March 11th, 2013

The Price of Liberty: Eternal Vigilance

I am often asked by others if I believe that my political involvement will actually make a difference. Implicit in such a question is a false binary view on what political involvement really means—a view which needs to be addressed and corrected.

I have been politically awake and active for about seven years. I have held positions in a political party, have served on campaigns, have participated in and led organizations, and have engaged in a variety of activities, initiatives, and other political efforts. The realist and/or fatalist folks in the liberty community have, throughout this entire participatory process, looked in on curiosity to determine if I thought I was going to achieve any degree (however infinitesimal) of success.

The false binary view I mentioned earlier believes that success in political involvement means bringing about the ends desired. If I fight for liberty, and the statists press on with their tyranny regardless, then the binary view would consider me a failure.

While actually seeing my ideals implemented would be a fantastic experience, it is not the main benchmark by which I measure the success of my efforts. For example, in my work with Libertas Institute I have been at the Capitol for the past six weeks while the legislature has been in session. I’ve been helping to see good bills get passed, and fighting to see bad ones killed. But despite my efforts, along with the efforts of others in that fight with me, bad bills pass daily, and good bills get diluted or die a quick death completely. If you’re to believe the binary folk, I should throw in the towel and let the statists carry out their plans unopposed.

But I don’t fight the system to change the system. I fight the system to change those within my sphere of influence.

Only the most self-deluded of idealists would believe that anything like a libertarian utopia is within view. My efforts to oppose the state are more educational than institutional; pointing out that the emperor has no clothes helps everybody to realize the same, rather than expecting the emperor to change his behavior because of the outcry.

It has often been said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. In other words, if we wish to defend and maintain our freedoms, then we must carefully guard against those who would violate them. This vigilance is predicated on being educated enough to know when liberty is being violated, and how. H. Verlan Andersen had this to say on the issue:

One who knows not what his rights are can never know when they are taken and is unable to defend them. He is like a man who believes he owns a piece of ground which his neighbor also claims, but he doesn’t know its boundaries. The neighbor contin- ues to encroach further and further onto land he suspects is his, but since he is never certain where the boundary is, he cannot check the advance. Until he takes a firm position and says: “this far and no further,” there is no line.

Perhaps some day, our efforts to promote liberty in Utah will result in a substantial decrease in tyranny. For now, we fight against the state so people can more easily see its violations of their liberty, and wake up to the “awful situation” in which we currently find ourselves. Having awoken, they can restructure their lives as necessary to prepare for rough times ahead, and then wake up others in their own sphere of influence.

Do I think my political involvement will make a difference? Absolutely. While I see some success in my efforts to effect legislative change, I have witnessed significant success in helping others understand true liberty and realize how, when, and by whose hands it is violated. Ultimately, that is the more important and long-lasting victory I’m interested in pursuing. After all, as the Greek philosopher Epictetus once observed, “Only the educated are free.”

6 Responses to “The Price of Liberty: Eternal Vigilance”

  1. Mike S
    March 11, 2013 at 11:10 am #


    Utah will always be dominated by big-government Republicans who think unrighteous dominion is OK when you vote for it, and those who want the government to give them the property of other people, and the federal government will keep expanding until it finally collapses and destroys the nation, but if we can help enough normal people understand the principles of good government, we might have a chance to re-establish it afterwards.

  2. Tony Goff
    March 11, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Hey Connor;
    Fantastic article. I wish we had more young people like yourself. I am a conservative who believes in smaller government and have been involved in the fight for liberty in my own inner circles and you stated it very well. Thanks again for an awesome post and I look forward to more.

  3. jon
    March 11, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    I don’t think much political change will happen since it is more important that the layman understand liberty and hold the line, if the mass of people withdraws consent then it doesn’t matter what the political elitists do, because the people will recognize it as invalid.

    Having said that, I do think that working to protect liberty at legislatures is important, albeit, not the most productive area. After having a disturbing encounter with child protective services (CPS) where they came over to our home because someone decided to call the cops because they didn’t like the way our 5 yr old was holding our baby (and the cop said she wouldn’t report it to CPS). I told the CPS agent that she couldn’t come in our home without a warrant, at which point she denied she even needed one and threatened to have armed men show up at my home and come in without a warrant and possibly take away my kids. At which point I relented in fear. Now, I’ve learned what I need to do now (and have a lawyer on hand – HSLDA). But it is scary standing up for your rights and liberty. I applaud those with whom it comes naturally.

  4. w
    March 12, 2013 at 5:47 am #

    I am a bit confused, you are advancing liberty as defined by LDS scripture? Example: 2 Nephi 2:27. Because most people outside of the LDS faith might define liberty as the term used by the LDS as ‘agency’. A larger freedom to choose within the bounds of the law. That would be an interesting discussion, how you might make a distinction. Is ‘liberty’ actually adherence to LDS ideals? You don’t actually use the word agency in your commentary above.

  5. JL
    March 12, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Hear, hear! Well said.

  6. L. Brown
    March 13, 2013 at 9:02 am #


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