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Today’s more immediate problems of high taxes, inflation, regulations and controls all come under the one common heading of government intervention. So, what is one to do to regain or restore lost freedom of choice and action?

Actions vary, of course, tending more and more toward open revolt: a refusal to file any tax return at all or else incomplete or fraudulent reporting; black market and underground transactions; tax shelters and loopholes; above all, the flagrant tactics of terror and violence so much in the daily news.

The problem is not the same for any two of us, and the solution most suitable to one may not please another. We are individuals. But in a sense we are all in the same boat. We are members of a trading economy, greatly dependent upon one another. And it is not that simple or easy to pull out and go it alone in anarchistic fashion—in what a majority generally perceives as antisocial behavior.

Today’s situation is somewhat like that faced by the American colonists in the late 1700s in their break with England. So it well behooves us to review the principles of limited government and of human rights identified and upheld in such historic documents as the Virginia Bill of Rights, adopted June 12, 1776. Shortly thereafter, on July 4, came the historic Declaration of Independence with its revolutionary ideas on liberty and the ensuing battlefield confrontation.

The problem then, and perhaps the problem always, is not to abolish government entirely, but to curb its tyrannous aspects. Independence from Britain called for governmental reorganization, first under the Articles of Confederation in 1777, to be updated and replaced by the Constitution of 1787 and especially the first ten amendments or the Bill of Rights adopted December 15, 1791.

Perhaps most helpful of all today is the wise counsel offered in George Washington’s Farewell Address of September 17, 1796.

The experiences at the founding of the American republic afford guidance sorely needed in our search for a renewal of liberty in our time.

Paul L. Poirot
Paul L. Poirot was a long-time member of the staff of the Foundation for Economic Education and editor of its journal, The Freeman, from 1956 to 1987.