There’s a steady line of commentary in the newspaper these days that tries to make it out as if pro-freedom groups, elected officials (the Idaho Freedom Foundation, Janice McGeachin, Reps. Priscilla Giddings, Ron Nate, and so on) and I are extremists. That’s blatantly false.
In fact, I’d argue that we’re standing on solid, well-defined middle ground. Freedom and liberty are the foundational principles of our country. There’s a ton of evidence that backs up my claim, starting with the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. It is a stated fact that our nation is unique amongst others that it is “conceived in liberty.”
Liberty is the center of political discourse. Everything that departs from liberty should be viewed as radical. Everything that takes away a person’s agency, or uses force or coercion against another, is a departure from the principles that built our nation and made it great. Big government is extreme. Yet commentary carried on the pages of the press would have you believe there’s something radical about saying government should be limited. In my view, the expansion of government, the curtailment of liberty, are radical.
One commentator said recently that the Idaho Freedom Foundation does not promote liberty because it opposes government-run education. And because government-run education is part of our state Constitution, opposition to public schools must therefore be anti-freedom. That’s also false. It is true that our state Constitution calls for the Legislature to establish and maintain a “general, uniform, and thorough system of public, free common schools.” But commentators often leave out the most important part of that equation, which is that our state’s founders wanted an educated citizenry because they knew that “the stability of a republican form of government depends mainly upon the intelligence of the people.” That’s written into our state’s founding document.
Unfortunately, our state’s founders probably did not anticipate that our state’s education system would be co-opted by radical leftist labor unions. Nor did they anticipate that our schools would fail to deliver a meaningful education, that nearly half of the students attending public schools would lack basic skills upon graduation or that schools would be used as indoctrination camps that extoll socialism. They probably never imagined that an entire system would be used to teach young people that America is a terrible place that was ushered into existence by racists. That’s radical. That’s extreme.
Idaho’s Constitution, also unfortunately, was rewritten in the early 20th century to include direct democracy. Our nation’s founders opposed direct democracy because they understood the dangers that come with a system that allows the public to bypass our intricate system that requires House, Senate and governor to affirm the passage of new laws, set tax rates or spend money. Direct democracy is a departure from liberty, and its ill effects can be found around the globe, but you only need to look at California to witness the chaos it can create. The fact the direct democracy is in our state Constitution does not mean we should blindly adhere to its terms and conditions. Liberty remains a higher order of priority than blind allegiance to it because it appears in the amended text of our state Constitution. That’s why efforts to make it harder to use direct democracy are pro-freedom.
I understand that these are complicated topics not so easily addressed in the space of a 250-word letter to the editor or 600-word commentary. But the point is this: Freedom and liberty are of paramount concern. They’re the values that made America the greatest country the world has ever known. That’s not extremist. That’s foundational.