John Dickinson, dubbed “Penman of the Revolution,” prescribed a simple formula for maintaining free government. He said:
“As every duty is allied to a blessing, so every right is allied to a duty. There is a relationship that binds mankind together in a system constantly drawing them nearer and nearer to the Divine Author.” – John Dickinson, Manuscript Notes from “Notes on Government” 1792
Faithfully fulfill your duties, the price tag of your rights, and enjoy the blessings.
The problem arises when government graciously offers to do your job for you. The system ordained only to secure your life, liberty, and property is suddenly financing your education and feeding your kids. Duty is eliminated from the equation, and yet we’re still guaranteed freedom.
It’s a dangerous fantasy, like those pills that promise weight loss with no exercise or change in diet. We fall for it every day. And under its captivating influence, we forfeit precious blessings.
Where is the satisfaction and dignity of providing for a family when one is on welfare? Where is the sense of accomplishment when one’s success was based on race or gender and not on merit? And what value do we place on the education or the healthcare that came with no personal cost? Thomas Paine rightly said, “What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly.”
Programs that foster entitlement also cause us to esteem ourselves too lightly. Being spoon-fed isn’t empowering, it’s insulting. Federal handouts shouldn’t be considered gifts, but rather a vote of no confidence in our ability to govern ourselves.
Life wasn’t meant to be pleasure-filled and fancy-free. There would be no learning or growth that way. God believes in us enough to let us fail, get up, and try again, so what excuse does government have for its coddling?
We need to beware legislation that lets us hit the snooze button when we should be hitting the gym. The ideology devoid of responsibility may be painless, but it will never lead to progress. It robs us of the exhilarating, defining moments when we are pushed to our limits and we become strong.
Nothing worthwhile comes without a price, and, in the words of Thomas Paine, “it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.” We can’t afford to feel entitled to our unprecedented liberty and prosperity. If the power truly rests with us, there are decisions to be made. There is action to be taken. From the immortal sermon of Patrick Henry, “Why stand we here idle? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”
Freedom and responsibility are inseparable. Liberty means we own the challenges, and the victories, of our lives. Let each of us echo the empowering words of William Ernest Henley: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
And let’s get to work.