January 25th, 2013

How to promote freedom in Utah

The following is an op-ed I had published in today’s Deseret News.

Article 1, Section 27 of the Utah Constitution states: “Frequent recurrence to fundamental principles is essential to the security of individual rights and the perpetuity of free government.” As the 2013 general session of the Utah legislature begins next Monday, this “essential” process deserves more attention and much more action.

Along the campaign trail, most candidates claim they will uphold individual rights and promote freedom. Our Constitution suggests that success in achieving these laudable goals will come not from a single vote at the ballot box or in a bill sponsored by a legislator, but by our collective recurrence to fundamental principles.

What are fundamental principles? They are important truths upon which our actions must be based if they are to be legitimate and praiseworthy. Returning to these principles is key to living in accordance with them; as the late Stephen R. Covey once wrote, “You can’t live principles you can’t understand.”

There is perhaps no more concise and potent summary of political principles than in the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson and his compatriots summarized and defiantly proclaimed key principles that gave rise to a revolution in order to better secure individual rights and throw off an unfree government in pursuit of political freedom. So what are some of these principles?

The first fundamental principle we can observe is that there exist self-evident truths — not opinions or majority vote decisions, but self-evident, inviolable truths observable by all. This means that if something is wrong, then a legislative act or a mandate cannot make it right; government actions must strictly abide by these self-evident truths. We should reject anything that is not consistent with them.

Another principle to be gleaned from the Declaration is that each individual possesses certain rights that are unalienable, or in other words, rights which we always have and cannot give up. The right to live, the right to exercise our individual liberty, the right to possess property — these are only a few examples of many such rights. Our unalienable, God-given rights are not powers bestowed upon us by the government. Instead, they pre-date and thus supersede any government. Whatever the government does, it must protect and hold sacred these unalienable rights.

This takes us to the next fundamental principle, namely, that if government is to be legitimate, it must secure our individual rights. The Declaration states that “governments are instituted among men” in order “to secure (our) rights” and further, if any government begins to violate individual rights rather than protect them, “it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it.” Defying unjust authority and demanding that government not violate our rights is therefore established as another principle essential to “the security of individual rights and the perpetuity of free government.”

Importantly, the Declaration also states that legitimate laws must be based on the consent of the governed — not just the majority of them. The Founders loudly rejected democracy as an ideal form of government, many of them eloquently observing that it always degraded into tyranny by majority rule. When the majority is able to impose whatever it wants upon the dissenting minority, especially when it involves a violation of their individual rights, then it cannot be correctly claimed that the government operates with the consent of those who it governs.

Utah’s Constitution is not unique in declaring that these and other fundamental principles must be refreshed in our memory in order to better secure individual rights and perpetuate free government. Arizona and Washington have similar clauses, and they each are derived from a line in the Virginia Declaration of Rights, passed just one month before the Declaration of Independence was adopted. It declares that “no free government, or the blessing of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by … frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.”

With a new legislative session upon us here in Utah, we citizens would benefit greatly from recurring to the fundamental principles that helped shape this nation. More importantly, as bills are proposed which would violate our liberty and help perpetuate an unfree government, we should help persuade politicians to understand and comply with our Constitution’s wise words about how we can achieve success.

11 Responses to “How to promote freedom in Utah”

  1. eggyknap
    January 25, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    You mean the fundamental principles we’re taught in school, such as that the colonists were clearly right and convinced of their success throughout the period of the American Revolution, and that Lincoln was constitutionally and morally justified in using force to maintain the union so he could thereby free the slaves, which of course is exactly what he wanted to do all along? Or did you mean the actual, historical fundamental principles no one bothers to learn?

  2. Charles D
    January 25, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    I agree with most of this but one quibble: the Declaration of Independence does not even contain the word “property”. It talks about the right to pursue happiness, which as I’m sure we all agree is not conditional upon the possession of property. While thinking about and talking about the underlying principles of our founding are certainly a valuable exercise, they don’t really accomplish anything. As wonderful as the Declaration was and as brave as the men who signed it were, that action did not result in their freedom, it took a long and bloody war to get there.

    We certainly need to alter and/or abolish our current government in order to obtain one that will secure for us and our posterity the inalienable rights of which Jefferson spoke. Utah could start by seceding from the Union and calling upon others to join them.

  3. eggyknap
    January 25, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

    There have been plenty of people, actually, that claimed quite intelligently that the pursuit of happiness is contingent on the control of property. Some people get plenty happy without control of real estate, but having control of no property whatsoever would certainly be disheartening. For some examples of well-supported claims that property rights figure importantly in the pursuit of happiness, see for instance, William Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Laws of England”, wherein he says the three principle rights are personal security, personal liberty, and private property. The book “The 5000 Year Leap” details 28 principles of law on which the Constitution was founded; number 14 reads “Life and liberty are secure only so long as the right to property is secure”. For those with religious leanings that include the Adam and Eve creation story, one of the first commandments was that Adam and Eve take care of the earth they were given. Arguably that commandment remains in force, and that’s difficult to do without the ability to control property.

    As to Utah’s seceding from the union, the Utah Constitution explicitly forbids it. For whatever that’s worth, I think that makes it void as a political contract, and of course that could be amended (or ignored, as seems to be the style with constitutions these days).

  4. James Davis
    January 26, 2013 at 1:53 am #

    If anyone wants to know about many of the bills which are being considered this Utah legislative session which either highly promote liberty or hurt liberty check out Libertas Legislation Tracker.

    Thank you Connor! Prioritizing principle first, practical solutions second would be a valuable practice for us and our agents.

  5. AV
    January 26, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Freedom always starts in the home, more specifically ‘in marriage’.

    Until husbands & wives respect each other’s true rights & freedoms in marriage, there will never be freedom outside the home.

    Nothing else we do will secure freedom in our country or state until the principles of freedom are upheld and honored in our homes, marriages and churches.

    Hardly any homes or people I know of uphold freedom today, they almost all support socialism. Most all marriages, even in the Church, appear to be plagued with some form of abuse & control (the opposite of freedom) by one or both spouses. Yet it is usually not recognized as such.

    Most all LDS church leaders also appear to support socialism & support socialistic politicians, just as most all of the members appear to do. Thus, I do not believe the Church upholds freedom and God-given rights, especially for women, in it’s teachings and practices.

    Starting with Brigham Young, (for he taught completely contrary to what Christ & Joseph Smith taught), women’s constitutional rights were not honored and women/wives were treated like property or children or worse, by things like polygamy & submission of women to men. The Church still does not honor women’s true equality with men in all things, in the home, church and society, as God has commanded them to.

    So until there is true freedom preached and practiced in our homes, marriages and churches, we will never have freedom in our state or nation, no matter what else we try to do or get passed.

  6. Gary Hunt
    January 26, 2013 at 2:30 pm #


    I would go back one step to the individual. The individual has to have the principles of freedom
    in their heart. Then they combine with another individual to form a marriage. They teach these principles to their children and they marry starting the cycle again.

  7. AV
    January 26, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Very true Gary. Thanks.

  8. outside the corridor
    January 27, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    I don’t know. As a non-Utahn (I lived there very briefly to attend college absolutely decades ago)–

    Utah has always seemed to me to be an atypical state–

    the influence of Mormonism on the state is powerful, both for positive and negative.

    As in, there are many people who care more about culture than about liberty.

    I think that many Utahns truly need to be awakened first–

    That awakening may be taking place at this time; I hope so.

    I do have relatives in Utah, with whom I stay in touch at Christmastime (exchanging cards)–

    they are very good people, but most of them are neo-conservatives.

  9. AV
    January 27, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    It seems to me that LDS people are some of the most gullible & asleep people in the nation.

    Most LDS seem to be afraid to make decisions for themselves & their lives. They seem to wait to be told everything to do and don’t know how to study, learn & act on their own, without a leader telling them.

    Most LDS seem so blind and unthinking and just follow their leaders blindly, whether the leaders are right or wrong or good or evil. They think that they won’t be held accountable for the sins their leaders led them into and for allowing themselves to be deceived to do wrong. Of course though, most don’t even think it’s possible for their leaders to lead them astray.

    Boy, has the Devil got them right where he wants them! He loves their blind obedience to leaders. That makes his job so much easier!

    Thus until LDS leaders say to take action, (which they probably never will) most members will do nothing but go along with & support evil til doomsday.

  10. AV
    January 27, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    I believe Joseph Smith could see how easily deceived most LDS people were, and thus he warned them of how ‘good and honorable people’ who were deceived by the craftiness of men and false prophets in the Church, would have to go to the Terrestrial Kingdom at best. (D&C 76)

  11. eggyknap
    January 27, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    The LDS general leadership is unlikely to tell people to take serious, specific action (“take up arms against these usurpers of power, “flee to the place of refuge at ___”, or even “this guy’s a communist, which Pres. Benson already told you is unconstitutional, and the Constitution is inspired and should be preserved, so don’t vote for him.”) Forty years ago, Pres. Benson could (and did) tell the whole church to be prepared to defend themselves. These days, saying that to a worldwide audience would cause problems, so it’s up to those who claim to follow him to pay attention , study what has been said in the past, and “have ears to hear” when veiled references to those topics are repeated.

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