, but, at the end of the day, we are still family.

Shakespeare wrote in The Taming of the Shrew, “And let us do as adversaries do in law, strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.” Now that’s something worth raising a glass to while watching the rocket’s red glare tonight.

Happy birthday, America!

What freedom is not

us-constitution-pdf-logoHappy birthday, America!

It’s been 238 years since the Declaration of Independence put a series of events in motion that forever changed the face of the world and redefined how government could be structured around the concept that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights and chief among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. However, our Founding Fathers recognized that man is fallible and clearly stated that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. braveheart-1-1024

At the heart of this is one word — Freedom. (Let’s all take a moment and reenact that scene from Braveheart. Ahh! Now we can continue.)

I could spend the next few hundred words or so describing what freedom means to me, but I thought a more interesting approach would be to reflect over the last few years and provide illustrations of what freedom is not. It’s not depriving a group of citizens the right to form political organizations just because they disagree with your point of view. It is not using the IRS to create a “be on the lookout” list for groups who’s names or descriptions include tea party, patriot, Israel, freedom or any other “conservative” sounding terms. It’s not forcing private businesses to discard their religious beliefs while demanding they help pay for abortifacient drugs. It is not drafting executive orders requiring businesses with federal contracts to disclose independent expenditures on federal elections. It is not an infringement of the press — the fourth estate — by seizing emails or tapping phones of reporters whose jobs it is to keep tabs on government.

The First Amendment to the Constitution was written in order to prevent all of the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, each of these has occurred.

Freedom is not a gun running scandal that ends up with at least two American border patrol agents killed as well as untold others in a foreign nation. It is not about finding creative ways of eliminating the right of every citizen to own a gun. It is clearly not the use of executive privilege to restrict over 1,300 pages of documents related to Fast and Furious from being handed over to the House Committee on Oversight and Government. It is not in demonizing a rifle simply because it’s painted black and looks scary. It is not in the issuing of at least 23 executive orders designed to further gun control and provide mandates in the Affordable Care Act allowing doctors and hospitals to ask patients if they own a firearm.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution was written in order to prevent all of the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, each of these has occurred.

Freedom is not the indiscriminate filtering of emails and the capturing of meta data, text data, social media interactions or any other forms of online communication activities. It is not the tapping or recording of cell phone calls, either of American citizens or foreign leaders. It is not the infiltration of online computer games.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution was written in order to prevent all of the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, each of these has occurred.

Freedom is not creating a “kill list” of American citizens by drone if they are involved in terrorist actions outside of the United States, without due process.

The Firth Amendment to the Constitution was written in order to prevent the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, this has happened.

Freedom is not bailing out General Motors and Chrysler with taxpayer dollars and in the process violating creditor rights and ignoring hundreds of years of established bankruptcy law. It is not creating a command and control economy where unproven “green”  technology companies are granted millions, and in some cases billions, of taxpayer dollars only to have those companies go out of business without any hope of repayment. It is not found in ignoring the Constitution’s Taking and Due Process clauses.

The Constitution provides clear guidelines to prevent the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, each of these has occurred. 

Freedom is not found in allowing the Chief Executive to determine which laws are going to be enforced, which can be ignored and which can be modified based solely on a speech. It is not in the creation of multiple revisions of a law without any involvement by the legislative branch. It is not allowing the president to arbitrarily decide to delay employer mandates, out-of-pocket caps, insurance requirements, exemptions for Congress and staff and the IRS’s role in the regulation of penalties for the Affordable Care Act.  It is not in letting the president negotiate the release of five terrorist commanders in exchange for one captured American deserter without notifying Congress. It is not found in statements like, “If Congress can’t act, then I will,” or “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.” It’s not found in making recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate was not really in recess.

The Constitution provides clear guidelines in the areas of Separation of Powers to prevent the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, each of these has occurred. 

Most importantly, freedom cannot be found in a government willing to lie to the American people, whether overtly or through obfuscation and cover-up. The Benghazi scandal that left four dead Americans in its wake, the destruction of hard drives and emails of Lois Lerner who is in the middle of the IRS scandal, the hiding of information related to the VA scandal and the illegal call for executive privilege in the Fast and Furious scandal are all examples of what freedom is not.

Our Founding Father’s pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to create a new nation built on the principles of limited government and deriving what little power they needed from the consent of the people. Liberty and individual rights were more important than the body politic. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were crafted with one overriding goal — limiting the size and scope of government. To make sure this sentiment was made crystal clear, we need only look to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. In the Ninth, the Framers stated that enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people, while the Tenth states powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Our Founding Fathers wanted to make sure the rights of the citizens and the states were vast and infinite, while the powers of the Federal government were specific and few. And, at it’s core, no one’s liberty can be put in jeopardy in favor or benefiting another. In short, no one’s individual liberty was worth more or less than another’s. The moment the rights, property or life of one person belong to someone else, either in whole or in part, is when freedom ceases to exist.

When celebrating our nation’s birthday, think about how our country was able to achieve so much in such a short amount of time. Then ask yourself, what has caused us to fall so far in an even shorter time frame? If your answer to Obama asks Jefferson about Constitution flawthe former is, “following the Constitution,” and your answer to the latter is, “ignoring the Constitution,” then you already have the answer to what freedom is.

There is still time to save our great nation. All we must do is get back to the principles of that very document that is the epitome of American exceptionalism.

Freedom isn’t the lack of government.

Freedom lies simply in the strict limitation of government.

Our writers have been working on a special Independence Day publication

declaration.of.independenceOur writers have had their noses to the political grindstone since the primary election season has been underway in our country. They have been on the campaign trail, speaking out daily on social media and trying to inspire others to get involved in the political process. We are not just about talking — we are also about doing! With such poor voter turn-out across so many states in our union, we began to wonder why we take our freedoms so for granted? It will be 238 years ago that our Founding Fathers signed their own death warrants when they put their names to the bottom of the Declaration of Independence. They pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for a belief in freedom and independence.  Yet today, with early voting, absentee voting and voting on election day itself, scarcely 1 in 5 Americans this year have exercised one of the most important duties we have.

We are at a tipping point in our nation. We have more people on some form of government handout than ever before. We have nearly 100 million able-bodied Americans sitting at home instead of working full-time in the labor force. Our foreign policy has never been so muddled, with confused and disappointed allies and emboldened enemies. Our domestic policy is no better, with scandals involving the NSA, IRS, Justice Department, VA and immigration garnering top headlines over the last few years. We have members of the Legislative branch actively seeking to abdicate the checks and balances afforded to them in the Constitution in favor of giving the Executive branch the authority to circumvent the limitations of that very same document. We have a President who believes he has the ability to decide which laws are enforced, which are not and which can be modified by simply making a speech.

Our Constitutional Republic will cease to be if we continue down this path. It is inevitable. We are far removed from how our Founding Fathers painstakingly crafted the framework of our government, designed to prevent a monarchy, oligarchy or dictatorship from ever taking root. Yet, they themselves admitted, should the people ever decide to forego their role in the affairs of public discourse and allow the usurpation of the Constitution to become commonplace, we would no longer be a free nation.

So, after a bit of a hiatus, each of us will be publishing a piece tomorrow, on the 4th of July, with one simple topic in mind: what does freedom mean? We hope you will find those pieces informative, thought-provoking and maybe even a little infuriating. If it helps to get you involved, we will consider it a success.

I will close with the opening of the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 

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.

After reading those words, ask yourself, could that document have been written today, about the very machinations of our current body politic? Do you truly believe we have been endowed with certain unalienable Rights or do you feel only government can grant those? Do you believe, in our current political climate, you have intrinsic access to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness or have you been relegated to accept you are incapable of those on your own without the yoke of government? Would you be brave enough to sign the Declaration of Independence today or are you comfortable ceding control over your life to the government?

What does “freedom” mean to you?

Healthcare is not a right

To delve into this topic, we first need to understand and agree upon the definition of “rights” as used and implemented by the Founding Fathers and the framers of our Constitution.  The first stop is the philosopher, John Locke, who put forth the theory of natural rights, which states everyone is born with an equality of certain rights, regardless of their nationality.  Since they come from nature or from God, natural rights cannot be justly taken away without consent.

For the sake of this discussion, let us not get bogged down in a theist v. atheist argument.  Even the Founders made sure to side-step this by using the terms of both God and nature.  They were very clear:  natural rights are not granted by man or by government, they exist solely by one’s own existence.

The Founders believed that one of the primary roles of government was to protect the natural rights of it’s citizens, which include those mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as well as those specifically enumerated in the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.  They were of one mind in this respect.  Though several of those present at the drafting of our nation’s Constitution believed it unnecessary to add the Bill of Rights (they argued it would be a redundant action given that the Constitution was already crafted with language to protect the natural rights of the people and limit the powers of government), they nonetheless conceded to add the first ten amendments to make the protection of those rights abundantly clear.

We must also bear in mind that our Founding Father’s had lived all their lives under the tyranny of a monarchical system of government, where the power of a king or queen could usurp the right’s of the citizenry without question.  They feared creating any kind of governmental system that could eventually mirror what it was they fought so hard against during the Revolutionary War.  So, even though some felt a “bill of rights” was redundant, there was no argument that those rights existed outside of government and thus were not a gift from government.

Our rights cannot be taken away or infringed upon without our consent, which includes the implicit consent inherent with infringing on the rights of others, or, more easily stated, breaking the law.  Unless an individual’s actions take away or infringe on the rights of someone else’s, their rights remain intact and cannot be taken away.  Here’s a simple example:

The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the citizens of the United States of America a right to freedom of speech.  This means we have the right to speak our minds without fear of government reprisal for having a dissenting opinion over the actions of our elected leadership.  However, that right does not allow an individual to falsely yell, “Fire!” in a crowded theater, thereby creating a panic that risks injury to others.  By creating a false stampede, not only have the rights of individuals to their happiness been infringed, but also a potential infringement to their lives and property.

Our individual rights exist only to such extent that they do not deny another individual their rights.  If we can agree upon this concept, we can proceed.  However, if at this point you choose not to accept the premise used by our Founding Fathers and feel, as our current President, Barack Obama, does, that the Constitution is flawed because it is a document of “negative liberties” — in that it tells government what it cannot do instead of what it should do (especially as it relates to redistribution) — then the rest of this reasoned and logical discussion will fall on deaf ears.

Before we move to the subject of healthcare and health insurance (two related, but very different subjects), we must now discuss wealth, which is an extension of property.  It is something we own or possess.

Thomas Jefferson was once asked to provide his thoughts on whether the government should take more from those who have and give to those with less.  He writes:

To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.

letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816.

Individuals own their wealth, regardless of the form it takes.  Money, land, buildings, stocks, investments and more all factor into the personal wealth of a citizen.  As a collective, this block of “wealth” is synonymous with property because it is, in fact, owned.

Keep this in mind while we shift gears for a moment to provide an illustration.

You and I are walking down the sidewalk when we come upon a destitute individual wearing ragged clothing and holding a cardboard sign that reads: Homeless, please help.  Now, we are both moved by the plight of the individual.  We both feel compelled to help that person.  If I reach into my wallet and remove a $20 bill, I am voluntarily taking part of my property and giving it to someone else.  It is my choice to provide a charitable hand-out.  However, if you put your hand into my wallet, remove a $20 bill and give it to the homeless individual, this is called theft, because you have infringed on my rights — my property.

When I make the choice over what to do with my own property, I have not infringed on the rights of anyone else.  However, when someone else takes my property, even though it is for the same purpose (to help an individual in desperate circumstances), my rights have been deprived as surely as a thief deprives me of my property.

We are now equipped with the building blocks to understand why healthcare and health insurance are not rights, but, indeed, privileges and, therefore, wants!

When someone in this country goes to school and spends their wealth on becoming a doctor, they have made a significant investment in their chosen career.  They own their degree and certification as well as their knowledge and skill.  It is that person’s personal property, both physical and intellectual.  They may then make the choice to enter into a contract with other individuals who are in need of their services.

If I fall off my porch and break my arm, I lack the ability to know how to properly set and care for that injury, so I seek the skills of a physician who does.  In exchange for his expertise, I agree to part with some of my property.  My property takes the form of currency and his takes the form of both materials and services.

But, that doctor is not the only doctor within my community.  His terms and conditions for entering into a contract for services are not the same as someone else in his profession.  Some may charge more for their abilities and some may charge less.  I have the choice with whom I decide to engage in services.

The same applies for the concept of health insurance.  (I am going to proceed under the auspicious that we all understand that “healthcare” refers to the actual action of receiving care from a member of the health industry, whereas “health insurance” relates solely to purchasing a financial plan to help make the cost of healthcare more affordable.)  I do not need to own health insurance to get healthcare.  One has nothing to do with the other.

There is no emergency room in this country who will deny anyone healthcare.  In the years of hearing this mantra, that healthcare is a right, no where can anyone find a case where a hospital has pre-screened the financial solvency of a patient before treating them.  This is not to say they won’t pursue every avenue available to them to get reimbursed for those services, but this is a different subject and irrelevant to our discussion today.  We are not here to discuss the cost of healthcare.

Rights cannot be taken away without our consent.  The Federal government was designed by our Founding Father’s to not only limit the extent of government, but also protect the natural rights inherent to every person.  When someone proffers the argument that healthcare is a right, they are, in essence, saying that their rights supersede yours.  They are wanting you to surrender a portion of your property because they lack their own ability to take care of themselves.

Thus, if healthcare (and health insurance) is a “right”, then I have no control over my own property, which, by that very statement, is in direct contradiction to the theory of natural rights as understood by the Framers of our Constitution.  Remember, our individual rights exist only to such extent that they do not deny another individual their rights, which includes the right to our property.

And, more importantly, if we have no control over our property, then where does that infringement stop?  Does someone have a right to a seven-course meal every day?  What about the right to have a home?  How about a right to a mode of transportation?  Occupiers and the D-15 movement feel they have a right to a “living wage” (whatever that is, since one person’s definition of living is rarely the same as another’s, it is a puerile statement at best).  Where do you draw the line between Capitalism and Communism?

More often than not, our society has desperately tried to make the word “want” synonymous with “right” and those two words, as far as the Constitution is concerned, are not even remotely similar and are not exchangeable.  The sooner we can stop those in our society from deluding themselves with misinformation, the sooner we can actually begin to address the true issue that drives today’s topic — the cost of care.

For now, let us hope we have taken a first step toward helping others understand the fundamental difference between rights and wants and why those two terms can never be allowed to share the same meaning, lest we make an irrevocable leap toward a complete loss of personal liberty.  Our rights are our own and are not conferred on us from any person or government.  Abdicating those rights is tantamount to an endorsement of tyrannical rule, returning us to the very place from which our Founding Father’s fought so hard and sacrificed so much to avoid.

Freedom is…?

If you follow us on Twitter, you have seen that over the past few months, Freedom Cocktail has been spitting out quotes, old and recent, regarding the issue of Freedom. On this Fourth of July, we asked our contributors to reflect on their own. And in no particular order other than alphabetical order, here are the responses:

Jeff Rhodes

Freedom is a barbeque sandwich, a beer, and a trip to the beach. Freedom is a fireworks show, an Uncle Sam costume, and a baseball game. Freedom says it’s OK to church or to go fishing on a Sunday morning. Freedom is a Lee Greenwood song about being an American. Freedom is waving a flag at a parade and clapping for a group of soldiers at the airport. These things constitute the just the holiday version of freedom – a marketing pitch, a TV commercial. But…. REAL freedom means so much more than this shallow concept that we all too often celebrate on the Fourth of July.

Real Freedom is:

Unusual. The history of mankind is one of the powerful conquering and enslaving the weak. It is incredibly rare for the powerful to voluntarily cede their power to the masses.

Costly. Because it cuts against human nature, freedom most be constantly and forcibly won and defended. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have taken up arms in far-away places, – and never returned home – not to conquer and pillage, but in defense of the American idea of freedom.

Divine. The scriptural texts of most of the world’s religions speak of an escape from the oppression of a worldly existence, where the righteous are delivered from tyranny (both cultural and self-imposed) and become close to God. Free.

Work. As children, we needed the protection of loving parents. As teenagers, we began to develop the knowledge and skills to become more self-reliant and we get the first tastes of freedom. As young adults, we are finally granted freedom – and then realize that freedom isn’t just about doing what you want. As the parental veil of protection is lifted, the responsibility of self-sufficiency is revealed.

Squandered. So many Americans want to enjoy the benefits of freedom, without the duty of self-reliance. “I want to say what I want, go where I want, and do what I want – And somebody’d better pay for that – ‘cause I’M supposed to be free.” Those Americans only THINK that they are free. In fact, they are enslaved by their support mechanisms – never truly reaping the rewards of individual accomplishment.

Right. Even though the achievement of personal freedom is historically rare, it is the natural way for individuals to exist. The human spirit always calls out for freedom. Something deep within us – our soul, our nature, our sprit, our being – drives us to achieve our potential, free from dependence on others.

As we celebrate Independence Day – the celebration of a uniquely American ideal of personal liberty – let us not reduce the concept to a simple cursory nod. Freedom is hard, but great; rare, but natural; an individual endeavor, but a gift from God. Enjoy your freedom, but understand and treasure it as well.

Happy 4th!

Alan Sanders

  • Freedom is the right to move up to one-hundred-eight-five pounds on the seated dip machine and do three sets of twenty.
  • Freedom is choosing the comfort of a minivan for a family of six.
  • Freedom is realizing we are not victims and can take active control of our own lives.
  • Freedom costs a buck-o’-five.
  • Freedom is being able to write, direct and act in your own movie, while recognizing your audience has the freedom to not watch it.
  • Freedom is revealed in the knowledge that someone can have an opinion that is one-hundred-eighty-degrees opposite of your own and yet you will fight for their right to say it.
  • Freedom is knowing we still have a Bill of Rights.
  • Freedom IS the Bill of Rights.
  • Freedom is grilling a steak while your vegetarian neighbor grills veggie-kabobs and you both smile and wave because to each their own.
  • Freedom is watching your kids play in the park without worrying about a bullet or bomb.
  • Freedom is being able to pull your honey close and kiss no matter where you are.
  • Freedom is giving your children as many, if not more, opportunities as you had.
  • Freedom is choosing to spend a three-day weekend watching the LOTR trilogy, back-to-back, with your baby –Director’s cut on Blu-Ray, of course.
  • Freedom is deciding to switch parties when you realize how far they’ve moved from their core principles.
  • Freedom is about being able to choose the doctor you want, not the other way around.
  • Freedom is about being able to post your thoughts on freedom without fear that the NSA, FBI, White House, IRS or any other agency is going to pounce on you with their own special brand of thought police.
  • Freedom IS America.

Eric Wojciechowski

  • Freedom is the right to provide for my own self-defense with whatever I feel comfortable with: A firearm or a book of spells.
  • Freedom is the right to read a banned or censored book. I’m looking at you, Alice in Wonderland.
  • Freedom is the right to blast Material Girl out my car speakers at the age of forty-three.
  • Freedom is the right to go fishing instead of watching football.
  • Freedom is the right to disregard religion or worship Zeus, Indra, Ishtar, Anu, Mithra, or Mothra.
  • Freedom is the right to eat tasty animals instead of being a vegetarian.
  • Freedom is the right to seek out employment in any field I wish, understanding I may not get hired because of several possible reasons.
  • Freedom is the right to declare the Smiths the greatest band ever.
  • Freedom is the right to burn the flag of your country, accepting that some may yell at you.
  • Freedom is the right to consider Godzilla better than Gamera.
  • Freedom is the right to injest anything I wish into my body, provided that along with the pleasures, I accept responsibility for the risks.
  • Freedom is the right to declare Star Wars was just okay.
  • Freedom is the right to think DC is better than Marvel.
  • Freedom is the right to seek out an education in any field I wish understanding I can not force anyone or any institution to be my teacher.
  • Freedom is the right to declare The Patriot a good movie, despite its lead being a numbskull.
  • Freedom is the right for me to call Mel Gibson, “numbskull”.
  • Freedom is the right to go to the voting booth and choose a representative.
  • And Freedom is the right to speak freely on this blog without, short of making a direct threat, the government shutting it down.

red-white-and

That’s that. A few thoughts and definitions from Freedom Cocktail for you to consider. What are yours?

And remember to keep choosing freedom for yourselves, every day, not just today. That’s what the Fourth of July is supposed to be about, a remembrance about what you may have forgotten. So have a Freedom Cocktail with that BBQ. But drink it slow. Savor it. Consider how easy it can be spilled. Hold with both hands.