[BlogEntry] Benjamin Franklin and John Stuart Mill


"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."
           – Benjamin Franklin

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling that thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
           – John Stuart Mill

What's interesting about Franklin's quote is that liberals like to use it to bash Bush for the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq. Meanwhile, look at the qualifiers Franklin uses: essential liberty and temporary security. I would say that liberals are much more guilty of deserving neither when they institutionalize taxing people and providing government handouts and programs like Social Security, welfare, unemployment, and all the other great ways that our government has created a society upon which its citizens rely for survival. The essential liberty of keeping the fruits of your labor has been sacrified for the temporary security of having the government ease the burdens of life. Do you think people looked to the government to bail them out and take care of them when Franklin made this statement? No, Americans were tough back then. They stood on their own two feet and didn't whine when life was hard. Today, we don't have a population that would fight for its own independence the way they did 228 years ago. Life is hard, and we've grown soft. Listen to people whine about battling the evil we face today. This is not the King of England. This is not taxation without representation. This is televised beheadings and women killing children.

Mr. Franklin was talking about frivilous sacrifices not worthy of the cost of liberty. Protecting our national security is hardly temporary, nor is it frivilous. We are in a battle with an evil enemy that does not tolerate our very existence. What is all of our idealogical debating worth if more attacks disrupt our way of life to the extent that we no longer have an organized government that is able to protect and defend the Constitution? Look at what the 9/11 attacks did to our economy. How much more could we absorb, before it started to genuinely affect our ability to feed ourselves, transport goods, do business, and aspire to more noble things than basic survival? We are indeed vulnerable, and there is nothing without survival. I am confident that Ben Franklin didn't think we should perish from the earth neglecting security in favor of liberty. It makes no sense. Benjamin Franklin made sense.

Which brings us to John Stuart Mill. What a wonderful quote. Peace at all costs is a life not worth living. Our enemies threaten us far worse today than ever before, yet we still have the Supreme Court deciding that prisoners in Gitmo deserve the right to a hearing. The Patriot Act has not turned this nation into a police state, despite all the alarmist propaganda about it. We are still living by our Constitution, in the face of this threat. I am proud of us for that.

I guess what I'm saying is stop worrying so much about the "small stuff." We are imbued with faith in and love of our Constitution. We can be counted on to uphold its principles and remain steadfast in protecting it. The checks and balances devised by the geniuses of the late 18th century really work. Our economy will bounce back. Our liberty will always be safeguarded. Every four years, we will elect a new President and have a peaceful transition of power. This nation will continue to operate by laws it was founded on. Stop being alarmist about the unrealistic threats, and let's not lose sight of who the real enemy is and where the real threats are.

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