Week in Review: Our challenge

Andy Matthews

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.

Our challenge

Tomorrow is Independence Day, and for most Americans, that means a day full of lounging by the pool, barbecuing in the backyard, watching fireworks shows and partaking in an array of other customs associated with the celebration of our nation’s birthday. For the vast majority of the population, it will provide a nice mental break from the concerns that typically occupy their minds.

And then, there are people like you and me.

Maybe I’m assuming too much, but my guess is that you feel it, too. The Fourth of July, in recent years, stirs up an odd mixture of emotions. There’s the strong, unshakable love for this country, and yet … the presence, everywhere we look, of so much to dislike about what it’s becoming.

Frustration, bitterness, pessimism — these feelings are all warranted as America drifts further and further away from its bedrock principles. Our nation’s founders were inspired by many ideals, but chief among them was individual liberty. And we’ve been losing it, never more so than in the past few years. I’ve been reading a lot from Judge Andrew Napolitano of late, as he’ll be keynoting NPRI’s 23rd Anniversary Celebration dinner this fall, and here’s what he wrote a year ago, on Independence Day 2013:

Regrettably, today we have the opposite of what the Framers gave us. Today we have a government that alone decides how much wealth we can retain, how much free expression we can exercise, how much privacy we can enjoy. And since the Fourth of July 2012, freedom has been diminished.

In the past year, all branches of the federal government have combined to diminish personal freedoms, in obvious and in subtle ways.

Is there any doubt that, of the past year, we can say the same?

That negative tone runs throughout Judge Napolitano’s piece. It’s essentially a 1,000-word lamentation on the state of our country, punctuated not with an offering of hope or advice, but with sour sarcasm: “Happy Fourth of July 2013.”

What he says is clear enough. And, regrettably, it’s true.

But what does it mean?

That part is up to us.

Judge Napolitano’s words — and the thousands upon thousands like them that have been written by freedom lovers in recent years — could very well serve as a somber obituary for American liberty. And we can choose to let them be thus.

Or we can choose to make them mean something else.

We can choose to see those words the way I believe Judge Napolitano intended them — as a wake-up call, and a challenge.

The course of human affairs is not preordained. As irreversible as our current trajectory may seem, it is only that — the way it seems.

We still get to decide what will be.

I was asked not long ago, by a good friend and comrade-in-arms in the policy battles, if I ever stopped and wondered if this was all really worth it. Had we already lost? Had our nation already reached the point of no return on the road toward statism?

And I’ll admit, the answer didn’t come as quickly as I would have liked.

But I’ll tell you now what I eventually told him then — that no matter how dire our situation, and no matter how long our odds of prevailing may appear, the principles we cherish are every bit as noble and just today as they were in the summer of 1776. No passage of time, no change in circumstances, and no shift in the political winds can alter that truth.

Those principles deserve and demand our tireless efforts to defend them. Now and always.

Challenge accepted.


I appreciate all the responses to last week's solicitation of suggestions for my summer reading list. Several of you echoed my praise for Bastiat’s The Law, and lots more of you offered up your own recommendations. The most common were, as one might expect, some of the classics — Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, Mises’ Human Action and Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom — but a couple of you also tossed in Heather Mac Donald’s The Burden of Bad Ideas. I haven’t read that one, but I’m a fan of her writing, so I’ll be sure to check it out.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to write. And have a safe and happy Independence Day!

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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