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Our Founding Truths Are Still Worth Fighting for—and They Always Will Be

June 30, 2023

Every Independence Day, Americans gather to celebrate our freedom, mankind’s most precious possession. Freedom is more than just a political slogan or a historical tradition; it’s essential for human flourishing, and it empowers people to live happier and more hopeful lives.

Of course, when you read the news these days, it can sometimes be hard to feel hopeful about the state of our country. Political leaders—elected officials, bureaucrats, and judges—are curtailing our rights in shocking ways, including rights once considered most sacred, such as freedom of speech. Our schools are teaching our children to forsake the principles upon which our country was founded, leading them to believe that this country is fundamentally and permanently racist, and that the American Dream is not for them. Some Americans, growing despondent, seem to be abandoning the American Spirit.

Of course, this is not the first time America has faced such challenges. When he was running for president nearly 60 years ago, our namesake Barry Goldwater cautioned how easily America’s founding principles can be perverted, misleading people into surrendering their freedom to government control. One of the most common ways this happens is through the perversion of the concept of equality. “Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences,” Goldwater said. “Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.” When America’s founding fathers spoke of equality, they meant the equal right of every person to liberty—the right to be treated as an individual. But people often pervert the concept into the idea of equality of outcome—today called “equity.”  And when that happens, Goldwater said, we can be fooled into trading “diversity and the genius of individual creativity” for “centralized planning, red tape, rules without responsibility, and regimentation without recourse.”

That these words ring just as true today may be dispiriting—like history is doomed to repeat itself. But just as our founding truths last forever—they are, as Abraham Lincoln said, true for all people at all times—so the same dangers will always be there. Every generation of Americans must confront those dangers anew if they are to enjoy the blessings of liberty themselves and pass them on once more to their own posterity.

Whatever her shortcomings, America is undeniably humanity’s greatest achievement. She is full of resilient, hardworking, good people, who celebrate our many differences while coalescing around our shared values. She was created to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These ideals are still worth celebrating and worth fighting for. And they always will be.

And the triumphs are many. With generous support from you—our Goldwater family—we have worked with liberty-loving people all across the country to achieve groundbreaking wins for freedom.

A dozen years ago, we created education savings accounts (ESAs), so parents could choose the best educational options for their children. Today, 16 states have ESA programs. Seven, including our home state of Arizona, extended these opportunities to every child in the state.

In under five years, we took Right to Try—which bypasses needless bureaucracy to get innovative treatments to terminally ill patients—from concept to state capitals across the country, until it became federal law in 2018.

We’ve enacted our Breaking Down Barriers to Work reform in over half of the states, so people don’t need to get a new government license to do their jobs when they move to a new state.

And we’ve won court victories vindicating individual rights all across the country—from Florida to Oregon, from California to Maine.

In fact, we’re just getting started. Barry Goldwater cautioned that “the road to freedom is a long and a challenging road,” which makes it easy sometimes to be tempted to give up and “accept the false security of governmental paternalism.” But we know that paternalism—efforts to equalize outcomes at the expense of individuality, or to elevate safety over freedom—is always a false security. In the end, we are all ultimately responsible for ourselves, and that means we all must ultimately be free.

And defending that freedom is not some dreary chore. It’s a joyful exercise—one we are privileged to enjoy every day. All of us at the Goldwater Institute are honored that you’ve trusted us to face that challenge, and we will never shirk this responsibility to ensure America’s promise is fulfilled.

As did America’s founders, today we defend freedom of speech, because without it we cannot learn and share ideas, or speak out against government that threatens our liberty. We work to expand choice in education, so all children have the knowledge, skills, and inspiration to shape their own destinies. We protect the right to earn a living, so individuals can use their talents and skills to pursue their own happiness as they see fit. We fight to secure property rights that allow us to benefit from the fruits of our labor and to provide for the future. We advocate for freedom in healthcare, to speed the development of innovative treatments and unleash the future of medicine. And we work to uphold constitutional limits on government—to defend and restore the rights of the people—to fulfill America’s promise of liberty and justice for all.

Christina Sandefur is the Executive Vice President of the Goldwater Institute.



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