We are all familiar with that snippet from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities that "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times." But we may forget the entire sentence which so beautifully captures the duality that many of us probably feel as we ring out this year and usher in the new decade:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
Certainly, there are reasons to be worried about America's future. They range from the ongoing serious threats posed by radical Islamic terrorism, which can't be wished away by politically correct changes in the use of the English language, to a rapidly escalating debt burden piled on future generations by politicians bent on expanding the size and scope of government programs. Of course, the growing measurable deficits are only the tangible manifestation of fiscal irresponsibility. The intangible manifestation is the immeasurable, but nevertheless real, sense of diminished individual responsibility and freedom that inevitably accompanies indiscriminate, overly profligate government handouts or entitlements. This is not to say the government has no role in helping those truly in need who cannot help themselves. But lines must be drawn that are consistent with proper ends the government legitimately ought to pursue as well as proper means of such pursuit.
Yet there are reasons to be hopeful too. Foremost, there is a certain indomitable spirit ingrained in the American people, writ large, that is enterprise-minded and law-respecting. This "can-do-minded" spirit impels an understanding and appreciation, intuited if not always articulated, that there are lines not to be crossed regarding the extent to which government seeks greater control over our lives, even when it does so in the name of sustaining us. These are the lines that have everything to do with proper ends and means.
Another reason to be hopeful is that America is fortunate –- blessed, really -– to have had a Founding generation, with all its manifest human foibles, possessed of sufficient wisdom and practical experience regarding human nature to bequeath a form of constitutional republican government that has endured for more than two hundred years. Our Constitution, which establishes a government of enumerated and limited powers, along with our Bill of Rights, is the foundation upon which our individual liberty ultimately rests.
As we enter 2010, I know that the Free State Foundation's mission to promote free market, limited government, and rule of law principles is as important, if not more important, than ever before. As I do each year at this time as I contemplate the road ahead for FSF, I have reflected again on the wisdom of our Founders -- they who lived, in Dickens' words, through the "winter of despair" and "spring of hope."
With a sense of renewal, I have in mind now what Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 31: "In disquisitions of every kind there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasoning must depend." In all of our work during the year ahead, I pledge the Free State Foundation will strive to keep the "primary truths" and the "first principles" uppermost in mind. For if they are not uppermost in mind, then all the "subsequent reasoning" is likely to be for naught in terms of formulating and advocating good policy for the American people.
On behalf of all of us at the Free State Foundation, I am grateful for your friendship and for your past support. I welcome your support going forward, and I wish you the very best for 2010.