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October 26, 2007

Liberty: Earned v. Inherited

“The establishment of … Liberty was the Motive which induced me to the Field … it now remains to be my earnest wish and prayer, that the Citizens … make a wise and virtuous use of the blessings placed before them.” –George Washington

A dollar earned and a dollar inherited, are both dollars, but generally speaking, a dollar earned has a very different value to its holder than a dollar inherited. This disparity in value correlates with the very different manner in which each dollar was obtained.

While some of us squander our money, most hard-working Americans appreciate the value of ever dollar they earn. And while some who inherit wealth also work hard, many such beneficiaries aren’t able to comprehend the value of a dollar earned (similar to those who are “heirs” to welfare programs). This lack of understanding results in a worldview I define as “inheritance-welfare liberalism.”

The character of inheritance-welfare liberals – those who were raised dependent on inheritance rather than self-reliance, and who inherited their wealth, their privilege and their office – is all but indistinguishable from the character and values of those who depend on state welfare. The former group just has vastly more resources than the latter. Liberals are card-carrying members of the ignoble ranks of “useful idiots.”, Western apologists for socialist political and economic agendas – essentially, advocates for Marxist-Leninist-Maoist collectivism.

The heritage and legacy of earned versus inherited liberty is remarkably similar to that of earned versus inherited wealth. Americans who have earned and supported liberty by way of their actions tend to be grateful for such liberty. But those who simply consume this inheritance cannot fully comprehend how to make, in the words of George Washington, “wise and virtuous use of the blessings placed before them.”

On that note, allow me to relate an extraordinary encounter.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of hearing the Belarus National Christian Choir. Our church has been planting evangelical churches and home-worship fellowships in Former Soviet Republics since the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Over the past decade, one of our church elders has led delegations on more than 60 ministry expeditions to FSRs, including Belarus, where they helped establish a Protestant Seminary and three large churches. Years ago, he befriended the director of the Belarus Choir, which is why our church was fortunate enough to enjoy a performance on their tour of the U.S.

This chorus of 30 sounded more like 100, their voices lifted up in praise. But I was not so much struck by the worship songs they sang in English, as by those they sang in Russian. These Belarusians, most of whom spent years under the tyrannical rule of the Soviet Union, are now singing Christian worship songs in their native tongue, without fear of being dragged off to the gulags.

After so much oppression, I can assure you that not one of these performers takes for granted a single second of the liberty they have earned.

I was deeply moved as I listened for the first time to Christian hymns being sung in Russian. And as I sat in the audience, I revisited the memory of an earlier encounter with Russians – 20 years ago to the day of that concert.

In October 1987, I traveled in the Middle East for several weeks, meeting with academicians, some state officials and a few U.S. embassy officials. On this particular excursion, I scheduled a trip to Moscow, capital of the land of the living dead, before returning to the U.S. As a private contractor, I was traveling on a work visa in some countries, but went to Moscow as a visitor.

Early one morning, I boarded an Aeroflot flight from Ankara to Moscow.

Sidebar: I always detested flights on Aeroflot, the official Soviet State airline, not only because of significant safety issues evident to even the most novice aviator, but also because of more mundane health issues. Everyone in the USSR, it seemed, used tobacco, and Aeroflot’s enlightened central planners – apparently awash with Stolichnaya, as were too many of their pilots – divined that the smoking sections would not be segregated, fuselage front and back, but left and right. So, no matter where I sat, I was a virtual smoker for hours on end. And speaking of smoke, I was on an Aeroflot flight to Uzbekistan a couple years earlier, and some of the natives were cooking in the aisle, using a makeshift tinfoil pan over an open flame – true story, but I digress…

Upon arriving Moscow at Sheremetyevo Airport’s Terminal 1, I exited the ashtray and, much to my surprise, was greeted by two pallid, humorless gents and two equally humorless uniformed Militsiya regulars. I figured that they were not with the Chamber of Commerce welcoming committee. The suited fellows were representatives of the Soviet Committee for State Security, more commonly known as the KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti).

Apparently these fellows did not like my travel itinerary prior to arriving in the cold, wet, dingy-gray city of Moscow, even though I had yet to show my passport to anyone. They seized all of my credentials and belongings, and were kind enough to escort me to a “guest house,” where I resided for three days whilst they determined what to do with me.

It was a bit disconcerting, having no diplomatic “get out of jail free card,” and not being extended the courtesy of a call to our embassy in order to let some friendly soul know where I was. Heck, I didn’t even know where I was – just north of Moscow somewhere. But I had a bed, table, light and a good supply of brown bread and green water. I was even given two hardboiled eggs on the third day of my visit, just before being returned to Sheremetyevo and put on a flight to Stuttgart.

No explanation, and none forthcoming.

Now, I share this recollection for this reason: Compared to the generations who suffered under totalitarian rule and are now free to sing Christian hymns in Russian, the three days I spent with my Soviet hosts were even less than a miniscule inconvenience. But for a moment, I lost my freedom without any assurance of gaining it back, and, consequently, acquired a firsthand peek into what the Soviet people, those who survived, endured for 73 years.

As a result, I gained a better appreciation for the unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness – those endowed by our Creator, those brought forth by our Founders, those defended ever since by the blood of Patriots. I also gained a clearer perspective on just how ungrateful some Americans are for the freedoms they have inherited.

It is this same reverence for liberty that gave rise to The Patriot and the context which today motivates our entire team of editors, advisors and, we trust, our Patriot readers.

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